“Avuna, Daddy?”, and three heads swing in my father’s direction as we ask him for confirmation. “Is that really so?”
My mom’s already answered the question – these questions are in the nature of – “If an elephant and a crocodile fight, who would win?” or “If a tiger and a crocodile fight, who will win?” or “Who is the more powerful god – Vishnu or Indra?” and so on it went – the very serious concerns of childhood, which could take a whole summer to settle and then spilt over – unless we forgot! Or moved on to the next weighty concern!
Mom would have considered the question and said something like, “If the fight is on land, the tiger will win. If in water, the croc” – or something eminently sensible like that. But was it enough? To have our mother arbitrate on such weighty matters? No way – it needed a dad for that! And therefore, the constant turning to him to ratify what Mummy had answered – like an appeal to a Supreme Court! And based on my dad’s response, we would then take the fight to the outside world – fighting with anyone who dared dispute this almost Constitutional ruling! After all, “my daddy’s strongest/brightest/best” has been true in the eyes of children all the way from Cain and Abel to my generation! It seems to have changed though and the tables are now reversed – at least in my home – much to my husband’s disgust!
My parents read – constantly and eclectically – the classics – in English and their own languages, modern fiction, travel books, poetry, news magazines and these were constant subjects of discussion at the table. My mother used to read to us every evening – I remember nodding off to Pickwick Papers for several months before sobbing away in distress at Oliver Twist’s and David Copperfield’s plights. When Dora, Davey’s first wife dies, I was shattered!
This also meant that I could always shut up friends who disputed my dad’s opinion on anything – by pointing to the books lining every shelf and empty space in our home and telling them that my dad had read every one of these… so there!!!
“Avuna, Daddy?” was a constant refrain through childhood. When my dad was away traveling on work, Mom would sometimes get fed up and tell us to ask Dad after he came back. So questions were saved up – with great solemnity and trotted out at the first dinnertime he was back! Have swung the whole pendulum from my parents don’t know anything (in my teens) to, in my fifties, wishing I could sometimes turn around and ask, “Avuna, Daddy?”!!
Food memories of my dad are always tied up with how fond he was of sweets and thick, “set” yogurt (his great joke went something like this: So an American comes to India and asks what “curds” is – our name for yogurt. So the Indian bhaiyya scratches his head for a while and eureka, comes up with this brilliant explanation: “Milk sleep in the night, early morning tight!!”)
While all sweets were grist to his mill (it’s a wonder he never got diabetes) I’m devoutly hoping, going by my brother’s and my own proclivities in the dessert direction, that we’ve inherited his genes!!
One of his favourite sweets was this very simple…
- Maida/plain flour – 1.25 cups
- Ghee – 1/2 cup
- Salt – 1/4 tsp
- Sugar – 1/3 cup (more if you have a sweet tooth)
- Water – 1/2 cup
- Oil for deep frying
Make a syrup of the sugar and water – a one-string syrup. Add ghee and salt. Let cool.
Add the maida and knead into a smooth dough.
Divide dough into balls – 3-4. Roll each out into a very thick chapathi – about 1/4 inch thick.
Cut with a knife into diamonds – about 1 cm each side.
Deep fry till golden brown and drain.
Are these better than biscuits? Ask your Daddy!!