Of peanuts, nuns and Fevicol…

“What is this – balla, balla? What is your name really?” asks the elderly nun of a cheeky fourteen year old grinning up at her.

She, the nun that is, has just come to our school from the parent convent in Vijayawada and is flummoxed by my friend’s surname – a Punjabi “Bhalla”. She doesn’t quite believe that someone can have a name quite like that (‘balla’ in Telugu means a bench!). She checks the register and finds it’s for real and as though to make up for her faux pas earlier or maybe it was the cheeky grin that did it, the ‘Bhalla’ becomes her favourite – can do no wrong whatsoever blue-eyed girl! Our Bhalla exploits this to the full – thinking up and carrying out all sorts of mischief, secure in the knowledge that all she has to do is smile endearingly at the “sister” in question and all would be forgiven!

This was around the time we had graduated to class 9 – one of the seniormost in the school and also graduated to the rowdy ‘last bench’!

This particular sister in question, was very fond of storing a little cache of unshelled peanuts in her capacious pockets and popping them in, slowly shelling them, during the Social Studies class that she took – right after lunch! Now, we’d have just had lunch, so the peanuts did not torment us with any induced hunger pangs… but the idea of a teacher wandering around, shelling peanuts and eating them with impunity seemed grossly unfair! We had to do something!

The Bhalla girl (as the good sister liked to call her) was my benchmate on the last bench. She had the aisle seat and I was in the innocent place just inside. The sister (must have been longing for a siesta rather than taking a class of pesky teens through the geography of India!) used to lean on the wall next to her favourite and crack her peanuts open, swaying gently from side to side rather like a ship in full sail with gentle breezes rocking her side to side at sea! She moved, Bhalla – girl sees her opportunity. Quick as a flash, out comes a tube of Feviquick and she smears it liberally on the wall – behind the sister. The sister, having cracked a few nuts open, leans back to enjoy them with a sigh of contentment, beaming benevolently down at her blue-eyed girl. Chats with her occasionally, looks over her shoulder and helps her with her class assignment  and is generally a happy soul on a somnolent afternoon….

…the assignment is done, papers are gathered and the sister moves off… rrriiiipppp… goes her veil… the glue has dried well and truly during the sister’s extended sojourn on the wall and now a part of the cloth covering her head has torn off!

She splutters in indignation and turns a baleful eye towards our bench – the culprit must obviously be here! The Bhalla? No way, she is too innocent (if only she knew!!)… must be that pesky Chenji who sits next to her and asks all kinds of questions! The thunderclap falls on me, despite my protests of innocence!

But there is a funny side to it – the sister with a torn veil, spluttering away in indignation is a sight guaranteed to bring joy to any heart – unfortunately I hadn’t learnt to master the art of inconvenient giggles and am uncermoniously led away to the “Office” for punishment! Ah well, I did giggle!

And with that in mind, let’s make something that resembles the good sister’s veil… the


For dosa, follow this link.


  • 1 cup fresh, grated coconut
  • 1 tbsp – fried gram dal/putani/putnala pappu/odacha kadalai
  • Ginger – 1/2 tsp -chopped
  • Green chilies – 2
  • Asafoetida – 1 pinch
  • Salt
  • Jeera/cumin seeds – 1 pinch
  • Sugar – 1/4 tsp
  • Juice of half a lime
  • Peeled sambar onions – 5-6 (optional)
  • Coriander – 1/2 cup for green chutney. Omit for white chutney.

Grind everything together with a little water to make a thick chutney.


  • Fried gram dal/putani/putnala pappu/pottu kadalai – 1 cup
  • 1 large onion – chopped any which way
  • Garlic – 5-6 flakes
  • Red chilies – soaked in hot water for ten minutes – 4-5
  • Juice of half a lime
  • Salt

Grind everything together adding a little water to a thick, spreading consistency.


  • Boiled, peeled, crumbled potaotes – 2 cups
  • Onion – chopped – 1 – optional
  • Green chilies – sliced – 2-3
  • Turmeric – 1/4 tsp
  • Asafoetida – 1 generous pinch


See entry here.

Make the dosa. Spread 1 tsp of the red chutney on top. Shovel some potato masala – about 2-3 tbsp. Fold over in half and serve with the other chutney and sambar.

No need to fill up on peanuts afterwards!