Of Zinda Tilismath and cures for cholera!

Har marz ki dawa – Zinda Tilismath!

Veritably and definitely not very modestly touted as the panacea for all ills! The ads were as corny as the claims but boy, did they sell the product – to an extent that any slick copywriter today would give his eyeteeth (whatever those are!) for!

I can think of a couple more ads like this – corny as they come but… but… there’s something about them that appeals to what is simple in us – I think. Vicco Vajradanti and Vicco Turmeric Vanishing cream (I’m singing the jingle as I write this – so please cover your ears ;)!)… or that ad for paneer which goes: “What did the matar say to the paneer?” and the blurb pops up – “Tu cheez badi hai mast mast”! Or consider this gem from a matrimonial agency: “Roses are red, violets are blue; you have an arranged marriage waiting for you!!”

You laugh at them, you hit your forehead and you go, “Aiyo!!” or “Toba, toba” or “Kadavale” depending on whether you eat aavakai or butter chicken or idli-sambar (yes, i love stereotypes!) but… they stick in your mind! Whether they deliver or not on the promises is another mater. I have a sneaking suspicion that somewhere we equate “slick” with “cheat” and therefore the simplicity of these ads makes us think “a guy this naive surely can’t cheat us, right??!”

Now back to our first panacea – Zinda Tilly… what prompted this post was a series of articles that grabbed my eyeballs about how the good ol’ lady of Amberpet (that’s where their karkhana or factory is located in Hyderabad) actually seems to be proving herself quite a redoubtable opponent against chikungunya and swine flu! What keeps the eyeballs riveted further is the news – and I didn’t know this earlier – that it can be applied on the skin, eaten or drunk – this medicine – for everything from the common cold to – hold your breath – cholera!

Is there any food that we can tout as a panacea like this? Most people in the South might pop up with rasam but then you can’t really apply it on the body (I’ve seen it being tried – at weddings where food is served on plantain leaves and you have to chase your rasam all over the leaf and sometimes all the way down to your armpit before you catch it!) Also rasam doesn’t claim to cure cholera, no matter what the fans say!

Further serious research was done last night as I was ruminating in bed and what came up was the humble chickpea flour/besan/senaga pindi/kadale maavu… edible, appliable, bathable (and if you happen to swallow some when you’re bathing, it won’t kill you!), scrubbable, good for exfoliation and hair removal and for washing hair with! Which means it’ll remove the hair on your arms but let you keep the hair on your head – wow, some cancer drugs can’t do that! That sounds quite like a Zinda Tilismath of foods to me.

Many things to do with besan starting with the favourite of all Indians – frying! Nothing like a pakoda or a bajji, greasily golden, deliciously fragrant and scrumptiously crunchy! But, I am not going to spoil you with fried foods (well, not quite)!

Presenting one of the most “comfortiest” (comfortable sounded wrong!) of comfort foods:



  •  Thick, slightly sour yogurt/curd – 1.5 cups – whipped
  • Besan/chickpea flour – 1/2 cup
  • Turmeric – 1/4 tsp
  • Red chili powder
  • Jeera powder – 1/2 tsp
  • Dhania powder – 1/2 tsp
  • Kasooti methi – 1/2 tsp
  • Salt
  • Asafoetida
  • Jaggery – 1 tsp

Whip everything together well with 2 cups water and set aside.


  • Besan – 1 cup
  • Sliced onions – 1 cup
  • Ajwain (carom) seeds – 1/2 tsp
  • Red chili powder – 1/2 tsp
  • Green chili – minced – 1
  • Asafoetida – 1 pinch
  • Garam masala – 1/4 tsp
  • Boiled potato (optional) – 1 small – mashed
  • Chopped coriander – 1 tbsp
  • Salt
  • 1 tsp ghee
  • Oil for deep frying


  • Oil – 2 tbsp
  • Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
  • Jeera/cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp 
  • Saunf (fennel seeds) – 1/4 tsp
  • Red chillies – 2 – broken
  • Curry leaves – 2 sprigs
  • Chopped onions – 2 tbsp (optional)
  • Asafoetida – 1 pinch

Mix everything for the PAKODAS together well (except oil)and rest it for half an hour. The juices from the onions will run and moisten the besan so you can shape it into small pakodas.

Put the yogurt mixture on a low flame and cook, stirring frequently so it doesn’t curdle. About ten minutes. If it becomes too thick, add some water.

Meanwhile, fry the pakodas in batches till golden brown and drain.

Add the pakodas to the yogurt mixture, cover and simmer for a further 7-8 minutes.

Switch off. Add the tempering ingredients to the hot oil and pour over the kadhi.

To be served with plain rice and a roast potato curry. 

And how do we know it won’t cure cholera anyway? Ever tried it?