Litti Kachoris

My introduction to the pleasures of Bihari cuisine happened recently in January 2018 through Litti Kachoris, thanks to Phulwanti, a tea-shop owner in Okhla.

A few days ago, as I walked briskly to my office, my gaze fell on this plateful of kachoris at a roadside stall (pic on the top). It was a chilly, wet morning of late December 2017 and the idea of munching them with a hot cup of tea felt irresistible…With great difficulty, however, I resisted the temptation and carried on…I couldn’t afford to fall sick, I reminded myself…Street food, especially the deep fried type, is a very risky thing.

But the sight of those kachoris refused to leave my mind. So, a couple of days later, I walked to that shop shortly after settling down in office. The utensils looked clean and the place had a quaintly pleasant, earthy feel to it, especially because of an adjoining huge tree spreading its protective branches over it. The woman at the counter looked up from the karahi she was busy with. She was stirring something and seemed to be enjoying what she was doing. The newspaper that the kachoris were sitting on, I noticed, was dry and not soggy with oil, which was quite intriguing…

I began by asking, “What kind of kachoris are these?”

She replied patiently, in a soft spoken manner, “These are litti kachoris. They are filled with sattu, onions, green pepper, and garlic.”

“How much are they for?”

“Two for Rs.10.”

That sounded quite reasonable.

“Today I will buy just one. If I like it, I will return for more.” Mentally, I added to myself, if my stomach remains okay, I might eat them again.”

She smiled and nodded her head. She quickly tore off a piece of newspaper and wrapped a kachori in it for me. I was again pleasantly surprised to see that it did not leave behind any oil stains on the newspaper.

Eating that kachori that morning made me feel sinfully fulfilled. My feel-good feeling continued the following week too, so I kept the promise that I had made to myself and treated myself to those kachoris again; this time it was two at one go, not just one…

I am now a frequent visitor to this shop. While talking to the lady the other day, I learnt that her name is Phulwanti. She hails from Gaya, Bihar, and she lives in a settlement in Okhla, Phase 1. The sabji, she said, she cooks everyday and it varies, depending on availabilty of ingredients. People who work in adjoining offices often order for it. That day, she was making aloo-tamatar. The smell of spices wafting outside from the karahi seemed quite familiar. Out of curiosity, I asked her in Hindi, “Kitne ki deti ho?” Meaning: How much is it for?

Her reply in a typical Bihari accent was, “Dus ki deta hoon, bees ki bhi deta hun.” Meaning: For Rs.10 and Rs.20.

Her way of mixing up the gender and her manner of stirring inside the karahi suddenly reminded me of my late mother-in-law…She always preferred the slow cooking of a karahi to a pressure cooker. That way, she insisted, the spices and the ingredients get a better chance to assimilate with each other. She always looked at cooking as an art and she was well-known in her family as a great cook. My relatives used to keep advising me to learn all I could from her regarding cooking at least!

Well, one of these days, I think, when I am unable to pack my lunch for office, I will try out her sabji.

See her pic below…Her shop is next to A-271, Okhla, Phase 1, opposite to Intex Service Center.

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A Good Government

Sometimes your own blog post can act as a source of inspiration for a poem.

I discovered this recently when I found myself developing a poem ‘A Good Government’ from the first paragraph of my article ‘Feeling Safe.’

URL: https://jasbirchatterjeephotoblog.wordpress.com/2018/01/07/feeling-safe/

ThisĀ  poem is now on Poemhunter.com

https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/a-good-government/

 

 

 

Living In The Present

 

 

 

 

 

My poem ‘Living in the Present’ that I uploaded today on Poemhunter.com was inspired from the pics you see here.

Here is the link.

https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/living-in-the-present/

 

 

 

Feeling Safe…

A good government always works like a good mother; quietly, sincerely, honestly, unobtrusively without making too much fuss. It hovers around its citizens like a protective, benevolent spirit and you see evidence of its love and care in nice little things happening around you…

A few days ago, I noticed small pits dug up all through our community park in AG-1, Vikaspuri. I wondered what they were up to.

A couple of days later, while walking through the park one morning on my way to work, I was pleasantly surprised by little poles jutting out of these pits, each holding a little lamp. That night, on my way home, I found the park immersed in bright, fluorescent light. There were no longer any dark, unlit corners…

Our park now feels safer…Hopefully, this will change the perception of Delhi as the ‘Crime City.’

See the pics below.

In the morning…

At night…

Between Jobs…

On 16 November 2017, I lost my mother. Next day, while participating in the death rituals at home, I learnt through the office whatsapp group that I had lost my job as well and someone else had already joined in my place! These events were not entirely unexpected, to be honest, but their close timing within a gap of just 24 hours placed me in the kind of situation that I was just not ready for.

I was like someone benumbed. Brooding and grieving were now luxuries that were out of question. I now had a far bigger worry, to find a new job. It was a matter of survival and a big challenge, as automobile industry is going through a very tough phase these days.

Unlike the Bollywood heroes who comfort themselves, when badly cornered, with the thought “Mere pas Ma hai,” meaning “My mother is with me,” I didn’t have this consolation either.

But you’ve got to keep moving somehow; that’s what my Mom always said. So I consoled myself with “Mere pas Daddy hain,” (meaning my Dad is with me). I began my job search by posting lots of job applications daily like someone gone crazy. I spoke to a lot of people and asked them to help. Some of them went out of their way to support me and cheer me on. Soon enough, I began getting invited for interviews.

I had no idea when I was going to get my next job, so I tried to save money by avoiding last-mile transport and walking as much as I could. A walk of a kilometer or two, I discovered, didn’t give me too much pain and actually helped me build up my self-confidence.

And one day, I had 2 interviews lined up, both very close to Delhi Metro stations.

The first one got me an offer. It wasn’t good enough, but it was something to fall back upon just in case nothing else worked out. It filled me with hope and worked like straw for a drowning soul.

My next interview was near the Huda City Center Metro Station, Gurgaon. I reached there about 2 hours ahead of the scheduled time. I spent the first hour picnicking on a bench outside the station under the soothing winter sun. I slowly ate my home-made lunch while watching people moving about in the station premises…I felt absolutely liberated. I was no longer anyone’s slave, I reminded myself. I was a free person, far away from the office cameras, mean, scheming subordinates, and manipulative bosses.

Well, like everything else in life, my picnic hour too ended. I got up and began my last-mile walk to the interview venue…I walked in a leisurely manner, like a tourist, on a sight-seeing tour and I clicked several pics on the way…

Those pics are given below…

Ferocious pigs…

A worried bull, clueless, indecisive, uncertain, like me…

Appproaching twilight…

The second interview happened as scheduled. It was in a plush, elegantly designed office. The best part was the rangoli with colored plastic beads…See below…

Nothing came out of it though, except for the tactful we-will-get-back-to-you-soon answer. But I didn’t feel disappointed. I felt happy and peaceful. When I came out of the lift, I noticed a bunch of pink Bougainvilleas clinging to a fence. They looked ravishing, like a young lady on her night out, leaning on the arm of her beau…

Well, sometimes, I guess, you have to remain content with just being alive, being able to watch days change into nights, nights into days, the sun, moon, and the stars.

On 12 December 2017, I finally got my next job. It’s not exactly the kind I would have accepted under normal circumstances and I am not even sure for how long I will be able to keep it.

So I have simply stopped planning ahead…It’s now, this minute, this moment that matters…Nothing else…