“Bye. Take care.”
“Be very careful who you talk to.”
“Remember I’ve packed all your snacks in this dabba and dinner in the big tiffin carrier. Share out the snacks fairly!”
“The money that’s in your little purse (spoken sotto voce) and stitched up securely on the inside of your salwar is ONLY for emergencies and not to be taken out!”
“DO NOT get off the train at any station except to fill water in the ‘canteen’!”
These and many more exhortations are being repeated by my uncle and aunt as they send their two older kids and sundry assorted cousins off to Hyderabad to our grandfather’s house for the summer.
It’s time for the train to steam out of the station and they get up. The littlest two of the bunch, the two-year old twins, have also been brought along to say goodbye. But these two have a mind of their own – or rather two! They absolutely refuse to get down! They don’t whine, they don’t cry, they don’t throw a tantrum, they are perfectly amenable – to everything except unglueing themselves from their seats! They have made up their minds and their minds stay made up! Why should only Akka and Anna (older sister and brother) and all the other cousins be the only ones to have all the fun? We want to have fun too!
Finally, the parents are left with no choice and jump off the train as it steams out of the station – leaving the twins in the care of the ten-year old oldest cousin there! Phew – imagine that happening today – most parents would have a stroke, at the very least! But this was 1976 and a more innocent world…
The eldest Sunita, is ‘in charge’ of the crew – some half a dozen of them altogether! Her first “executive” decision is to stow away the large tiffin carrier packed with dinner – out of sight and not to be seen again till it is unloaded the next morning – at the Hyderabad station! They’re fasting, you think, for the journey? Haha! The second decision is to quickly finish all the murukkus and yummy snacks! The third is to carefully remove the money – the emergency money, that is – from its secret hiding place stitched up in the pyjamas of Sunita and proceed to spend it with gay abandon – on every itinerant vendor who floats past – selling chips, samosas, curry puffs, vadas (after all, these are all kids with Nemali-vada genes!), fizzy drinks – the fizzier the better, of course! In fact, the only vendor who goes away disappointed from this bountiful bunch is the idli seller – who has nothing of interest to offer them – idlis???!! If the many tummies are not upset by the next morning, I assure you it was not for lack of trying!
And the next morning, at the station, we receive a bunch of kids (expected) – their numbers augmented by two little cherubic faces, looking none the worse for the wear and quite happy to be exclaimed over and made much of! We go home. Many baths are drawn. But… the twins have no luggage – not a stitch except what they are wearing!
My grandmother and I quickly run up two pavadais (the long skirts that Indian girls wear) as they are bathing and stitch stuff through the day – to last them for a couple of days till their stuff arrives with another friend who is traveling from Vizag!
The twins are thrilled – this is all high adventure – as they gleefully tell us how they decided on a plan of action before going to the station – that they would refuse to get off the train (munde anukunnaamu!)…
That summer… and that story – passes into family lore!
And from that part of Andhra (Vizag and Kakinada) also comes this yummy and unusual dish… recipe courtesy my friend Shreesha’s mother.
Telagapindi is the residue left over from sesame seeds after the oil has been extracted – highly nutritious and recommended for pregnant and lactating mothers or generally anyone who likes good food!
- Telagapindi – 3 tbsp
- Milk – 1 cup
- Water – 1 cup
- Onions – chopped – 1 large
- Garlic cloves – 5 minced
- Green chilies – 3 – 4 – slit
- Curry leaves- 2 sprigs
- Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
- Urad dal – 1/2 tsp
- Jeera/cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
- Asafoetida – 1 pinch
- Peppercorns – crushed – 1/4 tsp
- 1 cup peeled, chunked gourd – bottle gourd/snake gourd/ashgourd or white pumpkin
- Methi leaves – 2-3 tbsp – optional
Mix the telagapindi with water and milk and set aside.
Heat the oil and add mustard seeds. When they pop, add urad and jeera.
Add curry leaves and chilies. Saute for a few seconds and add onions, methi and garlic. When they turn translucent, add the gourd pieces and a tbsp of water. Cover and cook on a low flame along with salt and pepper till pieces are tender. Cool a bit.
Add the telagapindi mixture and cook on very low heat till it thickens.
Switch off and serve with rice or rotis.
You won’t want to spend all your emergency money on food, I promise!