Thursday, August 20, 2009

THE CURMUDGEON AND HIS COMFORT FOOD

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!

DO SHARE A MEMORY ABOUT YOUR GRANDPARENTS.

16 comments:

Mustaf said...

Hi;-)

First time on your blog, i love reading these old memories, these are like enjoying those pure tiny moments..

My dadu used to like Muri (what is it called in english? fried rice or what..please help me :-) like anything, whether it is his lunch or his dinner or even his breakfast, he will have his Muri dabba always beside him and he would jump onto that after his normal meal. No matter how much times, we tried to keep that dabba away from him, no matter how many times we have told him that it is not good for his health, but he would not listen to anyone...

Miss M said...

I remember my dadubhai (baba's baba) used to take these pills every night after dinner. One evening I insisted that I will feed him the tablets. Dadubhai, being the sweetest man ever, could not refuse. So he sat on his armchair and I began giving him instructions.

Me: "Ok dadubhai, I will count till three and then feed you ok? You have to close your eyes and open your mouth!"

Dadubhai quietly obeyed.

Me: "One...two...Nooo close your eyes!! Twooo...."

Dadubhai sat like that for a while, waiting for his grand-daughter to feed him the tablets..but I being the naughty kid that I was, I was fiddling away with the capsules, breaking them and and examining it's contents. Finally dadubhai opened his eyes, closed his mouth and laughed at his grand-daughter's mischief! :)

And how can I forget thaamma's naarkel er naaru (seriously don't know what's the english equivalent of this!) and didu's paathishaapta and shingara! Those were really the days!

Lazyani said...

The memories get stirred again!

My Dabhai(grandfather) was strict disciplinarian-- hence, we had breakfast at 7 am, lunch at 1pm, evening tea at 4pm and dinner at 8pm, without fail. He liked his food to be oily and rich .

On the other hand, Dibhai(grandmother) had two samosas and muri as dinner every day , for the last 30 years of her life.

Kavi said...

Ah to lick of the remnants is so very alluring ! And here i am sitting here in office and thinking of whats all i have managed to take the last drop in !!

sweet memories indeed

Aparna said...

@ Mustaf, muri is puffed rice.

@ Sucharita, my dadu used to eat aamloki after every meal, and we would wait for him to sleep. Then we would all raid his cupboard.

ZB said...

i dont know about my Dadu( we called a Dadu, achachan), but i love tea made out of condensed milk, especially Ginger teas, Punjabi ishtyle....nice post...my Dadu loved Kheer and he was fussy about the consistency of the end product, so have seen women in my house boil milk for long hours, stirring continuously....:)

Hobo ........ ........ ........ said...

Grandparents quit when father was 6& 7 years old.

Nazish Rahman said...

Milkmaid...wow it tasted yummy!!! U made me remember my childhood days...i loved milkmaid...i never saw my dadu or dadi...so can say u were lucky to have them!!!

nice post!!!

Aleta said...

I blogged about my mom's parents so I'd rather not write about those memories.

I remember very little about PawPaw (Dad's dad), because he passed away when I was a little girl. But ~ I do remember this.... he was very particular about things being orderly and organized.

Rob (my brother) and I would play hide and seek at their home. One time I hid away in their bedroom closet. Rob found me within minutes, of course. I don't recall us being messy, but according to PawPaw we messed up his shoes. From that point forward, I noticed that he kept his shoes lined up perfectly!

Gayathri said...

my grandparents had no particular specifications about food..may be curd rice + sweet mango is worth mentioning..sweet and salt combi is something i hated though..
btw,ur granpa has no diabetes??great!!!

Ranu said...

I don't remember much about my grand parents as I only visited them in summer holidays but I recently met my cousin's grandmother who has five pieces of apple and 10 grapes for dinner. The grapes and apple had to peeled and cut to a certain specification if it was less or more she would be upset. This has been her dinner for the last 30 or 40 years!!!

I always wonder what she does when the fruits are out of season. Never asked!!!

Nona said...

Very unique combination! kitchdi with ghano dhoodh! Well, the preparation condensed milk did make me hungry!

Zabi said...

It seems, all Dadus are undoubtedly cranky fellows. Your tale reminded me of my grand father who was quite stubborn and would only demand non-veg food for dinner everyday in spite cholesterol levels. If we don't not cook non veg any day he would create a hell of a mess in the house. We got sick of eating non-veg everyday. Poor fellow died of a heart attack one day.

However, You have nicely written the story.

P.S: Why don't you add a followers widget so that it would be easy for us to follow the blog.

seana said...

My grandmother came to stay with us at the end of her life, and I'm sorry to say that we kids were not all that pleased about it. I don't know that she was all that demanding, but she needed a lot of help and I'm afraid that we left much of this to my poor mother. She had a little bell, and would ring it to get someone to come to her. Some of the time she just wanted company, and we were begrudging of it, self-absorbed teenagers that we were. For a long time after, hearing a bell would bring up a very conflicted response in me.

It's a great many years later, and I still wish I had found it within myself to be more generous with both my time and my help.

Rajesh said...

My grand ma used to sleep very less. You can find her awake in the middle of night or any small sound she is awake. As a kid, when I used to be out on the road playing for long hours, she used to come in search of me.

Santanu Sinha Chaudhuri said...

I saw only one of my grandparents. When we were children, in India, not many would live long enough to see their grand children.

My thakuma used to prepare exotic "khirer chhanch"es, die cast sweets made of condensed milk and sugar. It was my approximation of ambrosia/amrit, and whenever fortune smiled on me, I could steal them from a cabinet, which Thakuma normally guarded diligently.

Many a time, I patted myself on the back for unearthing thakuma's carefully hidden stock. It never occurred to me that the treasure discovered by me was inevitably just two khirer chhanches, and no more.

Much later, when thakuma was no more, mother revealed thakuma's secret. Those two were meant to be discovered by me, to be lulled into believing that I had got them! Her actual stock was always secure, hidden elsewhere!