Of trimming hedges and lessons in management!

Once in a while, my parents, usually my mom, would get a bee in their bonnets (should that be two bees in their bonnets?) about “LESSONS” we needed to learn. No, these had nothing to do with school – about which they were pretty slack (thank goodness!) – more in the nature of  “LESSONS CHILDREN NEED TO LEARN”!  Under this heading came things like POCKET MONEY (already blogged about), BEING NEIGHBOURLY and then in one memorable fit – BEING INDEPENDENT.

Since we didn’t have a clue about what each of these would entail, all such experiments were looked forward to with enthusiasm – and they never turned out quite the way my parents envisaged! Lessons were learnt, maybe not exactly the ones that were intended! The lesson on pocket money, for instance, did nothing to teach me about balancing a budget – all it taught me was that spending ALL my money on sweets was guaranteed to give me a bad tummy!

One holiday season, my mom decided that we should all learn to become more independent (I suspect these fits were brought on every time she got a new issue of “Good Housekeeping” to which she subscribed and they had lots of articles those days – all politically incorrect today! – about keeping house, family matters and so on… ) and learn that MONEY DID NOT GROW ON TREES , that we had to WORK to earn money etc… And so, one day….

…on her way to work, she gave us the job of trimming the jasmine hedge which grew around our house. We had to pluck off dead leaves, branches and flowers and do some trimming stuff and so on. The hedge was looong… in my opinion at least a hundred feet (must have been about ten or twelve in all, i think). A luscious, juicy carrot was dangled in front of us – if the hedge was done by the time mom came back home from work, we got a WHOLE buck apiece. This was the early ’70s – when a buck went a very long way indeed. You could go to the cinema, eat chikki and popcorn and still have money for a stick icecream (ultimate luxury!) if you judiciously used legs instead of a bus to transport yourself.

…and so, work started with great enthusiasm; we ‘divvied’ up the hedge – so much to be done by each of us and enthusiastically pulled out branches, twigs, leaves, buds,shoots… everything! A half hour passed and the work began to pall. Break time was indicated, with lemonade… after which resuming work seemed tougher and tougher… a passing urchin was hailed… would he like to do some work and get paid? Would he, indeed? A couple of hours later, one happy urchin (he’d been promised a buck if he came back at the same time the next day) and three even happier children – looking forward to the prospect of sharing out TWO un-earned bucks between them after deducting “workman’s expenses”! Life was good. Lesson was learnt – it’s ALWAYS easier to get other people to do the work for you! And we hadn’t even read Tom Sawyer yet! Like I said, not quite the lesson parents intended, but lesson nonetheless…

There are foods like that too – you need to do very little work and it pays for iteself in taste – making people believe you’ve been slaving over a hot stove, poor thing… wiping occasional drop of sweat off forehead helps…

Here’s one of those – easy peasy dishes… zero fat, high in dietary fibre and Vits A,D, B6, B12, iron, calcium and magnesium – it’s quite a super food.


  • 1/2 kg sweet potatoes – , scrub and cut into 1 cm chunks. Do NOT peel – you will lose valuable nutrients.
  • Green chili – 3-4 – minced
  • Mustard seeds (optional)  1/2 tsp
  • Jeera – cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
  • Turmeric – 1 large pinch
  • Asafoetida – 1 large pinch
  • Curry leaves – 2 sprigs
  • Curry powder (roast 1 tbsp each of toor dal, chana dal and urad dal with a large pinch of coriander seeds, 3 red chilies and pich of asafoetida. Cool and powder)
  • Coconut – grated – 2 tbsp
  • Salt
  • Oil – 1 tsp
  • Juice of half a line

Heat the oil in a pan. Add mustard (if using) and jeera. When it splutters, add curry leaves, green chilies, turmeric and asafoetida.

Add the sweet potato pieces and a couple of tbsp of water. Cover and cook till tender but not falling apart – 5-6 minutes. Add salt, curry powder and coconut and switch off. Squeeze lime juice over before eating.

Wanna earn a buck by trimming the hedge? 😉