The city around me is a fucking cemetery darkened with age where buildings stand cramped together like old, forgotten headstones representing a rift between living and dead. Pigeons, like monks at prayer, line up on balconies and window ledges. Nothing romantic or mysterious. Nothing historic or glorious. Nothing eerie. What lies beneath is dead. What lies above is stagnating. Slowly it will all crumble and die to give place to a yet another set of graves. Funeral is the word filling my mind right now. Somewhere a bird sings a mournful song. Must be a nightingale.
I muse about this as I walk around the city of Delhi. I feel that the culture has died in the eyes of almost everyone you see. If this is a fact, then I guess we must be independent of it, and seek out those who are also independent of it, in order to live at all among the ruins. I look at a different perspective. Vitality lies in the past, whose traces remain in those very ruins, but we cannot go there: our relationship to that, like our relationships to those we love, must advance, change – which is the very thing the ruins refuse us – but in its balance of decay, a change disrupts it, so any thought is a victory. Nightingales can learn plenty new songs. Delhi has layers and layers of surprises. It is a city full of emotions.
Emotions make me think of a blue Yamuna, a river we have collectively brought to a slow death with our neglect and apathy. No one cares to visit her banks or give a little thought to her. The monsoon rains give us a glimpse of the glorious river momentarily but then again she reseeds to be dismissed as a dirty sewer. No one thinks who turned her to be what she is now. I think of the women in my country as I look at her from a distance longing to reach out and touch its waters. There is something so deeply comforting and soothing about sitting at the bank of a river. I am dreaming of a blue Yamuna.
November has been benevolent in more than one ways. Someone special has brought good tidings in my life. A daughter I always yearned for. Bless her. She’s an exceptional poetess too. There is still a hint of autumn in the breeze but slowly we’re heading to the real Delhi Winter with all its glorious flowers, snug, colorful woolens, fests, music and art festivals, visits to the monuments and parks. Winter is also the ideal time to experience the incredible Delhi Street food, the pipping hot aalu tikkis, kachoris, gajar halwa, hot jalebis, spicy sweet potato and fried potato chaats and also cold rabri falooda. yes, I’m one of those who love to eat ice creams and kulfis in winter. 🙂 exploring the city for authentic food is a journey of discovery in more than one ways.
Speaking of journey reminds me to tell you about Djelloul Marbrook. He is the editor-in-chief of The Arabesques Review Magazine. Originally from Algeria, he lives in the US now. An exceptional poet, writer, he’s someone I look up to as a student learning the craft of writing. You must check out his website and YouTube channel. It is a gold mine for poetry lovers. When my publisher and friend James Goddard told me that he’s reviewing my book I was slightly nervous but at the same time extremely happy too. This is the first review for ‘Wayfaring’ before it releases on the 20th of Nov. I don’t have words to tell you how proud I feel right now of my evolution as a poet and as a writer. He has written a glorious review of the book and touched the soul of my poetry.
Here’s an excerpt :
Tikuli is a skilled plein air painter; her palette of words is spare, meticulously chosen and applied in a variety of metrical patterns that, while not avant-garde, are modernist and reliable. The reader is never required to study her metrics; her focus is on the act of recollection and its requisite imperative. She has stories to tell, portraits to paint, ghosts to address, and issues to redress.
The complete review can be read here – A Journey Beyond the Baggage of Pronouns in the tradition of Hafez Rumi and Al Arabi
The review moved me deeply and to place my poetry in the league of some of the greatest poets of all times that I love and admire is very humbling. Thank you Djelloul for this precious gift. I will cherish your words forever.
On another note, I have not been very regular with my blog post except the recipes but will soon resume updating the other blog categories too. I plan to visit some old, historic places this winter.
I’ll meet you at another place, another time, another field. The prettiest and most resilient flowers grow in broken spaces like the cracks in the sidewalks. Look out for those places.
A lot is happening at the same time. Delhi is shrouded in toxic smog but our shopping has started in full swing for the upcoming wedding of my son. I hate shopping. ;( It drains me out physically and mentally but this time I am excited so enjoying the researching and hanging out with my boys for some time even though it is walking miles and miles in the midst of shopaholics.
This is the sight that brings relief to tired burning eyes.
Did I share the photograph of the couple? They make a lovely pair. Perhaps you can say a little prayers for them and send your blessings as they embark on a new journey. Can’t wait for these two to get married.
