Of best friends and rescues and Robert Frost!

And after a long hiatus, I have a guest post today – am so excited! My dear, dear friend Priya, who’s stood by me through thick and thin and who I don’t ever have to turn around and see to know she’s batting in my corner, has contributed this story of how we met – 33 years ago on our first day in college.

I must tell you a little bit about Priya’s tiffin dabba here – a dabba that reached college along with her at 10.00 a.m. (Nizami timings for Nizam College those days!) and would go back into her bag at 10.15, suitably lightened – by Shreesha and me! I still miss your dabba, Priya!

Over to Priya:

I met Anu on the first day of College 33 years ago. A tiny waif of a girl with the proverbial 18 inch waist and glasses covering half her face, and I was to realise soon enough that her size was more than compensated for by a huge delightful personality! She was lost to the world, busy reading a book of poetry by Robert Frost and that made me stop right in front of her. Everything about her seemed perfect to me and I decided I had to be her friend. It is now 33 years later and I have found no reason to change my mind and I stand firmly by the wise decision I made that day!!

It was my good fortune that she collected oddballs and decided I would do too!

And speaking of friends lost, it was during one of those years, I had invited a group of college friends home for a meal. It was the middle of summer and since, at that time, I lived in an unknown area of the cantonment – army accommodation, known as Allenby Lines in Bolarum; very elaborate instructions to reach had been given to all my friends along with bus numbers and a map. Hyderabad summers being what they are – every one trooped in- hot and sweaty, but there was no sign of Anu. Finally a call made my fears come true. Sure enough, Anu had boarded a wrong bus and landed up at least a few kilometers away. It was a time of no cell phones, no cars either and a call from a PCO made one panic.

Luckily we were young and had no bones creaking yet, so I trekked in 40 degrees plus temperatures to rescue her. I drank only water for the rest of the day. The heat and the adventure had no effect on Anu and after all her troubles, cheerfully tucked into the various vegetarian dishes cooked, which was a rarity in our Hyderabadi home where the menu is usually the biryani, kabab and chicken variety! The dulmas were on the menu that day and are today! The picture is from the internet as I will only cook lauki when Anu is visiting!

Here’s to many more lunches Anu and dinners !!

Lauki ke Dulme (Stuffed Lauki)

  • 1 long narrow soft lauki cut in 2 inch pieces and scooped out to form cups
  • Moong dal soaked 1 cup or fresh paneer if you like!
  • Onion paste of 4 medium onions
  • Tomato puree of 3-4 tomatoes
  • Ginger grated – a teaspoon
  • Ginger garlic paste – 1 teaspoon
  • Green chilies – sliced fine
  • Green coriander – chopped
  • Mixed whole spices – a few cloves, cardamom, a stick of cinnamon, pepper corns, jeera seeds
  • Garam masala- ground
  • Red chillies powder – to taste
  • Salt –to taste
  • Turmeric powder- a pinch
  • Oil – a couple of tablespoons

Using a largish flat bottomed pan, heat the oil.

Add mixed spices to the oil, when the jeera starts spluttering add the onion paste and cook till done.

Add the ginger garlic paste and fry for a few minutes more.

Add the tomatoes,salt, the other spices and lower the heat and allow the gravy to cook.

In a separate plate, mix the dal with salt, red chillies, garam masala, some green chillies, green dhania, grated ginger and mix well.

Stuff this mixture into the lauki cups.

Check if the gravy is well cooked, then add the cups of lauki, keeping them straight.

Add water and cook covered on low heat.

Add more water if and when needed.

Check to see if the dal and lauki is cooked, it should be done in about 20 minutes.

The vegetable should be cooked but firm and the same with the dal.

Carefully lift each lauki cup onto a flat dish and then pour the gravy on the sides.

Sprinkle the green dhania and green chillies on top and serve.

And long live poetry, Priya!