Monday, June 23, 2008

Expect the Unexpected!

It is no exaggeration to say that the diversity of India is mind-boggling. Perhaps it was with great foresight then that this diversity has been classified into various kinds of castes and languages, not to mention genres of cuisine. The Indian abroad often reels with indignation when asked to speak "Indian" (India is a veritable Tower of Babel). Amongst ourselves, we navigate by politely asking the other's name. This will more or less reveal from which region the person "hails" as some put it in India and maybe even what this specimen ingests ("namoona"- a slightly mocking way of putting it. We Indians tend to be highly sarcastic as a result of our frequently pungent diets).

In my youth I would flinch at the question "Where are you from?" for I'm a typical example of a favourite Indian comfort food (Khicidi- a mixture of rice and lentils. The term is used to denote any hotch-potch of things). This sad state of affairs was all the fault of my dear parents who had to go and marry spouses from faraway States (India is divided into States and Union Territories). Thus, while my late father was from the Southern Indian State of Andhra and a Brahmin ( a priestly caste that is strictly vegetarian) to boot, my mom, also now busy configuring her next Avatar, "hailed" from what is now West Pakistan and was a Mona Sikh ( Sikhs whose males need not maintain beards and wear turbans, nor need carry any of the other five requisite k's as in kesh, kirpan, kangan, kada, kacchha- hair, sword, comb, metal bangle, boxer shorts-or some form of underwear-Sikhs are supposed to be fairly warrior-like and thus do occasionally indulge in the eating of flesh). I was born in Bangalore, now famous as a software capital of India- this is in the State of Karnataka whose cuisine is a whole new story. I grew up in the sea-side town of Pondicherry- an ex-French colony and now a Union Territory engulfed by the Sate of Tamil Nadu. How was I to answer the all important "From where do you hail?"

I got into a greater pickle ( No Indian will survive for long without a good bottle of pickles-several are known to get pickled at the drop of a hat) when I decided to fall in love with a man from the Southern Indian State of Kerala- famous for its matriarchs and coconut garnished dishes. We lived out most of the first twenty years of married bliss in and around India's bustling capital city and thus acquired addictions to the tangy street foods that floated down to the Moghul-monument bedecked Delhi, along with heaps of dust, form neighboring Rajesthan (Famous for camels, desserts and castles in the sand).

It will be no wonder then if the recipes presented here bear scant resemblance to their original models. Much is morphed.

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