Poha chivda: Of word games, addictions and nirvana!

“Daddy, ┬áNOOOO… you must have more than and “a” or an “it”. You can’t play only two and three letter words all the time. Here let me see”, and my mom and me, playing Scrabble with my dad, promptly and unceremoniously turn his tile rack around and proceed to sabotage his entire game! My dad watches “his” tile rack for a while, protesting occasionally but less frequently as the game proceeds and he is shushed by the two of us with “Of course ‘dzho’ is a word. As is ‘ea’. Look up the Scrabble dictionary!” we tell him.

This was the 1980s, well before the world wide web was born and looking up stuff was not so easy. Some grumbling would happen, then he would stretch out and turn over sideways as we announced after half an hour to a now somnolent and snoring father that he had lost but played a good game because he lost by only fifty points!

Not just my dad, but any hapless visitor who came to our house, was inveigled into a game of Scrabble or Boggle and then promptly so subsumed into our game that he or she left several steps closer to nirvana – the first step to which is subsumation of self… or as happened in this house, subsumation of your tiles/blocks/letters/words!

This picchi (craze) for word games had started a generation earlier with an aunt who got us all hooked on to Scrabble and the crosswords. Her daughter, my cousin Minnie, brought back a Scrabble board from Singapore in the early eighties and the fate of the extended family was decided – with as many as twenty of us – ranging from eighty to eight hanging over the board and scribbling away fast and furiously our ‘finds’ on ironed-out pieces of bread paper! (The unbleached ivory coloured paper in which bread used to be wrapped at the baker’s before plastic became so common).

I don’t remember precisely what happened to that first board but we lost it, I think and Minnie was not going to be back from Singapore for a while with a replacement. The game hadn’t made an appearance in India yet so no board could be had for love or money. But ingenuity was quite another coin! My uncle, Minnie’s dad, very fond of pooh-poohing all word games (his favourite line about crosswords being that only crooked minds could do them!), was so kind-hearted that he got his carpenter to make a Boggle block for us out of small cubes of wood and etch the letters in each! The wood was dark, the letters were barely visible but we rubbed chalk powder into the letters to make them stand out in white relief against the ebony background… and heaved a collective sigh of relief – the game was back!

Over three decades have passed but the addiction to word games thrives in most of us still…

…just like the addiction to this afternoon tiffin in most Kannadiga households…


  • Avalakki/thin beaten rice/poha – 5-6 cups – roast on a low flame for 5-6 minutes till crisp and set aside
  • Roasted peanuts – 1 cup
  • Roasted gram dal/putani/putnala pappu/pottukadalai – 1 cup
  • Cashewnuts – 2 tbsp – split into halves
  • Copra/dry coconut – thin slivers – 2 tbsp – optional
  • Green chilies – 5-6 – sliced
  • Curry leaves – 3 tbsps – microwave on high till crisp – about 2 minutes. Set aside
  • Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
  • Asafoetida – 1/8 tsp
  • Sesame seeds – 1 tbsp
  • Oil – 2 tbsp
  • Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
  • Red chili powder – 1/2 tsp
  • Sugar – 1 tsp
  • Salt

Heat the in a large pan and add mustard, green chilies and asafoetida. Fry till chilies are crisp.

Add sesame seeds, copra and cashewnuts and fry for about thirty seconds more.

Add the nuts, roasted gram, salt, turmeric and chili powder. Mix well.

Add sugar and roasted poha and mix really well. Add the crisped curry leaves.

You could also add fried raisins.

Switch off. Let cool and store in an airtight dabba. Snack on when hungry or playing a word game!