March 21, 2012

Ammachy's Kachimoru and Zero Food Miles


 Ammachy walked around the Ash Gourd vines near the hen coop looking for her perfect pick of the day. My little steps followed; admiring her Ash Gourd vine that had latched on to every possible opportunity in its vicinity. It must have been in its peak, for I saw Ash Gourds in plenty hanging from the carefree vines. After much deliberation, Ammachy plucked one low lying fruit.

In her brightly lit kitchen where pools of the summer sun added to the warmth and merriment, she stood by her earthen stove and started peeling the skin of the Ash Gourd. No cutting boards, no fancy knives. Using her index finger as the substratum, she sliced them fine. Off they went into her earthen pot along with a pinch of salt, turmeric, green chillies and water. As they simmered on her stove, I nudged the firewood in, occasionally blowing air with a wooden pipe; more for my own delight that I was lending her a big hand.

Ammachy moved onto her dainty little shelf from which she brought a big ceramic pot full of fresh yogurt. As she lifted the lid and kept it aside, even before the clanking sound of the lid faded away, I darted across with a little spoon to take a big dig! As I scooped deep, I noticed the two layers clearly. The top layer was the best with its light yellow tinge and heavenly taste! And the second, the milky white real yogurt! Yum! The beaten curd along with ground coconut mixture dolloped into the simmering pot. When her home-made coconut oil started releasing its heavenly aromas, I waited with bated breath. The mustard seeds spluttered away and the sliced shallots wilted away. The freshly plucked curry leaves along with a bit of fenugreek powder and red chillies took my olfactory senses to a heightened state. And then, the heavenly aroma of her Kachimoru wafted through the old wooden corridors leaving me drooling and impatient!


She had everything in the backyard or in the back of her kitchen shelves. Zero Food Miles. Looking back to my beautiful childhood days, I realize that its not a new fad or a fancy. Just that it has been long forgotten. Conveniently forgotten.

March 15, 2012

Falling in love!

                                                 ( Picture Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)

I am almost sure about it
I am falling in love; head over heels again
Not that this is the first time, not even the second time
I am not sure if I have lost count
When I am so enamored, why would I even take count of it
Rather than making the most of it, and taking it moment by moment?

This morning, as I was making crispy, lacy Appams in my kitchen, I heard a Shutterbug fluttering in the little balcony of ours. I turned and caught my better-half clicking away pictures of a tree outside. Looking through the fully opened kitchen window, I could only see the tree; barren and lifeless. I impatiently lifted the steamy lid of the Appam-maker and forced the not-so-crispy Appam out; just for that one time when patience really ran out of my restless mind. I had to see for myself the object of his visual exploration at the crack of dawn.

By the time I joined the Shutterbug, one of his objects decided to shift base. But, I was greeted by the excited twittering of a legion of birds that seemed endless.Mynahs, Robins, Sparrows, Pigeons, and Blue Jays of course. While the sleepy Pigeons were content tip-toeing and cooing on the roof opposite my balcony, the Mynahs were engaged in an enthusiastic rummage for food amidst the thick specks of grass which perked my spirits up! As usual, the Sparrows mirrored my restlessness, not able to be still in one place for more than a few seconds. Chirruping and constantly moving, they added sparks to my already bustling state of mind.

Zooming into the picture of a bright orange bird, the Shutterbug asked me if I knew which bird it was. A Cardinal? It looked even brighter. Both of us were pleasantly surprised and got carried away by the depth of the tangerine that shone so bright from the small screen of our digital camera. It reminded me of the little Mandarin oranges that we bought last evening from the Asian Food store.

This evening, I took a stroll outside. With each step, I felt the pull towards my Love. As I walked with my eyes cast down, I almost looked like a forlorn soul. But, for me, I was rediscovering a world of green. A world of new grass heads, name-less weeds springing up at the first drops of rain with little white feathery flowers at their tips, trying to make the most of their abysmally short lives. Before the weed-killers and the lawn movers took charge, they seemed to celebrate life; whatever little promise it held. As I walked back home, the birds decided to take charge of my life again. With their calls, chatter and songs filling my senses, I strolled home in boundless joy.

March 6, 2012

Blue Jays and Sparrows

                                             (Picture courtesy: Photographer and filmmaker Jim Brandenburg)

This afternoon, as I was ambitiously finishing some last -in- the- line errands in the house, my eyes caught some swift movements outside. A quick dash, an even quicker chase! In the stillness of the cold winter afternoon, against the backdrop of the bare tree tops, a few birds that seemed to come from nowhere suddenly filled up my chalice of hope, rekindled new thoughts and gave a fillip to my sense of positivism. I had never seen this kind of a sight before. A Blue Jay chasing a few sparrows! And the best part was we weren't seeing any birds for a few weeks now, except the V- shaped Geese formations that parade the skies during early morning hours.

Birds. They bring me boundless joy. I just need to catch a glimpse of a Sparrow in its flight. Or a twittering Robin trying to find its feet on a shaky little branch. Even as I was overcome with happiness watching the little power struggle of my feathery friends, I eagerly showed the sight to my Seven-year old and in unison we said in our typical sing-song style, ' Spring is round the corner, Spring is round the corner!'

March 20th is the official date for the advent of Spring in this part of the world. But, I keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best to happen. Last Winter; weather channels said was the coldest in a few decades. This Winter; they say is the warmest in a few decades. Last Winter, we saw nothing but snow. This Winter, we haven't seen snow at all. So, what is the reading on the wall?

A humble worshiper in Nature's shrine, am awed by the myriad ways in which life around inspires, rejuvenates, enlightens and what not. And it hurts to see the ease with which we take life away from Her. Looking around, am not sure, whether its ignorance or sheer carelessness that is the reason.

A few days back, we were at Coney Island. Weathering the cold winds, as we strolled around the waterways , much to our astonishment, we found at least a hundred mallard ducks, swans, geese and other birds cackle endlessly while eating bread crumbs! The first question that we asked each other was, ' What are these birds doing here at this time of the year? They aren't supposed to be here eating bread this Winter!' As we exclaimed thus, we thought we figured out the answer as well. First of all, weather patterns are changing across the world. These birds could very well be a confused lot. And second, if bread happens to be their staple food, what would that land them in? Research proves that it delays migration and impacts their natural instincts to forage for their own food. There were about a dozen happy souls feeding the birds from huge packets of breads and buns. Other than anxiously staring at their feeding frenzies, there wasn't much to be done. Looking back, I dread to think what the birds would do if they were stopped being fed bread, one day, all of a sudden?

Sad thought indeed. And I know not the answer. Whenever I think of Nature, I think of Her as nimble-footed. And so are her creatures. But, we must let them be. We must just let wildlife be. Its best to let them be in their own wild worlds, with their wild instincts.