Of city brats deprived of villages and nerds of long ago…

“Snehalatha… Neeroo… Sudharani… Kanaka… Zehra… Aruna…” and the list goes on as the team captains pick their teams for a game of throwball… and finally, for no other reason except that one of them is stuck with me and probably likes me :)… more likely because they have no choice… Anuradha… last one to be picked for the team… can’t throw, can’t catch and can’t even be relied on to get the ball acroos the net! Thankfully, I’m not in a sports-mad school and it being an academic sort of place, I can get away with being THE nerd! I suspect I’d have had a tougher time in a school today or in a different country where nerds are marginalised.

One of the nicest things about growing up in the India of a few decades ago was the total acceptance of where people came from and variances in dress, behaviour, even food! There were kids whose parents wouldn’t let them come to movies because “cinemas” were a corrupting influence on young minds! Kids who brought aavakai rice only for lunch everyday (i did envy those!). Kids who were not allowed to eat in other kids’ houses for some reason we couldn’t fathom. Kids who couldn’t come on school picnics because parents couldn’t afford the buck or half a buck that it cost. There was none of the cruelty of exclusion that we read about today – that you are either “in” or a pariah! Peer pressure was unheard of and i think did not exist at any level. No living up to the Joneses, no birthday parties to be outdone, no foreign holidays to be bragged about though what i did long for was a village holiday that all my friends seemed to take for granted – we were the poor, deprived completely city-fied kids who didn’t even have a village to go back to!

Which is probably how I got away with being so bad at games that NO ONE wanted me on their teams! Sigh… till I discovered a talent for word games and all varieties of card games which did NOT involve any kind of bat or ball or getting up and running! That habit unfortunately led to an lifelong struggle with the weighing scales as I discovered later in life!

I also got to be quite a decent hand at table tennis in my teens and so managed to breeze past those tough years till we get to boasting to our children about how we studied under the lamp post (going by the stories, that was everyone in my parents’ generation). Boy, those lamp posts must have been pretty crowded! Bet some enterprising soul could have sold tickets to the dress circle (immediately under), balcony (next circle) and the “junta class” third circle where you got to squint at your books! How we were so good at all games – and no, with a sports-mad husband, a swimmer for an older kid and an athlete for a younger kid, wisdom lay in staying out of the sweepstakes!

Food was just as egalitarian – what grew in the backyard, what was sent to some lucky sods from their “native” villages (i later found out that these selfsame lucky sods thought WE were the lucky sods because we bought everything in shops – it had to be better, no?!) , leftovers from lunch plus additions for dinner. Leftovers are great provided they are in the form of vegetables! Till today, not having my veggies makes me feel seriously deprived and one my favourites of all time is the very ‘umble, very everyday…




I can’t live without my “koora podi” – curry powder – not the British stuff but the South Indian one made with a few variations in most Andhra and Kannadiga households. So let’s do that first and then the curry itself




  • Urad dal – 1 cup
  • Chana dal – 1 cup
  • Thuvar dal – 1 cup
  • Asafoetida – 1 pinky nail sized lump (gorantha)
  • Red chilies – 2 cups or 1/2 cup red chili powder
  • Dhaniya – coriander seeds – 1 tbsp


Dry roast, cool and grind togther all the ingredients. If using chili powder, don’t roast, just drop it on top of the other hot, roasted ingredients and let the whole thing cool before grinding. This podi can be stored for weeks without refrigeration and is a great taste booster to everyday okra, green plantain, potato, carrot, beetroot – any other curry.




  • Brinjal – 1/2 kg – wash, remove stalks and cut into 1″ chunks. Drop them into water to which a little turmeric has been added.
  • Koora podi – 3 tbsp
  • Onion – chopped – 1 – optional
  • Green chili – minced – 1 or 2
  • Ginger – 1/2 ” piece – grated
  • Sesame oil – 1 tbsp
  • Salt
  • Curry leaves
  • Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
  • Urad dal – 1/2 tsp
  • Jeera – cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp


Heat the oil in  a saucepan. Add the mustard seeds. When they begin to pop, add the urad dal, jeera and curry leaves. Add minced chili, ginger and onion and fry till golden yellow. Drain and add the brinjal pieces. Add the salt. Stir everything together well. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally. When they are about half done, add the koora podi and cook, covered, till almost done. Remove lid and continue to roast for a few minutes till the vegetable becomes a little crisp again.


And I promise to make this if you pick me for your throwball team!