Of our youngest aunt…

“Malathi pinni, why don’t you remove your hair and hang it on a nail like my mom?” asks my four-year old brother Anand of my aunt – mom’s sister.

“Because my hair is actually growing out of my head!”

“Oh,” as he digests this in silence. Just how difficult this adult world is to understand – some people can hang up their hair and some can’t!

My mother “helps” her hair along with a switch which she attaches to her ‘real’ hair every morning and coils into a large bun – the de rigeur style for lady doctors in the ’60s.

“Malathi pinni, why can’t you sing like my mother ?” asks my other brother Arvind some weeks later.

“Because no one in the world can sing like your mother!” responds frustrated aunt who actually is a pretty good singer and has just spent the evening trying to sing her two nephews and niece to sleep!

My mother, on the contrary, is probably the most tuneless soul in the world – next only to my dad! But they sing – all the time! Persistently, tunelessly and loudly from my dad and equally persistently, tunelessly and reedily from my mom! We children obviously grew up with as much idea of music as a grunting rhinoceros or rather, three grunting rhinocereses, and therefore, when Malathi pinni actually sang, the shock to our systems must have taken some weeks to recover from!

“Malathi pinni, kodi guddu!” I shout out before hiding myself from her – it’s a game and kodi guddu (a hen’s egg in Telugu) for some reason, is a really hilarious name to call her! I am about a year and a half old. Malathi pinni is the only one with patience enough to play this game infinitely with me! She leaves on a trip and my mother goes to see her off at the station. Before she goes she asks me if I have a message for my aunt. Yes, I do. “Tell her kodi guddu!”

One of our favourite aunts, then as now, Pinni as the youngest aunt, was full of pep and go and willing to run around with sundry small folk – we must have tried her patience but she was a good sport!! She could sing, she didn’t care what people thought (I loved that!), said what she pleased, did what she wanted to… and was, come to think of it, still is – incredibly impulsive!

Here’s a tribute to a good sport and all in all good egg – Malathi pinni!


  • Green gram dal (the yellow, skinless variety) – 100 gm
  • Jaggery – 1.5 cup – grated
  • Ghee – 1 tbs
  • Coconut milk – 200 ml pack (I use Dabur or any other good brand – freshly made at home is best, of course!)
  • Cashewnuts – 2 tbsp – chopped
  • Raisins – 1 tbsp
  • Cardamoms – 4 – peel and powder with 1/2 tsp sugar.

Fry the cashewnuts and raisins in ghee and set aside.

In the same pan, add the washed moong dal and fry for 5-6 minutes till a nice ‘nutty’ smell arises (Pinni, this ‘nutty’ smell is why I’m dedicating this post to you!! Apologies, but thanks for being a little nutty 😉

Add a little water – about  a cup and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add the coconut milk and two more cups of water.

Let it cook on a low flame, stirring occasionally. Once the dal has cooked, add the jaggery and cook for 5-6 minutes more.

Adjust with a little more water if necessary – this is a not too thick payasam.

Add the cardamom powder, mix well and switch off. Add the fried nuts and raisins.

You can see the buildup of dishes to Ugadi, can’t you?