Karuvepillai kozhambu : Of husbands, khichdis and feminists!

“My husband is away for several weeks and I’ve to do so much… ” I grumble at the office at lunchtime. Have just had one of those mornings where I got up late, was late to cook and pack lunches, managed to drop the kids at school in time before noticing in the rearview mirror that my hair was unbrushed and then made it to office – at the other end of town, brushing my hair at a stop sign, applying kaajal at the next one, lipstick at another (thankfully i had dressed before leaving home!) and so on – till I reach office looking reasonably presentable – with a lot of amused grins from other commuters on the way at every red signal!

Which is more than on occasion happened to my mother – also an equally harried mother – of three children!

She makes it out of the house one morning for an early case, rushes to the bus stop to find she’s got odd slippers on. That’s not the worst of it though, she’s wearing one slipper of hers and another of my dad’s on the other foot! Too late to go back home and change, she carries on through the day, the pucca professional looking doctor in her crisp, starched cotton sari, provided… your gaze doesn’t travel down to her feet!

So back to my office day… I’m about to open my ‘tiffin dabba’ and my boss is gently pulling my leg. “What work? Bet you have khichdi in your dabba today!” he chuckles. My hand is arrested midway to opening the dabba, my jaw drops down… “But… how did you know?” I stutter…

“If the husband is away from home, the lady of the house takes a holiday from her work in the kitchen – khichdi is always the easiest dish to make,” announces the chauvinist! He obviously can’t get away with that – boss or no boss, a lecture on feminism follows!

I now have two grown-up daughters cast strongly in the feminist mould so any stray anti-feminist remark made by a guest or visitor is like a red rag to a bull… except in this case, the maker of the remark is so thoroughy slaughtered that he (mostly they’re he’s with a few oddball she’s interspersed!) counts himself lucky to walk away unscathed in body if not spirit!

My husband, a staunch feminist himself, often claims to be “an honorary woman” – in a famly of three women, it’s the safer course to take, I’m guessing! But I protest – he has to earn the honour!

Am reminded of this today – husband again away on work and so the women make… naah, you guessed wrong – not khichdi  but the Tamilnadu favourite…


  • Drumstick (the vegetable variety, not the one which is disinterred from a hen!) – 1 – cut into 2″ pieces
  • Eggplants or okra – 6 – sliced
  • Sambar onions/shallots – 4-5 – halved
  • Garlic – 8-10 flakes (more if you like it really garlicky , can be omitted altogether if you don’t like it)
  • Tomato – 1 – quartered
  • Oil – 3 tbsp
  • Tamarind paste – 3 tsp
  • Jaggery – 1 tbsp
  • Salt
  • Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
  • Sambar powder – 1 tsp


  • Pepper – 1/2 tsp
  • Red chilies – 2-3
  • Garlic – 2 flakes – optional
  • Curry leaves – 1/2 cup
  • Asafoetida – 1 pinch
  • Fenugreek seeds/methi – 1/2 tsp
  • Urad dal – 1 tsp

Roast and powder these together. Add a little water and the tomato to grind to a really smooth paste.

Heat the oil and temper with mustard seeds. Add the onion and fry till golden.

Add the garlic and sambar powder and continue to fry for 30 seconds more.

Add eggplant pieces and turmeric and fry for 2-3 minutes. Add drumsticks and half a glass of water.

Cover and cook till half done.

Add the tamarind paste, salt, jaggery, masala powder and two glasses of water.

Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes till vegetables are tender.

Eat with hot rice and appalams. Or dosa or idli.

This keeps really well so make a large quantity and keep eating it the entire week the garlic-averse husband is travelling! Or when you are fed up, give it to your boss!