The Great Indian Jugaad

If you can’t afford a BMW car, you can always use a DMW!

For those of you unfamiliar with the meaning of the word, ‘Jugaad,’ it means an innovative use of existing resources in a creative manner, as you can see here in this pic clicked at a bus/auto stand…




My country India has a rich heritage and a huge variety of cuisines; so vast that an entire lifetime spent in trying to discover them may not be enough. This problem is further compounded by the fact that interregional marriages are still not common and whenever any couple tries to take this bold step, it is often met with great opposition by both their families and their societies.

Being a Punjabi married to a Bengali, my discovery of Bengali cuisine began only after my marriage in December 1992. I consider it my great fortune to have had an affectionate mother-in-law who was also a very good cook. It was from her that I came to know about lots of tasty Bengali dishes with very interesting names. She often gave me lots of pleasant surprises by making Punjabi dishes specially for me, such as sarson ka saag, gobhi-aloo sabji, and sabut urad dal & rajma combination. They always tasted better than my own Mom’s versions! That’s how she won my heart and helped me cross the barrier of language, customs, and traditions…

My mother-in-law died in October 2009, but her spirit lives on in our house and our kitchen in particular.The utensils that I have inherited from her always remind me of her, her silent and patient way of doing things.

Apart from mishthi doi, my alltime favorite, another item that has a special place in my heart is Radhaballabhi, pronounced as ‘Radhabollobi.’ It means Radha’s beloved; a very romantic name, don’t you think? Whenever I make Radhabollobies for my husband, I imagine that I am Radha cooking for my Krishna and that’s what adds to the romance and allure of this dish.

As you must have guessed already from the introductory pic, Radhaballabhi is a poori stuffed with a spicy filling containing coarsely ground peas. I always use a healthier combination of wheat flour and maida (white flour) instead of just maida and I prefer to serve it with curd or a chutney instead of dum aloo aloo as the delicate taste and flavor of the fantastic filling tend to lose themselves in the dum aloo.

My Mom-in-law was very particular about following traditions; she called them ‘niyoms.’ She always made Radhabollobi only once or twice in a year, towards end of January. That’s when the peas are abundantly available in the market and are reasonably priced too. I also follow the same tradition.

Given below is the recipe along with pics.

1. Roast whole spices (a teaspoon each of cinnamon, cloves, corriander and cummin seeds, black pepper seeds in a karahi and grind these in the grinding jar of the mixie.

2. Coarsely grind the green peas (200 g) in the mixie.  In a karahi, add two tablespoons of oil and fry the ground spices and peas together till all the water dries up.

3. The filling is now ready. Put it in a bowl.

4. Prepare a hard dough with a mixture of maida and wheat flour in equal proportions and some salt as per taste.

5. Fill the karahi with refined oil till it is about half full and switch on the gas.


6. Take out little balls from this dough. Start off by rolling each one of them on the chakla with the rolling pin.  Dip the rolled dough ball in the hot oil a little bit to prevent it from sticking. Roll further to spread it more and put 2 teaspoons of the filling into it. Again turn it into a ball and spread it. Don’t make it too thin otherwise the filling will spill out into the hot oil while deep frying.


7. Once the oil becomes hot, deep fry the pooris on both sides and keep them in a plate. Serve them hot with a dip of your choice.

Happy cooking!

Dhool Ka Phool

This pic reminded me of an old Hindi film made in 1959, “Dhool Ka Phool,” starring Rajender Kumar, Mala Sinha, Nanda, Ashok Kumar, Jeevan, and Leela Chitnis…The title ‘Dhool Ka Phool’ means the downtrodden flower. The film revolves around 3 main ideas, viz.,a woman’s status in the Indian society, illegitimacy, and secularism.

Thankfully, a lot of things have changed since then. In urban India, at least. With more and more women focused on building strong careers and being able to take care of themselves, single motherhood is no longer such a taboo thing. Being a single parent is not easy and a bit unnatural, but it’s a matter of choice, just like live-in relationships. 

I am personally against pre-marital sex and live-in relationships and I strongly believe that the best environment for a child is one in which the parents are married and care for each other and their kids. 

But I also feel that in a democratic country individuals ought to have enough freedom to be able to live peacefully the way they want to without being harassed. 

In case an unmarried woman becomes pregnant and she doesn’t want the baby, she should be allowed to abort it and get on with her life. If abortion is not possible, she still deserves all the support she needs from her family and society.

For the sake of humanity, we just can’t be judgemental because we are all victims of our circumstances and individual destinies. Why should an innocent child be labelled as illegitimate and punished for being born out of wedlock? A child is a child is a child. That’s it. Plain and simple. A representative of God.

Ageing And Dyeing

I was, I think, in my late 30s when streaks of grey appeared on my head. I welcomed them with open arms. I thought it was a good idea to age gracefully with pride, just like one of my professors whom I admired greatly during my college days.

