Scratch right there – tales of gorintaaku and mosquito bites!

“Scratch here”

“No, half a centimetre to the left.” 

“No, just below that.”

“Aah, right there!” 

“Harder, please, Mummy. Use your nails (non-existent in her case)!”

Mosquitos buzzing all around and having a banquet on my arms and legs which I can’t scratch right then and right where I want the scratching – because my hands are covered with green goop – henna, gorintaaku, mardaani, goranti, mehndi – call it what you will – it’s one of those things that gets women all over India and I suspect elsewhere in the world – excited, happy and festive! One of the great mysteries of childhood was how did mosquitos KNOW just when and where you couldn’t scratch and settle down for a meal RIGHT there! Also with a mother whose idea of scratching was a sort of gentle rub in the vicinity of the affected area whereas what I wanted was a scratch that would peel the skin right off, these sessions were rather agonising! On the other hand, gorintaaku – putting was rarely a one-household-only activity – more like a communal getting together of neighbours and little girls so there was company to be had in the agony of mosquito-ey itching too!

Leaves were gathered, washed and ground in the stone mortar and pestle (mixers hadn’t been invented yet!) and as that indescribable smell of henna filled the air, little kids sat around waiting for their turn – to have hands adorned with one large blob in the centre of the palm with many little circlular blobs around it and caps on the fingers – rather like a large dosa with little dosas around it. Post mosquito-no-scratching session, we were fed by hand – by the moms – and felt very “special” indeed! Generally it was dry food – dosas or stuff that was easy to feed.

You slept with it on your hands – on mats on the floor – the dry stuff being washed off only the next morning. Hands were compared for who’d have the deepest red colouration (I was one of those sad light orange cases!). 

Last night, at a sangeet-cum-mehndi session at a friend’s son’s wedding, many of these memories came back – except the mehndi was the intricate Arabian in origin style – no more blobs and caps but fancy designer stuff now – i do have a sneaking fondness for the lumps though! 

Breakfast needed to follow the same pattern too – but after two plates too many desserts ( Achilles heel and all that!), here’s a superbly healthy option of multigrain dosas…


  • Oats – 3/4 cup
  • Jowar ka atta – 2 tbsp
  • Besan – 3 tbsp
  • Rice flour – 2 tbsp
  • Soya flour – 2 tbsp
  • Yogurt – 1 cup
  • Red chili powder – 1/2 tsp or
  • Minced green chili – 1 or 2
  • Pepper corns – 1/2 tsp
  • Jeera – cumin – seeds – 1/2 tsp
  • Curry leaves – chopped fine or crisped in the microwave and crumbled – 2 sprigs
  • Asafoetida – 1 large pinch
  • Salt
  • Water
  • Sesame oil – 1 few tsp

Mix all the ingredients together and whip well adding enough water to make a thin, runny batter. Heat a non-stick dosa pan and pour one ladleful in circles – starting from the outside and working your way in – like a rava dosa – the thinner the better. Pour about 1/2 tsp of oil around the edges. Wait till the bottom browns, flip over and wait till it brown on the other side. I served it with ginger pickle and leftover pepper potato curry ( coming in another post!)

And if you ever want to put henna for your daughters, please learn to scratch – PROPERLY!