he hospital (huh?) to ask my mom what we could use as a substitute. She suggests we mash up some left over rice with water and it will act as a glue. She also leaves it to us to figure out how much of each! And so we mash – three cups of rice – just in case it is not enough! Add a lot of water – again we are not my mother’s children for nothing! And make a vessel full of a pale grey “thing” – the grey being added from all the grubby hands!
It doesn’t look quite right and – importantly, it doesn’t seem to glue anything together except for our clothes, hair, hands, feet and sundry other things in the vicinity. Many cups of rice later, we have what we think is a workable glue. We resume the sticking – unfortunately the streamers seem to have stuck a bit to each other – not following instructions obviously – and we have serious repairing to do. When I see school kids today being “helped’ by parents to finish school projects, I always think of how much fun it was to learn without parental supervision! And how much we actually learnt…
The umbrella is now ready – or rather… almost – we have forgotten one important element – the central ‘stick’ which has to hold up the umbrella!
We run around excitedly looking for things that can hold it up. Broom sticks are discarded as being too weak to hold up the structure plus we have a vague suspicion (not having been brought up with much ritual or tradition, the suspicion is necessarily vague!) that maybe a used broomstick may not be quite kosher for a God! We are making an umbrella for Ganapathi, the elephant-headed god to celebrate his birthday!
Casting around helps – we find a knitting needle and blithely, with no thought of asking the owner (my mom!) for permission, we cover it with some shiny paper and lots of glue. All our knowledge of physics is exercised in figuring out how to make the umbrella stand straight and sticking the needle up through the shiny discs we created in para 1 – if you forgot how, I suggest you study hard! The standing straight bit defeats us – we use many ingenious ideas but the needle is too heavy! Finally, we decide that Ganesha will not mind having the umrella lean against him. We are satisfied with this solution and a hard day’s work!
The next day – Ganesha’s actual birthday, is always exciting – because there is the excitement of waiting for my dad and brothers to come back with a mud idol of the god. Pooja done, there was the excitement of seeing how this year’s kozhakottais (modakas) have turned out – my mother’s were always unpredictable! Sometimes delicious, sometimes just lumpy! The other stuff – pulihora or vangi bhath, potato fry, koshumbri, chakkara pongal or payasam, wadas and sundal were always yummy though and so we were as happy as… little Ganeshas with full tummies!
Here are the kozhakottais, Ganesha’s favourite sweet and a completely guilt free steamed pudding!
KOZHAKOTTAI/MODAKA (makes about 24 little ones)
FOR OUTER COVERING
- Rice flour – 1 cup
- Water – 1 cup
- Salt – 1/4 tsp
- Oil to grease palms
Add salt to water and bring to a boil. Pour in the rice flour, stirring continously. It will form a lump around the spoon in about two minutes. Switch off and cool a bit. When cool enough to handle, grease your palms and knead the dough free of lumps. Cover with a wet cloth and set aside.
- Jaggery – 3/4 cup – grated
- Water – 1 tbsp
- Fresh coconut – grated – 1 cup
- Dried ginger powder (sonti/chukku) – 1 pinch
- Cardamoms – 2 – peeled and powdered
In another pan, heat the water and jaggery together till jaggery melts completely. Strain through a muslin filter to remove impurities. Heat the syrup along with the ginger powder and coconut for 6-7 minutes till it is cooked and thick but you can still turn it around with a spoon easily. If you cook it beyond this stage, it becomes very chewy – also very yummy and sold in schools as “stickjaw”! Add the cardamom, mix and switch off.
Transfer to another dish to stop the cooking process.
Take a small lime-sized ball of rice dough between greased palms and using your fingers and palms, shape it into a saucer. Place a small ball of filling in the centre and very gently bring the edges together, forming a cone at the top (reminded me of our rice glue!)
Make many – please sit down – it’s going to take time!
Steam for 7-8 minutes and cool.
Serve the Ganesha who’s tired of the umbrella leaning against his trunk!