Two years later, however, my whole life turned upside down. I was now in a different career and a different industry. I could no longer afford to remain inwardly drawn as my job profile involved dealing with people. For the sake of my career, I had to unlearn a lot of things that were ingrained in me since childhood.  It was painful initially as I had to constantly worry about what others thought about me and adapt myself accordingly. Earlier, the only qualities that mattered to me were intellect, knowledge, depth of feelings and emotions, and internal beauty. But now, it was all about superficial beauty, pleasing exteriors, memorable appearances, and making great first impressions and all this obviously included looking youthful.

Every organization has some unwritten, tacit rules that they expect their employees to follow instinctively. Those employees who understand this do well in their careers and those who don’t either stagnate or keep getting fired for what they perceive as’flimsy reasons.’

I realized this the harder way after a lot of struggle. It was during the toughest part of my life when I discovered that being well-groomed from outside is the best way to demonstrate to the whole world your optimism, strength and courage and positive things happen only to people who look positive. Looking positive outside actually tends to work backwards too and before you realize it, your interior too begins to feel cosy, warm, and comfortable…

There are certain things, of course that you can’t control, your facial contours, the wrinkles, skin color, hair texture, etc, but there are lots of other things that you can do to embellish what you’ve got.

Apart from cosmetics (thank God, you don’t need to use them heavily in office) and perfumes, hair coloring is an absolute must for the grey heads.

If you look at this positively, it’s, I guess, a question of choosing between looking what you are and what you want to be.

I began initially with mehndi as it was a low-cost option without any side-effects. But the problem with mehndi is that it produces an unnatural orangish stain which doesn’t look nice. So I soon graduated to chemical dyes. I tried many brands,  Garnier, Revlon, Godrej, etc. For some time, at least, they fulfilled the purpose for which I used them.

A few years later, I had to return to mehndi as my hair had got severely damaged. This time, I used Indigo powder paste also each time after using mehndi to change orange color to natural black brown. During this period, I used many other things too, such as amla and shikakai powders, egg, curd, etc. My hair loved it absolutely! I could see that from the significant improvement in both length and thickness of my hair.

But now there were new challenges. I no longer had enough time for myself because of long working hours. It was not possible to spend weekends with my hair slathered with dyes for 4-6 hours. In winters, it was much more difficult because of my chronic allergic rhinitis problems.

Two months ago, my husband gifted me a few sachets of a ‘natural’dye that I had never heard of earlier (Noni Black Hair Magic). He bought them for me from the International Trade Fair at Pragati Maidan, New Delhi. He said,”Try these. I saw a lot of people buying them today. They are claiming that this is safe and  will give your hair the color you want in just 10 minutes. All you have to do is massage it into your hair like a shampoo and wash it off after 10 minutes.”

I tried it out that evening itself with a lot of misgivings as it seemed to be a Chinese product and my experience with Chinese products has not always been a very happy one.

I was pleasantly surprised as it worked out the way it was supposed to. It did the coloring without spoiling my hair.

Here are the pics…

1. Starting point

2. Dyeing with Noni Black Hair Magic (I used 2 sachets. They come with gloves).

3. I emptied the whole lot into my hair with glove-covered hands.

4. Finally, 30 minutes later, after washing and rinsing with water, white and grey turned to black…

5. Here I am, in office, the next day with several years knocked off my age…


Today, as I share my happiness with all my dear readers about being joyfully alive, I would like to conclude by saying that every challenge gives us an opportunity to achieve what we have come to this world for and you just have to accept it with dignity.

In case you need more information about this product, look at this pic of the carton…

Chinese Oranges

About 5 years ago, our gardener Ram Kishore brought for us a new potted plant. We accepted it nonchallantly, without any enthusiasm, just like so many other cactus plants he had planted in our terrace garden earlier.

A few months later, little green fruits began appearing on it in great abundance. When they started ripening and changing to golden orange, I sighed and wished they were real oranges. I thought they were poisonous and their only purpose of existence was to add glamour to our balcony.

One day Ram Kishore overheard me when I mentioned this to my husband and he said, “Didi, these are Chinese oranges. They look like oranges, but they are sour like lemons. Why don’t you make a pickle out of them? You will like it. I am quite sure.”

I was pleasantly surprised and I replied, ” Alright, let me see.”

A couple of days later, when I had gathered about 200g of these fruits, I made a simple version on a tentative basis with just salt, black salt, ajwain, and black pepper. It turned out to be very good and the best part of it was that these mini oranges were fresh, straight off a plant, as in a farm house. For a landless city dweller like me, this is indeed a very exciting thing!

Here is the recipe along with the pics. 

1. Wash the oranges well and allow them to dry in a sieve.

2.Remove the seeds and keep them in a ceramic or glass jar.

3. Add salt as per taste.

2. Add coarsely ground black pepper.

3. Add some black salt and ajwain.

4. Close the lid and shake it vigorously to let the spices mix properly with the sliced oranges.

5. Keep it in the sun for 2-3 days. In case of cloudy weather, you may keep it inside and shake up the container a bit everyday. 

6. The pickle is now ready. Enjoy! Happy pickling!