Gongura thokku: A tale of daydreaming and random musings on shiny purple shirts!

The bus rolls to a halt and a young girl, lost in a daydream, steps off. Unfortunately the bus hasn’t quite stopped yet and she falls flat on her face on the tarred road. The bus driver and conductor are very concerned but she picks herself up, more embarrassed than hurt, dusts herself off and walks off home. It isn’t till she reaches home and cleans herself up that she realises that she’s hurt herself quite badly – the knees are badly skinned (I still carry the scars). I don’t mind the pain but the brand new pair of Levi’s I am wearing (swanking around in, actually!) are quite ruined – and that, as any kid who grew up in those decades will tell you – was quite a tragedy!

Ours was the last generation, I think, who had new clothes bought for precisely two or – if you were rich – three occasions in a year – Deepavali, one’s birthday and sometimes Ugadi. You wore these through the year and passed them on to smaller cousins as you outgrew them and your wardrobe (basically one half of a cement shelf in the parents’ room!) got replenished by hand-me-downs from older cousins. New clothes were not precisely bought either – readymades were rare and expensive. It was far cheaper to buy material and get your stuff tailored by the local tailor – who catered to the entire family – dad, mom, boys, girls, old people – the works. The “master” was always instructed to stitch clothes that would last – for a couple of years at least. With the result, new clothes were inevitably baggy, literally” hanging loose” everywhere and reaching at least five or six inches longer than your current measurements!

In all the photographs of our childhood, my brothers are dressed in shorts which hang at least four inches below their knees and would qualify for bermudas today! No, no, they were not forerunners of fashion, and being no more than four years old, just victims of the age of “saving” and “making things last” almost forever!

Most large families bought taans (a full roll) of material as it was cheaper and everyone would have something made of the same material! I remember a neighbour, a gentleman with nine children, whose kids turned out one Deepavali morning clad in shiny bright purple – ranging from long skirts (paavadais) and blouses and frocks for the girls, shirts for all the boys and finally the mom comes out – in a purple blouse! As clothes got handed down from oldest to youngest, the littlest fellow must have spent the better part of his life clad in bright purple – bet he won’t even eat eggplant now!

The loss of my new pair of fashionable brown corduroy Levi’s ( a brand not available in India till well over a decade later), sent by a cousin all the way from America, was quite shattering! The fact that I almost shattered my kneecaps too didn’t seem to matter so much somehow!

So there I am, having administered first aid to myself and trying to not think about the pain, when the doorbell rings. I groan – it’s not easy to walk and there’s no one else at home. Plus it hasn’t been so easy to find something to wear that doesn’t hurt the wound so I am in a nightdress – something that I hate wearing in the daytime! Grumbling a bit, I hobble to the door and open it. A young man in a khakhi uniform is standing at the door. I don’t recognise him, though he looks vaguely familiar.

“I am so sorry, Madam (huh, I’m all of seventeen years old!), but I came to check if you were hurt badly. I am the driver of the bus you got down from today and I am so sorry blah, blah… ” he says. My jaw drops. For one, I am pretty sure that I wouldn’t have fallen if I hadn’t been daydreaming and for another, the guy has actually taken the trouble to find out where I live and come after his shift to apologise – for something that is not even his fault!

Does my country have a heart or what???!!!

Just like this dish which lifts the hearts of Telugus world over… you can take a Telugu out of India, but can you take gongura pacchadi out of his bloodstream?!!



(Recipe courtesy my aunt Malathi Mohan)


  • Gongura …… 1 bundle
  • Black gram dal ….. 3 tbsp
  • Dhania seeds …..1 tbsp
  • Jeera ….. 2tsp
  • Hing powder  …… 1 tsp or more as per taste.( Hing cake is more flavoursome)
  • Jaggery  …… 1 tbsp
  • Red chillies ……8  nos
  • Methi seeds ….. 1 tsp
  • Salt …. 2tsp (to taste}
  • Gingelly / sesame oil …. 4 to 5 tbsp
  • Garlic … 1 whole, peeled
  • Onion …1 big, cut into big chunks


Pinch the leaves from the stem, wash well and air dry on a kitchen towel. Chop roughly to small pieces for ease of grinding, later.

Roast the dry ingredients and grind to powder, then cool. Grind roughly for thokku and finely for the dip.

Heat 1 tbsp. oil , fry the onion and lightly roast the chopped leaves. They will lose the green colour with heat, so let some remain green. Allow to cool.

Grind the leaves with the powder, adding salt to taste. Roughly for thokku and soft for the dip.

Heat the remaining oil, fry the garlic slices, sprinkling two pinches of salt, add the ground mix, and  jaggery and cook the mix till it leaves the sides of the pan in one single mass.

Mix the thokku with hot rice and ghee. Serve with plain raw onion.


The dip can be used with pita chips or any other innovation that Madan Valluri is adept at. Actually, it was Madan who made me realise that this can be a dip too if ground well. Thanks, Madan. This beats all other western dips in my opinion!!