Author: Parimala

Strategies, design and research for human learning, development and change.

Patrimoine


As the temperature soars into the 40’s, thinking and action slows down, sometimes into reverie.

IMG_20180401_091424_796 ‘Patrimoine’.  It’s the French word for heritage.  Ok, let’s not argue right now…about why the word isn’t ‘Matrimoine’ and the etymological roots of it.  That, for later.  I’m dreaming of other types of roots.

Childhood memories of Indian summers. Dense teak forests of central Maharashtra and the pre-monsoon Arabian Sea at the Konkan coast.  The Sal tree groves of Kanha in Madhya Pradesh, the scorching tribal belt of Chattisgarh and a yellow-orange mountain while climbing the ghats to Pachmarhi.

Resplendent sights of laburnum and gulmohur in full bloom, jungle alarm calls of monkeys and deer.

Exquisite smells of jasmine, magnolia, vetivert, and delectable tastes of indigenous fruits.

The HOT summer in the Western Ghats is absolutely divine even today.  If you are one with it, of course.   If you don’t fight it.   If you can dig your teeth into a juicy, pulpy, watery local fruit.  Sit under a shady tree and wait for a small gust of wind.  Or just wait. For nothing at all.  Stillness.

Instead, the onslaught of branded, plastic bottled, canned or packaged drinks is in your face.  You lose sight of what works locally, and has for centuries.  Your roots.

To bring the cooling drink traditions back in focus, a few Sahyadri summer heritage recipes below.  Of course they’re well known, indeed I’m no chef and this is not a recipe site!  Just a nudge, a move, a method to explore your own roots.  From the intellectual to the easily actionable.

Khus water:

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The first and most important – water infused with khus.  It is simply divine.  Botanical name for khus – Chrysopogon Zizanioides.  It’s  a medicinal plant also known as Vetivert.  Called वाळा in Marathi.  ‘Khus’ in Marathi, Urdu, Hindi and other Indian languages.

Drop a ball of khus in a large earthen pot (matka) of drinking water to flavour the water overnight. Not to be confused with khus syrup available in market, which is for sherbet.  This one is pure root form, floating in a pot of drinking water.

No colour.

 

Panha (my mother’s recipe):

IMG_20180402_094832_244Botanical name for mango – Mangifera Indica.  ‘Panha’ is the Marathi name for a drink made from raw mangoes, saffron, cardamom and mint.

Pressure cook ‘Kairies’ (raw, green mangoes) till soft. Peel and extract pulp.  Mix equal measures of kairi pulp+sugar+water (more sugar by taste).  Add a pinch of salt, crushed cardamom and saffron.  Blend. Store this concentrate in fridge.

To consume, put a few tablespoons in a glass, add water, stir and serve.

My mother tells me that in the old days they’d throw the ‘kairies’ straight into the wood/charcoal ‘chulha’ to roast before pulping.

The saffron turns this pale green drink into a pale orange.

Kokum drink (without sugar):
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Botanical name for kokum – Garcinia Indica.  Called Kokum in Marathi and Konkani.  Rich in “hydroxy citric acid (HCA)….inhibits the conversion of carbohydrates into fats;…Garcinol;…antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacteria and anti-carcinogenic agent…neuro-protective…and pitta balancing qualities.” (source: Kokum – The Malabar Tamarind by Vandana Shiva & Maya Goburdhun)

If you can’t source kokum rind locally, you can get it on Amazon.  Syrups contain sugar and I prefer not to buy more plastic bottles, so I make my kokum drink from rind. It’s easy.  You can even make it in a college hostel!  Abandon those fizzies and bottled thing-ies!

Soak 2-3 pieces of kokum rind in a glass of water for a few hours with a pinch of rock salt (or any salt, or none).  Stir and drink, chilled or cool.

It’s a deep maroon drink, with hints of purple.

Sol kadhi:IMG_20180420_165743_286

Coconut milk (botanical name, cocos nucifera) gives the basic kokum drink a delicious twist!

