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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

enjoy the rains

Monsoons are what all of us wait for eagerly, year after year. It quenches the thirst of mother Earth and raises hopes of bountiful crops in the minds of farmers. Political bigwigs express happiness at timely arrival of the monsoons and declare with confidence that this will take care of plenty of ills. Soon thereafter, they are shown touring the countryside in helicopters viewing quite seriously the ravages of yet another session of tides. Delay in the onset of monsoons, on the other hand, wipes the smiles from the faces of the farmers, it also raises deep furrows in the foreheads of the met people who are invariably at the receiving end. No number of super computers or satellite pictures has ever been able to predict, with any degree of accuracy, as to when the clouds will actually precipitate to moisten the soil and bring relief to those whose survival depends on it.

The first showers of the year are welcome by one and all. They herald the beginning of the period called the monsoons – they are the harbingers of good news for dealers of umbrellas, rain coats, rubber shoes and a whole variety of assorted items whose lifespan is a couple of months – of course not in places like Cherrapunji. Not just dealers but the ones who repair the umbrellas also make their appearance. Miniaturization has left its mark on these products also – we have those spring-loaded, foldable umbrellas that are so convenient to carry and lose. Yes, umbrellas are tiny little things that we are accustomed to leave in the bus or train or in our office or in a friend’s house. It rarely, if ever, comes back to its rightful owner, even though it may have the owner’s name written in artistic and colorful writing in its inner flap. With the reduction of size, the area that gets covered also reduces proportionately, today it is only the head that enjoys protection, and the lower part of the body gets wet all the same!

Most of the city administration are caught unawares by the onset of monsoons – with so many super brains at work, we have not yet been able to discover remedies to prevent water logging of roads. Practically every city experiences it.

One of the most common recipes that is popular with Bengalis when the heavens are pouring their goodness all around you whether you want it or not is a dish called ‘khichudi’. It is a concoction that is extremely simple and easy to prepare and wonderful to taste. Khichudi, in common parlance, means hotch-potch. Well, this dish is just that. Throw in fistful of different types of pulses into a couple of fistfuls of raw rice, clean the ingredients thoroughly, add water, whole onions, potatoes, tomatoes, slivers of ginger, and red chilies, along with salt to taste, and haldi. A spoon of sugar is not mandatory but adds to the taste. Allow the combination to boil and, when properly cooked, serve piping hot – add a couple spoonfuls of ghee or butter as topping. Side dishes for this fantastic main dish are usually fried stuff like omelettes, brinjal, finger chips of potato, onion pakoras and other such items. These are usually parallel activities and are prepared simultaneously as the main dish continues to bubble and boil on the side.

When we were in school and incessant rain made it impossible to move out of doors, our school would declare special holidays termed as ‘rainy day holiday’. And, in the evenings, we would kick the football all around the wet, slippery, muddy ground – those who slipped and fell in the mud, enjoyed the game most. I wonder whether kids of today can boast of such unbridled enjoyment.

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