of Indian roads and continuing education

“Pssst… guss… guss… shhh… how can we ask… noo… yesss… ” in what they – they being three eight-year olds sitting in the back seat of a friend’s car being driven to school – think is sotto voce, whisper…
The driver in the front is the father of one of them, Uncle S. Knowing that one of the trio is bound to cave in sooner or later, he waits patiently, listening to a fourth kid in the front seat, my younger daughter, K, telling him about the dream she had last night. K’s dreams are usually measured in the number of kilometers it takes for her to tell us the tale – four kilometers or about fifteen minutes being about par for the course!! This dream is destined to be cut short though!
Soon, a squeaky voice from the back seat (one more of the squeaky brigade, Vinaya) pipes up. “Uncle S, what does this mean?” she asks. He glances in the rearview mirror and nearly ends up driving his car into the truck in front, swerving just in time. This, happens to be the very rude gesture known as “the finger”!
You have to hand it to him though – Uncle S keeps his aplomb! Explains that it is a rude gesture, not one to be emulated and asks innocently (seemingly!), “Where did you learn that?”
“Oh, Auntie Anu used it yesterday when a cyclist cut across the road in front of her,” explains the young ‘un.
“Ah, in that case, she probably doesn’t know it herself and we’ll have to explain it to her, won’t we?” he diverts their attention from the rudeness of the gesture, mentally resolving to strangle Auntie Anu’s neck!
I get a call later that evening. Thankfully, uncle S is a guy with a sense of humour and expresses undying gratitude to me for educating his daughter, not to mention my daughter and squeaky V in the ruder ways of the world! Thankfully, I say, because I know other parents who would have taken out a restraining order banning me from coming anywhere within two miles of their children!
My excuse is that I drive on Chennai roads and road rage is my birthright! He is not sold on the idea!
On another occasion, I have my one-year old strapped next to me as I drive and use a new Tamil curse word I’ve picked up from my brother-in-law while sitting pillion on his bike. He thinks I’m sleeping and I am, almost but the word has sunk into my unconsciousness and reassuringly pops up just when I need it most – as I curse the cyclist who cuts right across my nose – and I speed off!
He catches up with me at a red light, looks ready to get down and murder me, notices the baby and shakes his fist at me, telling me in graphic detail exactly how he’d have peeled my skin off if I didn’t have a baby next to me!
The signal turns green, I stick my tongue out at him (only mentally, I promise!) and drive off! Later that evening, at dinner, I ask my husband what the word means. He chokes on his keerai molagootal and asks me where I’ve picked it up. “Oh, from your brother,” I tell him blithely and ask again what it means. He refuses to enlighten me and I have to find out from another pal. There is a major “oops” moment as i realise just what I’ve called the cyclist! This is a family-type blog, so I can’t tell you either!
And in gratitude for Kanch saving my skin that day, we make today one of her favourites.
  • Roasted semiya – 500 gms
  • Cashew nuts – a handful – roast in 1 tsp ghee and set aside
  • Onions – 2 – chopped
  • Tomatoes – 2 large – chopped
  • Green chilies – 3 – slit
  • Ginger – 1″ piece – julienned
  • Garlic – 2 flakes – optional
  • Curry leaves – 2 tbsp
  • Peas – 1 cup
  • Carrots – 2 – chopped – optional
  • Turmeric – 1/4 tsp
  • Garam masala– 1/2 tsp
  • Salt
  • Sugar – 1/4 tsp
  • Hot water – about 2.5 cups
  • Chopped mint and coriander – 2 tbsp each.


  • Oil – 2 tbsp
  • Ghee  – 1 tsp
  • Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
  • Chana dal – 1 tbsp
  • Urad dal – 1 tbsp
  • Asafoetida – 1/8 tsp

Heat the oil in a large pan – this thing tends to spill all over so use a large one. Add the tempering ingredients.

Add the curry leaves, ginger, garlic, green chilies and fry for a minute or two.

Add the onions and brown.

Add the turmeric, garam masala, carrots and tomatoes. Fry till tomatoes are softened.

Add the semiya and salt. Add the water a little at a time, stirring frequently.

After 4- 5 minutes, add the peas, cover and cook on a low flame for 4-5 minutes. Check to see done-ness. Add a little more water if needed. Sprinkle sugar over. Pour the ghee on top. Cover and cook for a couple of minutes more.

Switch off and add chopped mint and coriander. Sprinkle cashewnuts over top.