Further lessons in music and vows of silence!

“Saaaami… ninneee koriiiii… ” And beautifully the melody comes out of my music teacher’s violin.
Saami… squeak… moan… ninee… groan… koreee… oww…!” goes my violin right behind the teacher’s, valiantly attempting to follow but stumbling over the obstacles posed by the various “gamakams” (quavery notes!) along the way…
“Try again,” says my teacher, one of the most renowned violinists in India. So what is she doing with me as a student, you’re wondering, right? Well, she also happens to be related to me and can’t say no to my mom and to cut a long story short, there we are – she attempting hard to teach and me attempting even harder to learn!
And so I try again… and again… but I don’t get it!
“Set aside the violin for a minute and sing it,” she commands.
“Whaaa? Are you sure? I can’t sing – I mean like at all”! I protest.
She waves aside all protests – anyone can sing – she proclaims! (By the way, is this a common belief amongst all music teachers, I wonder, having gone to three who professed exactly the same beliefs??)
“Okay, her funeral,” I sigh to myself, not knowing how close I am to bringing her to the actual thing!
And start off… ”Saaami… ninneee… koreeee… yunnaanuraaaaa,” the last note wanders off into the wide blue yonder searching for a nesting place… after all, all the notes leading up to this have gone, to use an Aussie term, “on a walkabout” and now want to come home to roost! Alas for the last note, like parallel lines, destined to meet only at infinity, never in the real plane, it’s still wandering somewhere out there, maybe right alongside the Mars Orbitor mission, waiting to come home!
My guru has her eyes closed – she seems to be listening intently… the note limps to a halt… I wait… she must say something… the silence is deafening… is she alright?… I am about to get up stealthily to check if she’s still breathing when she opens her eyes… and I realize that she is all right… just about!
“Let’s try the violin itself,” she says and my heart sinks. “Maybe another song?” she suggests. “Practise  this one at home and we’ll try it again.” I am nothing loth and jump to it with alacrity!
In all fairness to self, I think that this ragam – Sreeragam – is a rather tough one to crack!
I go back home, practise – really, really hard, much to my cousins’ disgruntlement (I am staying with them). They protest vociferously. I am not responsible for their gruntlement though – and I need to get this right! Two days later, I am back in class and sail though the raga!
My teacher, though, hasn’t recovered yet from the previous class – she gestures to me but does not speak a word – she is on mouna vratam (a vow of silence!).
That was the violin but I promise you that this is a real symphony! This is…
ULTRA CHOCOLATE-Y CHOCO-CUSTARD CAKE (adapted from a recipe for Brooklyn blackout cake)
  • 100 butter(I used table butter)
  • 80 ml sunflower oil
  • 300g sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 280g plain flour
  • 50 gm cocoa
  • 200ml milk
  • 1 tbsp coffee mixed in a  tsp of milk

Cream butter and sugar together.

Beat in the eggs one by one.

Fold in sieved flour + maida + cocoa mixture into the batter till incorporated, adding milk as you mix. Add vanilla essence and coffee and mix.

Bake at 190C for about 40-45 minutes till done.

Cool and slit along the waist. (this cake will necessitate you slitting all your pants at the waist too!)

If you have any bumpy bitsin the cake, slice off and whizz to a crumble in the mixer.


  • 500 ml milk
  • 4 tbsp custard powder (I used vanilla)
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 75 gm dark chocolate – broken into bits
  • Cream – 50 ml
  • Sugar – 1 cup
  • Butter (again i used table butter)

Mix the custard powder into about one-third of the milk and set aside.

Mix the cocoa powder and sugar into the milk and heat.

Add the custard powder milk into this and stir continuously till you get a thick custard.

Drop in the chocolate and continue to mix. Switch off, add butter and incorporate (lots of elbow grease required!)

Lastly fold in the cream.

Let cool, stirring frequently.


Sandwich the two halves with generous slatherings of custard cream.

Pour over the top. Any of the crumb left?

Stick it all over so it looks sort of sandy.

With this in your mouth, mouna vratham (vow of silence) is the only way out!

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