To add to the good tidings my new poetry book Wayfaring is here. Not very many copies. I have earmarked a few for friends and guides. Rest of you can buy it from amazon or any online book seller worldwide. Do let me know if you pick up a copy. Write a short review, post a reader’s selfie. Show your love any way you wish. I am looking forward eagerly.
Here is what joy looks like
I shared a teaser video earlier and here is another fantastic video of my poetic journey with Leaky Boot Press. The video is created by my Publisher friend James Goddard.
It can get hard sometime but when you are approached for an interview by Kulpreet Yadav, India’s best selling thriller writer, friend and editor of a fabulous lit mag Open Road Review, life gets a new high Check out his Andy Karan series and new Vicks Menon thriller Murder In Paharganj on all major book sites. ORR earlier gave space for my poetry. It is a magazine I am proud to be associated with as a contributor.
Except from the interview:
“Kulpreet – As a poet do you have a long-term goal? Where do you see yourself ten years from now?
Me – “For a writer, it is very important to develop their sense of their literary journey. To evolve and grow as a human being and as a writer is the only goal I have. I don’t think about future. Let’s see what the universe unfolds as we go along. As a writer, I just want to enjoy the process.” “
Here’s the link to the full interview
When there is so much goodness around one needs to celebrate with some sinful chocolate mud cake from my favorite Cafe Delhi Heights. Give it a try if you’re in Delhi.
Keep watching this space for more updates on the book or check out the book page at the top menu of the blog.
The melodious strains of Gurbani, prabhat pheris, prakash utsav, lagars ( free community meals) and the unforgettable kada prasad were my initiation to something that would become a very important part of my life.
I was a young girl searching for solace. Drawn to the local Gurudwara by the strains of music I would go inside and get transported to a totally different world. Neither a Sikh nor a religeous person this experience was purely spiritual.
I remembered a Sikh friend’s granny giving me an extremely delicious halwa as prasad. I asked what it was made of and couldn’t believe when she said wheat flour. Now, we too made aate ka halwa but it never tasted like the one from the Gurudwara or from her kitchen. I insisted on other helping which she lovingly gave and told me that prasad is to be eaten like prasad not like mithai.
Whenever I found an opportunity I would visit the nearby Gurudwara for the shabad and for the prasad. The serenity of the place always calmed me down. I learned to prepare this divine prasad from beeji as she was called by my friend. I had just passed out from school and I think that was the last time we met before going our ways. We used to lead the school choir that participated in shabad & Kirtan competitions and still have my winning certificates of merit from Mata Sundari College.
Later, Gurudwara became a spiritual sanctuary for me, a place where I would go and spend hours sitting in complete silence, soaking in the healing viberations. Letting go of all the sorrow that filled my heart. Sometimes the tears would flow but no one paid attention or judged. I was at home inside that place of bliss. It is still a place where I become a witness to myself. Sometimes I would quietly sit by the sarovar and read Sukhmani sahib or Dukh bhanjini sahib. The words cleansed me from inside out. For me it was not just a journey with but a source of strength to cope with what lay ahead.
I still go to Bangla Sahib whenever possible though lately my visits have become irregular. You must do the seva in some Gurudwara at least once in a lifetime. I can not explain the feeling one experiences.
Today, I am sharing that recipe with you. Though I can never replicate the original. It does, however, bring back the same taste from my youth.
These silver katoris are from my childhood. Perhaps presented or bought at birth so about fifty year old. 🙂
This simple recipe for Kada Prasad doesn’t need any dry fruits or other add-ons. The flavor comes from the roasting of wheat flour in pure desi ghee or clarified butter. Roasting is also the most important aspect of making the halwa. It has to be even and just the right rich brown color or it won’t give you the authentic taste of the prasad. Also, the wheat flour needs to be coarse (Dardara) to get the right texture. You can use the usual wheat flour too but the texture won’t be like the one made in Gurudwaras. Two things that are a MUST in this recipe – Ghee and right proportion of the ingredients. You can not replace Ghee with anything else. Also, the halwa made from prasad is NEVER heated again. Something I learned from beeji.
One of the simplest of recipes and yet the richest. Today being Gurubpurab I decided to make the halwa and distribute to neighbors and family members.
Here is my recipe :
Whole wheat flour ( coarsly ground) – 1 Cup
Sugar -1 Cup
Pure Ghee (Clarified Butter ) – 1 Cup ( Yes, the halwa is laden with ghee and that is why it should be eaten less)
Water – 3 Cups
The proportion is always – 1-1-1-3 You can always double triple or half, quarter the proportion as per need.
