My Dadu (father’s father) was a rather cranky old man. He would not budge from his position and from his habits. He and my Didu (grandmother) shared the downstairs room, which multi-tasked as their bedroom as well as the dining room (sounds strange? But then we had five rooms – apart from kitchens and bathrooms – and a dozen people, so we had to ‘kindly adjust’.)
For, as long as I can remember, he would spend his entire days (and nights) on the bed. He would sit on it during the day, peeping out of the half-opened bedside window, frowning from under bushy white brows at anybody who entered the house and making sundry disgruntled comments at the gone-to-the-dogs ways of the modern world and the 'faltu' (useless) frivolity of the modern generation. At night, of course, he slept on the bed – the only problem being that his ‘night’ began quite early. So it meant we all had to eat our supper by 9.30 pm and vacate the room so that Dadu could put off the lights and go to sleep.
In fact, the few times that he left the bed was also quite fixed – to take his bath once a day and to go to the bank and collect his pension (he was a retired school-teacher) once a month. And, of course, to eat his meals.
The times and contents of his meals were all pre-ordained and fixed – and he would not allow any alterations or adjustments – come hell or high water. He loved milk, and one invariable component of his supper was ghano doodh (condensed milk).
Now, this was not the tinned Milkmaid stuff that I loved and often stole from the fridge. Dadu’s ghano doodh was the product of almost an hour’s daily toiling over the coal unoon (stove). Didu/Maa/Sabitadi (grandmother/mother/our daily help) would put a saucepan of milk on the stove, add a lot of sugar in it and stir the boiling concoction continuously to get the desired thickness and sweetness. Sometimes, they would cheat a bit by adding a few spoons of milk-powder to make the doodh denser.
And then they would pour out the rich creamy sweetness into a big steel bowl to cool. Dadu would have it with some rice at the end of his meal, taking his time over this daily delicacy. Even when we had things like khichdi (a preparation of rice and lentils, tempered with CHILLIES and SALT) for supper, he would insist on his ghano doodh, adding the sweetened milk to the khichdi and eating with apparent relish. God only knows how horrible that hodge-podge of milk-sugar-rice-lentils-salt-chilly must have tasted; I suspect it was just his stubbornness that carried him through the taste-ordeal. He obtinately clung to his comfort-food even in the most uncomfortable of menu-situations.
And we? My brother and I would hungrily and eagerly wait for Sabitadi/Maa to finish the cooking and pouring of the ghano doodh, so that we could scrape the saucepan and have the crusty-sweet almost-solidified remnants of the thickened milk from the bottom and sides of the pan. Using spoons and, finally, fingers and tongues, we would lick the pan clean. The creamy-sweet taste was my idea of ambrosia!
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