Mixed vegetable kozhambu: Of shy kids and pickup lines!

bak, bak, bak bak, chatter, chatter, chatter, chatter… goes a four-year old little girl, non-stop from sun-up to bedtime.

“Why do you talk so much?” asks the mother, normally a very patient woman.

“I don’t know, Mummy. Whenever I open my mouth, crores of words come tumbling out… on their own! (Noru therusthe koo ani koti maatalosthaayi!). I can’t stop them,” say I.

All the chatter happens at home and also with friends at school. If a stranger enters the equation, even if he or she is a relation or someone close to the family, the stream dries up… abruptly and completely! I am very shy with strangers and cannot even say hello to people.

Once, when I was about six or seven, a friend of my dad’s comes home to dinner and spends all of three hours trying to get me to say –  something. I don’t. I can’t actually! I only nod or shake my head – and in Hyderabad, it’s very difficult to make out one from the other – depending on what he’s asking me.

The visitor leaves and I am in for the royal-est scolding of my life – from my dad – who is very upset with my rudeness. I am not rude, I want to protest, but I can’t talk to strangers! My brain freezes, as does my tongue.

The bak-bak carries on in class the next day as it does every other day. The teacher, fed up with my constantly disturbing the girl next to me, makes me shift my seat. In the course of the next forty minutes, before the bell goes for the next lesson, my seat is shifted three more times altogether! Finally I am sent to stand outside the class in the corridor, where I cannot distract anybody. I strike up a conversation with the ayah, the lady who sweeps the corridors. Happy to take a break, she chats with me about her problems (I am seven years old!) till the bell reminds her that she hasn’t finished her work yet  and off she goes, raising the dust with a flourish, in case the good sisters of the convent should catch her at it!

It took me years of concentrated willpower and practice but I finally did work off my chronic and painful shyness. Unfortunately, today, the pendulum has swung so far in the other direction that I am often in trouble for my over-friendliness and what’s worse, no one ever believes that I was a really shy kid! Haha, goes the world! You? 

Once, in a car park at the park where we work out, I bumped into someone whom I was sure I had met before. He didn’t seem to show any recognition of me at all (sigh, sadly for my ego). So, the ex-shy kid goes up to the man and asks, “We’ve met before, haven’t we?” He denies it vigorously. My long-suffering husband, standing at a safe, but hearing distance, asks me later, “You are aware, aren’t you, that you’ve just used the oldest pick-up line in history??!” Oops! Major OOPS!

So, to celebrate shy kids everywhere in the world and help them to “mix” (this was supposed to be desirable, I still haven’t figured out why!) better with their less interesting compatriots, here’s a…


  • 2 cups of mixed veggies – 2″ long drumstick pieces, sliced eggplants, cubed pumpkin, ashgourd, okra, radish, yam – whatever you have
  • Tomato – 1 medium – chopped
  • Sambar onions/shallots – a handful – peeled

FOR MASALA: Roast and grind to a fine paste adding a little water

  • Coriander/dhania seeds – 2 tbsp
  • Fenugreek seeds – 1/2 tsp
  • Black pepper – 1/4 tsp
  • Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
  • Grated fresh coconut (not to be roasted) – 4 tbsp


  • Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
  • Urad dal – 1 tsp
  • Asafoetida – 1/8 tsp
  • Curry leaves – 2 sprigs


  • Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
  • Red chili powder – 1/2 tsp
  • Tamarind paste – 1.5 tsp
  • Salt
  • Sesame oil – 1 tbsp

Heat the oil in a pan. Add the mustard seeds. When they start crackling, add urad dal and let it brown a bit.

Add the curry leaves and asafoetida.

Add onions and saute till golden.

Add tomatoes and let soften.

Add other vegetables, turmeric and half the salt. Add 1 cup water and cook till almost done.

Add tamarind paste, rest of the salt, the ground masala and enough water for a medium thick gravy.

Simmer for 8-10 minutes to let the flavours infuse. Add 1 tsp jaggery for added taste.

Switch off and serve with hot rice.

Doesn’t matter if you are positively tongue-tied… people will sing your praises!