In a kadhayi heat the water and add sugar to it. Stir to dissolve and keep aside. You can add the sugar directly also. If doing that just heat the water and keep aside for later use. Heating the water ensures that there is no change of temperature when it is added to hot roasted flour. It also ensures even cooking.
In another kadhayi heat the ghee till nicely warm. Add the wheat flour / atta and stir. Keep the flame on slow – medium as the flour tends to rapidly change from light brown – dark brown and burnt stage.
This is an important process so do it it with patience and love.
You will see the color change, keep stirring till you get to the stage where the color is rich brown and the mixture has a sand like grainy texture. The butty aroma is another sign of an evenly roasted aata. You will also notice the ghee leaving the sides now.
At this point, add the hot sugar water to the wheat ghee mixture. Be careful not to scald yourself. Stir vigorously so that no lumps are formed. Shift to medium heat to ensure the right consistency. Now turn the flame to low and keep stirring till all the water absorbs and the halwa reaches the right consistency. The ghee will starts leaving the sides again once that happens.
Turn off the gas and remove the prasad in a clean bowl. Usually the halwa is covered with a cloth and cut into five portions for each of the Sikh Gurus and then distributed after the prayer and offering.
You can garnish with almonds if not making as prasad.
An interesting fact from my marital village in Himachal –
The village of Mairi has Dera Baba Vadbhag Singh Ji Gurudwara. After the Holi / Baisakhi Mela finishes the devotees or Sangat are offered karah prasad that is kept covered in a large kadhayi locked inside the basement in the gurudwara. After the ardas when the door is opened the prasad has a large hand imprint on it. It is believed that Baba ji comes to bless the prasad. It is then called panje ka prasad. No one knows how that miracle happens but faith keeps the prasad good for years. My MIL says that the prasad never gets spoiled. I will some day write about my experience of the village life etc.
For now, Keep your heart light burning bright. Stay blessed and once again a very blessed gurupurab to all of you. Remember the teachings of Baba Nanak who left us a beautiful treasure of how the life should be.
Awwal Allah Noor Upaya Qudrat Keh Sub Banday
Aik Noor Keh Sub Jag Upajiya Kaun Bhale Ko Mandhe
God created light of which all the beings were born
And from this light, the universe; so who is good and who is bad
Bathua or bathu as some call it is one of my favorite winter greens. I can’t digest spinach so it has been a constant source of high level of iron for me among other things. It is also a rich source of calcium, phosphorous, dietary fibers, amino acids, B complex, Vitamin A and C etc. Usually to absorb all the nutrients it has to be eaten with curds, lemon juice or tomatoes. It keeps the gut healthy, has numerous health benefits and is delicious too. Bathua is also known as Lamb’s Quarters. pigweed, Goosefoot etc.
I use this wonderful, versatile green in stir-fry, as stuffing in parathas, in dals, raita, fritters, kadhi etc. Sarson ka saag is incomplete without adding bathua to it. It is a game changer in that dish. You can even make a simple pesto with it.
Bathua raita is cooling though bathua in itself is considered warming in winter. The beautiful flavor of garlic, green chili, roasted cumin and bathua make for a delicious raita with cheelas, multigrain rotis, makki or any millet roti.
Here is a simple yet delicious recipe for the raita.
Bathua greens ( cleaned, washed, stalks removed and chopped) – 1 Cup
Garlic cloves, finely chopped – 1 tbsp
Green chili, finely chopped – 1 tsp
Roasted cumin powder – 1 tbsp
Red chili powder – 1/4 tsp
Black pepper powder – 1/4 tsp
Cumin seeds – 1/4 tsp
Whole coriander seeds – 1/4 tsp
Hing / Asafoetida – 2-3 pinches
Curds (Home cultured) – 2-3 cups
Salt – as per taste
Oil – 1/4 tsp
I prefer home cultured curds. Whisk the curds in a bowl so that there are no lumps. Add the powdered spices and salt. Mix well.
Boil the chopped bathua with a little salt and very little water till it becomes soft.
Cool the bathua and rub it with your fingers or grind on the silbatta. ( some people blend it in the mixer but I prefer the coarse leafy texture in the raita)
In a tempering pan heat a little ghee or mustard oil if you prefer that, add hing, cumin seeds, whole coriander seeds, when the seeds sputter turn of the heat and add chopped green chili ( I use those that are slightly going red), chopped garlic. Stir and pour over the raita.
Decorate with spice powders and serve chilled with parathas, cheelas, multi-grain rotis etc or just eat a bowlful as it is.