Of school dabbas and tehzeeb!


I was the only vegetarian in my school lunch group. Some 8-9 of us used to sit together and share out “dabbas”. What i always thought was boring – my sambar rice and vegetable and curd rice used to disappear within seconds! What i, on the contrary was happy to tuck into was always the “poruginti pulla koora (pakkathu veetu pulichakeerai/the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence etc.) – the Hyderabadi khatti dals and the salans that my Muslim friends used to bring. Most of my friends used to get hot lunches sent from home about the time the bell for lunch went and the resultant aromas as the boxes were opened was enough to make Lord Ganesha himself drool! 

Being the only vegetarian, i am sure a couple of mishaps must have happened – me helping myself and digging into some non-veg salan before my friends could shout out – “don’t eat that” – which happened often enough!! But the famous Hyderabadi “tehzeeb” (the closest equivalent i can get is “sanskriti” – refinement, culture, well-mannered and so on…you get the picture) ALWAYS kicked in and i was never told that i’d eaten a meat dish – to spare my feelings! Tehzeeb incidentally is  an Arabic word literally meaning trimming or cutting out the bad, harmful, useless, obscene parts of the looks, speech, behavior etc. So it’s used to denote editing (written literature), training, promoting good manners, and discipline and so on..wow, wow and WOW!

If everyone today was so mindful of other peoples’ feelings – what a world we would create! Motorists allowing each other to pass on the road, pedestrians and motorists endlessly waving each other on – and then maybe never moving….oops – not such a great idea maybe :)!  Also what if the DMK and the ADMK (read Congress/BJP or any two parties in opposition!) constantly let the other one win? And politely waved to each other to have the pleasure of looting before us….you go first, you go first – cue evil grins! Errrr!

Dear, dear! I think i shall stop trying to solve the problems of the world and let them all kill each other off as we make:

Khatti dal

  • Masoor dal – 1 cup
  • Red chili powder – 1/2 tsp
  • Green chilies- 2 or 3 – chopped
  • Turmeric – 1/4 tsp

Cook the dal with 3 cups of water, red chili powder, green chiles and turmeric till soft. Helps to soak the dal for about half an hour pre-cooking. Mash the cooked dal well.


  •  3 tbsp tamarind paste and
  • a paste made with 4 cloves of garlic and 1/2 inch of ginger
  • Jaggery – 1 tbsp (optional) and

bring to the boil again. 


  • Oil – 1 tbsp
  • Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
  • Jeera (cumin) – 1/2 tsp
  • Curry leaves – 2 sprigs
  • Garlic cloves – chopped – 4-5
  • Onions – chopped – 2 tbsp – optional

Heat oil in a small saucepan and add mustard seeds. When they splutter, add the rest of the ingredients. Stir till onions are golden brown. Pour over the cooked dal. Garnish with coriander and serve  with rice and potato fry – pehle aap!


2 Replies to “Of school dabbas and tehzeeb!”

  1. I am wondering if it’s possible to change the color of the font from grey to black/dark/bold?better contrast for mobile devices.

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