Soak 2-3 pieces of kokum in 3/4 glass of water with half a pod or less of crushed garlic and a bit of crushed green chilly to taste.  Add rock salt to taste.  Let sit.  After a few  hours, top up the glass with coconut milk.  Shake well in jar or blender. Let sit again for half hour in fridge.  Garnish with coriander.  Drink cold.

A gorgeously pink drink.

 

Cold coffee A2 milk :

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Cold coffee is not a traditional drink but A2 milk is.

Organic milk from Gir, Deoni or any other indigenous breed of Indian cow was no specialty when my mother was young. Now it’s much harder to source.  I find desi cow’s, organic, raw milk (unpasteurised, non-homogenised) lighter and more flavourful.  Boil it before drinking, of course!

Mix instant coffee.  Sugar to taste.  Whip it up.  Drink cold.

Light brown.

 

IMG_20180429_104106_066Taak, Buttermilk, Chaas…

A little dahi (yogurt), water, ginger, cumin powder…

Add whatever your mother or grandmother told you to….!

 

 

 

 

Nimbupani, naariyal pani, of course!

Note: The Western Ghats or Sahyadri mountain range is known for its rich bio-diversity and runs along the western coast of India. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  

May the Sahyadris, and the abundance they give us, endure!

  • (A recent article on the Sahyadris from Suprabha Seshadri – Once Upon A Biome 
  • The best kokum I’ve ever tasted comes from Sujata Goel’s beautiful organic farm Mojo Plantation.)

Postscript:

I received a message from Pascal Monteil (http://pascalmonteil.net) that significantly adds to the intent of my piece.  Here it is in French below with English translation:

“Juste une petite remarque. En français Patrimoine n’est pas exactement tradition même si c’est proche. Ce sont les richesses culturelles ou materielles qui sont transmises en héritage. Ou bien personnellement dans une famille. Maisons. Vignes… ou bien à un peuple. Chateaux oeuvres mais aussi Culture, cuisine, vins, choses de l’esprit”

“Just a small note.  In French, the word ‘patrimoine’ is not exactly ‘tradition’, even if it is close (in meaning). It is the cultural or material wealth that is transmitted through heritage.  Or indeed, (transmitted) in a family.  Houses. Vines….or to a people.  The castles, yes, but also culture, cuisine, wines and things of the spirit.”

 

 

 

 

 

Life-life balance


In that one day, the season changed.  The cold, crisp, stillness of the early morning winter air gave way to a gentle breeze that now and then wafted through the window, caressing the new warmth. Days turned dry. It was Holi. Leaves sprouted on expectant branches and the koyal made her loud comeback. She sang and so did the maynas. They sat not only on tree branches but also on the tv cables that hung high between buildings.  Birdsong filled all times of day.

The whole world seemed to be ‘tweeting’ when a banker friend from Mumbai WhatsApp-ed.  A busy executive, mother and homemaker.  Did I know good Hindustani classical music teachers in our area, she asked. She wanted to ‘implement’ some work-life balance.  I see that, I get that.  I replied telling her of a music school close by.  But our experience of reality is subjective, so are our responses.

One evening, months later, I WhatsApp-ed her back.

“Hey did you call the music school? What happened?” I asked 

“Not yet, but targeting Quarter 2”, she replied.  

EOD.  I primed the partially baked jowar bhakri with a thin layer of basil tomato puree, and topped it with a mix of Kodai smoked colby and mozzarella cheese.  I wasn’t sure how this dinner experiment would turn out.  There wasn’t any prescribed recipe.  I carefully arranged a few sun-dried tomatoes on top of my ‘swadeshi’ pizza.  I was loving the tryout.

‘Targeting quarter 2’ triggered the musing…successful, urbane life-calendars fixed by a financial year.  Then halved, further quartered and finally carefully sliced into days.  The crisp to-do lists.  Small goals that must lead up to the big ones.  Exhortations to have a ‘big dream’, a big goal. Measurable, quantifiable, picturesque and ‘share’-able.

