For the longest time, I was convinced that Venkateswara Swamy ( Balaji/the Lord of the Seven hills/Perumal/Edukondalavaadu) and my father, coicidentally named Venkatesh were the same “person”. My dad had the same rounded chin, chubby cheeks and even features that Lord Venkateswara is represented with – in all his portraits – maybe these pics were based on N.T.Rama Rao’s portrayal of the god!
As children, there was an implicit acceptance of a “god” figure that in teenage years one questions so deeply! Faith was not a word that we knew particularly but was rather a part of life. In the same way that kids of my generation went wherever the parents took us – whether Tirupathi or grandparents’ house or any aunt/uncle/friend of theirs whose homes we visited for holidays/transitory passing ‘throughs’ – in our childhood eyes, these were random things which just ‘happened’ and that we did not even think of questioning! The result, of course, was a rather blissful and blissfully ignorant existence till something came along to disturb it!
Life, in short was about ‘eat, sleep, do last minute mugging for exams’ while you wished earnestly that you were that cow placidly chewing cud in the maidan which didn’t have exams and report cards and parents’ signatures being needed on said report cards!
…Or that dog lounging on the street whose blissful existence precluded having to stand in a line, shiveringly awaiting your turn to get a smallpox shot (yep, back in the dark ages, we still had to take these!), the only consolation being that every other kid in the colony was also standing in the same line! Mothers were generally kind and there was always something extra special – a treat awaiting you at home for lunch. For some weird reason, my favourite for a long while was not a sweet but the very ordinary “majjiga pulusu” (moru kozhambu/kadhi/yogurt-based soup). Some of the best prasadams I have eaten in the many Venkateswara temples which dot the South of India have involved perugu – yogurt in some form or the other.
Presenting yet another dish of the gods:
- Slightly sour yogurt – 2 cups – churned with one cup water
- 1.5 cups vegetables – ashgourd / chowchow (again!) / shallow fried chaamagadda (arvi/colocasia)/ lauki / shallow fried long pieces of bhindi (okra)
- Fresh coconut – grated – 3 tbsp
- Red chili – 2
- Green chili – 2
- Chana dal – soaked for half an hour – 1 tbsp
- Dhania powder – 1/2 tsp
- Roasted methi seeds – fenugreek – 1/2 tsp
- Jeera – cumin seeds – 3/4 tsp
- Asafoetida – 1 large pinch
- Turmeric – 1 large pinch
- Jaggery – 1 tsp
- Coconut oil – 1 tsp
- Curry leaves – 2 sprigs
- Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
- Red chili – 1
- Jeera – cumin – 1/4 tsp
Add a little water to the vegetables in a deep pan and bring to a boil. Cook on a low flame along with the turmeric till half done. Grind into a smooth paste – red chili, green chili, chana dal, dhania, coconut, methi, jeera and asafoetida. Add the paste to the vegetables. Add the beaten yogurt and continue to cook on a low flame, adding salt and jaggery. Once the vegetables are done and the raw smell of the yogurt is gone, temper. Serve with plain hot ice, vadiyaalu (vadaams/ fries) and a plain vegetable curry on the side. Bet Lord Venkateswara will smile on you and let you be born the cow which doesn’t have exams in your next birth!