The funeral service is going on. The minister asks for the eulogy to be given as Paddy lies in his coffin. Paddy hasn’t made many friends in his drunken journey from cradle to grave… there is a thundering silence… hemming and hawing and surreptitious glances at watches are taken as people become more and more uncomfortable. The minister looks pointedly at the pew where Paddy’s bingeing pals are seated. Finally one of them can’t take it any more and stands. Hat twisting in hand, Sean mumbles, “Paddy sure was good at marbles when he was a boy” and sits down to a collective sigh of relief – SOMEONE has said SOMETHING good about Paddy!
This story is to let you know that in case one of you has to give a eulogy for me, I was pretty good at marbles as a kid too! There is a fashion in children’s games – so one season,you can’t play anything but carrom, from the morning glass of milk to long past bedtime if you had early-to-bed parents like mine! Then again, three months later, during the next set of holidays, you’ll probably wonder what all that was about as you settle in to gilli-danda or golis (marbles) or kite-flying. The passing of seasons was noted by the games that were played collectively and the fruit that grew in that season – months and years were not particularly important…
January, of course, was the season for kites. For weeks, life was dominated by patangs, guddis, “fighters”, charaks (spools), saada (regular thread) and maanja (glass powder reinforced cotton thread for kite-fighting – for some reason, tubelight glass was supposed to be the best for this – no wonder streetlights in India in this season never burn – some enterprising maanja maker pinches them under cover of darkness!) Kites were flown either in maidans – of which Hyderabad had plenty those days – or on rooftops – also plenty because there were only houses, no apartment blocks had come to the city then!
There was no staircase to the terrace in the house on which we lived and we either had to borrow a ladder (heavy, wooden ones) from someone or clamber up the grill and reach over the parapet, catch hold of a pipe and pull oneself up – quite an athletic feat! Not being tall enough nor having long enough arms for this, I would try and try to clamber but keep sliding down, much to my frustration, till one day, when i was about ten… I actually managed to throw one leg over the parapet. Seconds later, I was UP there! Queen of all I surveyed, Tenzing Norgay’s and Edmund Hilary’s peer – the colony, in fact! Getting up there ranked on par with those very few REAL thrills that life offers – learning how to cycle, learning to swim and learning to fly a kite…
Being the Sankranthi season, sweets were also being made at home and in my innocence, I thought that that day’s kesari halwa was made to celebrate my equal-to-Everest climb! Halwa has always been “special” in my eyes – for this!
- Semolina – 1/2 cup
- Sugar – 3/4 to 1 cup – depepnding on the sweetness of your tooth!
- Ghee – 1/3 cup
- Milk – 1/2 cup
- Water – 1 cup (a little more or less) OR 1 cup carrot juice – boiled (to make you feel virtuous about your vegetables!)
- Cashewnuts / slivered almonds / raisins – 2 tbsp each
- Saffron – 1 few strands
- Cardamoms – 3 – powdered with a tsp of sugar
- Kesar or orange colour – 1 pinch (optional)
- Edible camphor (pachakarpooram) – a tiny sliver – like a pinky nail trimming!
- 1 pinch salt ( a pinch of salt in any sweet dish is a good idea – it also fools the tastebuds into thinking it’s sweeter so you need less sugar!)
Heat one tbsp ghee in a pan. Add the cashewnuts and toast for a minute. Add the almonds and raisins and continue to toast till golden. Remove and set aside.
Roast the semolina in the same pan for about 5-6 minutes till you get a nutty fragrance. Set aside.
In a larger pan, heat the water and milk mixture, reserving a little. When it starts boiling,add salt, lower the heat and add the semolina a little at a time, stirring continuously. This is very important otherwise you get yucky lumps! Cover and cook for 3-4 minutes till the water and milk are completely absorbed. Add the rest of the liquid if needed.
Open, add the sugar and the colouring, saffron, cardamom and camphor and mix thoroughly. Decorate with the nuts and raisins.
Go fly a kite!!
(Pic courtesy internet)