Then, the work-life balance goals.  Like work and life are two separate things.  After the to-do lists, the bucket lists.  Stuff we must want to very badly do before we kick the bucket, before we are dead and gone.  Then, prioritise the bucket list, of course.  Figure out the number 1 thing .  Implement it. The stress builds.

There is some disharmony about the way this is approached, I thought, as I carefully laid the pizza on the grill, balancing so that no ingredient would fall off.   Work-life balance or achievement pressure in disguise?!  Then, I set the oven alarm.

And, oh yes – time.  To make up for the lousy time, the idea of ‘quality time’.  Quality time with the parents, the kids, the spouse, the lover.  The quality ‘me’ time.  The stress builds.

Where’s the music? That too, must be addressed through targets. The stress builds.

The alarm rang.  The pizza was ready.  Work-life balance doesn’t cut it for me.  Quality time is a short-lived idea.  As for bucket lists, they don’t wash well.

How about going with our inner flow? A flow whose timing, strength and direction one may not immediately understand or predict.  An aspiration to actualise the self, not an ambition to always perform to goals.  Presence not goals.  Discovering, not achieving. There may be a difference between ‘being’ and ‘becoming’. Is that worth knowing?  Life is one ‘whole’ thing.  It works well that way.

“Nobody really knows what they want to be”, Siddhartha Mukherjee was saying at the Express Adda in Delhi  “we retrofit it to what we become”.   His words sang to me.

I rushed to pull the jowar pizza out.  Tried to slice it, but couldn’t.  Jowar bhakris don’t slice well.  This one may need to be picked up whole and bitten into.  Hmm. Not bad.

Actually, it’s delicious.

 

 

Impracticalities


The argument is between ‘presence’ and ‘absence’.  Or ‘presence’ and ‘elsewhere’ perhaps.

A friend asked for easy dinner recipes.  She’s no cook, doesn’t enjoy it.  For me, it’s a passion. My brief was to send her recipes that took no preparation time, only 15 minutes cooking time and yet would put ‘life’ back into dinners.  I sent the first one – cold zucchini soup with Kashmiri garlic pearls, grilled chicken with ‘chunda’ relish and coriander sprigs for flair. As I experimented, I was joyous. The plate was a riot of colour. A few bright red chilli flakes swam around pearls of garlic that floated in a tiny pool of molten golden butter in an expanse of dense yellow zucchini soup.  On this side, grilled chicken. Light brown and in some places charred, with squirts of sticky chunda turning into warm rivers. Here and there, fresh, cold, green leaves of coriander.  This is life, this is joy.

I was happy as I saw and smelled my experiment, even before I touched and tasted it.  And then the slurp the squish and the crunch of the eating.  I wrote to Putul – here is the recipe. When you make it, the food should be eaten with your eyes first, then smell, touch if you can, put the piece in your mouth and taste, hear yourself bite into it.  Food is a ‘whole’ experience of immersive presence.  It’s not just dinner. It’s what will put life back into life.

Reeva our dear cocker spaniel doesn’t like to play, be talked to, cuddled or stroked while she’s eating.  Like all dogs, she eats when she eats, she plays when she plays.  She’s a happy person.  I reflected on how often we are absent from our present, from this visceral experience of living.  From the here and now.  We don’t even glance at our food while eating.  It somehow finds its denouement on an unaware palate.  A denouement in which the plot comes to shreds, without any build-up.

Don’t think too much, don’t feel too much, they say.  It’s not practical just to be eating one’s food and doing nothing else. We must multitask, always. It’s the new ethic. We are able to, so why not, they say. Watch tv, read something, upload a picture, reply to email, reply to replies, like our likes, consume comments…simultaneously.  Simultaneity is an achievement, they say.  We can achieve much more, get things done, amuse ourselves!

Why engage all our senses, our entire being, in one small thing – to see, smell, touch, taste and hear our food, for example.

What an old fangled and impractical idea.  The world has changed.  The loss, profound.

My presence, it is elsewhere.  Are you with me?