Of Mulkis and curfews and the joys of unfettered freedom!

 The year was 1969, I think. There was a huge political agitation going on, the Army had been called out to maintain law and order and there was a curfew and if I remember right (well, I was only six years old!) a shoot-at-sight order. As I grew up and learnt about the Mulki movement and various other protests that shook the generally peaceful state of Andhra Pradesh, as it was then, these events  took on a different colour.

But… to a six-year old happy kid, curfew only meant NO SCHOOL, holidays when we supposed to be having exams, unsupervised time at home since both parents were working in what were deemed essential services. Mom and Dad used to leave home early in the morning before the curfew started and come back only at sunset when it was lifted. Our cousins, Rami and Ashi, being “older” and supposedly more responsible, arrived home every morning to “look after” us smaller fry.

They also introduced us to the joys of making prank telephone calls, pillow fighting, ‘disguises’ – which consisted of smearing our faces liberally with kohl from my mom’s kohl box and pretending to be dangerous pirates who fought fierce battles with cutlasses (pillows!). Since we generally tried to hide the evidence of much of the day’s perfidy before the parents came home by scrubbing our faces and much of our skin away- with soap and oil, we sort of squeaked by.  But were not so successful with blackened pillowcases – none of us knew how to wash clothes (!), I wonder what my mother made of these when she came back home!

Today, from a grown-up perspective (never half as exciting as a child’s!), I guess she was too relieved to find us in one piece to make too much of a fuss!

The presence of the men in uniforms with rifles in the maidan outside our house was a source of much excitement. We had been warned to stay indoors and not show our heads outside otherwise they’d get shot off – a completely unimaginable occurrence! And so, we took to soldier-baiting as one more fun activity – poking our heads just above the compound wall and hooting at the soldiers and as they turned around, ducking down again!

Since mom used to make lunch and leave it for us, we were supposed to eat and then clear up. With five highly imaginative children at home with no adult to tell you to “mingu” (swallow!), lunch used to sometimes take from noon till five o’clock as we sat around exchanging tales of adventures and pirates and robbers and thieves, at which point we would realize that parents were due to descend soon and some superfast clearing up used to happen!

Today, everyone bemoans the fate of latchkey kids but we were all of us latchkey kids who revelled in solitude and in the company of other kids only without supervision! Maybe that explains why I chose to go into business on my own rather than have a boss later in my life!!

Much the same way we learnt cooking – with little supervision and much freedom to figure what cooking terms in recipes meant. Figuring out that a ‘fried egg’ did NOT mean a ‘deep-fried egg’ was an important lesson!

This story is about the Telangana movement and so, it is only fitting that my dish too should be from here… presenting the yummy…

SARVA PINDI ALSO KNOWN AS THE GINNAPPA (father of a dish – ginna’s appa?)

  • Raw rice flour – 1 cup
  • Onion – medium – grated – 1
  • Curry leaves – 1 sprig – chopped
  • Coriander leaves – 1 tsp – chopped
  • Green chili – 1 minced (the traditional recipe does not include this but I like the tang)
  • Red chili powder – ¼ tsp
  • Sesame seeds/til/nuvvulu – 2 tsp
  • Roasted peanuts – crushed slightly – 1 tbsp OR 2 tbsp chana dal soaked for half an hour.
  • Spinach/palak/palakoora – 3 or 4 leaves – sliced thin
  • Salt
  • Oil to shallow-fry

Mix all the ingredients except the oil together into a soft dough without using too much water. Cover  and set aside for ten minutes. Oil your palms, shape into balls (makes about 4-5) and flatten the balls.

Heat a tava and spread a little oil on it. Sprinkle a few drops of water to get the oil to get it to sizzle and spread evenly and then place a flattened ball on it. Wetting your hands, continue to spread the dough to the thickness of a roti. Sprinkle a few drops of oil on top. Cover and cook till it turns golden brown and crisp. Flip over and cook for another five minutes without a lid.

This dish does not need any accompaniment.

And parents, leave your kids alone!

(Pic courtesy: Internet)