Summer Of Love – A Poem


 

The sapling you planted
near the pond in the courtyard
has blossomed
The lusty boughs of your mango tree
are laden with pale green; ambrosia
is fragrant on the southern wind
The black bees flock to the nectar filled
mango blossom and fill the
pleasure garden with their songs
From a high branch a cuckoo
calls his mate, his song piercing
the shadows across my heart
Below, the sun flirts with the
water lilies as it warms
the cool waters of the pond
The swing, unused now,
moves gently when caressed by
even the lightest breeze
The days have lengthened
since the blossoming of our love
and summer is lonelier than ever
My hammock sways to music
I cannot hear, as I recall
Those fragrant, leisured days
Our joyful laughter and games,
our feet soothed by the
waters of the lotus pond
Twigs and flowers in our hair from
guilty afternoon naps in the grass,
books left upturned on our bellies
Seasons quickly change,
luscious fruits, long summer
evenings filled with birdsong
The blossoming of our love
in the pleasure garden
our first kiss, lying side by side
And then came the season for grief,
we parted in silence in the early morning
before the sun had dried the dew
Years passed and we were apart, but this year
the lane that leads to our garden
is fragrant with love
The lotus pond is brimming with pink buds
the courtyard is carpeted with golden petals
the air is filled with the cuckoo’s call
Won’t you come my love

From ‘Collection Of Chaos‘ my debut poetry book. You can buy the book from any online bookseller including amazon. Do check out my new collection ‘Wayfaring – Poems By Tikuli‘ that is available for pre-order now.

Healthy Traditional Indigenous Indian Coolants


The  Indian Summer is at its peak with all the right ingredients including merciless sun, scorching winds which sap the energy out of  the body. Soaring temperatures diminish the want to eat and one longs for some chilled refreshing drink. In the days when  fizzy, carbonated drinks full of empty calories, artificial sweeteners, colours and synthetic flavors beckon you from every food mall, roadside shops and eateries our home is heaven for traditional nutritious summer coolers. Natural home-made drinks which not just keep the body cool but are also healthy.

Summer in our country is ferocious and most of the body fluid is lost in sweat. It is an age-old tradition to offer water with something sweet ( at our home peda or petha) to anyone who comes from outside. It helps to keep the person hydrated and the sugar gives instant energy.

All the summer coolants are region and season specific and can be divided into two categories – Dairy and fruit based. Some fruit based summer drinks are hibiscus and Rhododendron drinks. We have the most common Nimboo pani( shikanjee) , lassi( sweet and salted)( thick creamy whipped curd /, taken plain or with dash of sweet concentrate or blended with mango) , buttermilk, fruit smoothies, fruits crushes, kokam (fruit of a tropical evergreen tree (Garcinia indica) )  sherbet, thandai, sherbets made from local seasonal fruits like bael, phalsa, raw mango ( aam panna).  Tender coconut water and fresh fruit juices are also popular. Jal zeera is another summer favorite. All these drinks are rehydrant and prevent heat strokes and other summer maladies. Sattu drink ( sweet and salty) are again making a place for themselves.  Then there are very popular mixes of sugar and natural essences like rose, kevda, khas, and other sherbets made by infusing herbs and natural essences. These are a little high on sugar but still a popular choice.  Most of them have medicinal properties and good for summer.

Aam Panna made with tender boiled raw mango, water and sugar

The plan is to help the body stock up on essential vitamins and minerals.

raw mango pulp with spices, salt and sugar

raw mango pulp with spices, salt and sugar

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You can roast the mango on direct flame of stove or preheated oven at 200 degree for 30 min depending on the size of the mango. Wrap it in aluminium foil and place on the rack. to get gorgeous roasted mangoes. Add jaggery for a healthy drink. I use organic jagery granules or shakkar

Sattu ka ghol ( Sattu drink) 

Sultry day demands something cooling to give a boost to your energy levels. Sattu ghol is our own indigenous substitute for whey protein shake. Made of roasted channa ( gram) flour, this composition is one of the highest sources of vegetarian protein and a quality that is most easily absorbed by the body. Sattu is a special unique drink with a good source of natural fiber and carbohydrates and is made with scientific formula. Originally sattu was made from roasted powered chick peas but with time it has evolved and we can get many variants and mixes of pulses,legumes and cereals like barley, maize, wheat, rice, horse gram, oat etc in form of sattu. Sattu was originally known as Sat-Anaaj(seven cereals, millet and pulses). All across the states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttarpradesh , and Orissa Sattu is eaten daily in various forms. Sattu drinks can be sweet or salty according to the taste. Jaggery is used instead of refined sugar to make it more healthy.

Black Gram and Barley Sattu

I make it at home. There is a separate post on blog that you can look for.  Sattu has innumerable health benefits and has digestible dietary constituents of vital importance. It has high protein value and beneficial for diabetic patients. 

Sweet Barley and Chana Sattu drink

Packed with Protein, Calcium, Fiber, Iron and magnesium Chana Sattu is one of the healthiest things to have this summer. It is cooling to the system too. 60 grams (4 tbsp) of this roasted gram flour will give you 19.7 grams of high quality vegetarian protein that is absorbed easily in the body. Good for people with diabetes and for bone health, treating anemia etc. It aids fat and weight loss too.

Ingredients : 

Chana Sattu – 1 Tablespoon

Barley Sattu – 1 Tablespoon

Salt – as per taste

Roasted cumin seed powder – a pinch

Lemon Juice – To taste

Mint powder or crushed mint leaves – 1 few

One can add, grated raw mango, coriander , mint, etc. as per taste. One can also make with sweet with jaggery.

Method :  

In a glass add both sattus , salt, cumin powder and other ingredients. Add chilled water. Mix well.  Your healthy summer drink is ready to be savored.

You can also make it sweet by omitting onion, mint , lemon, salt  and adding shakkar (Fine jaggery powder and roasted cumin seed powder like I did in the earlier one).

 

Related Post 

Phalsa Sharbat 

Memory of Memories 2- The True Indian Summer


Only two long hours in intense heat and dust of summer afternoon, with strong hot dry wind, (loo as if is referred to in India), devoured not just the body but the soul too. It simply sucked life out of me. Mostly confined to the stabilized city life of 20 degrees Celsius in air-conditioned homes, offices and even public transport, the metropolitan dwellers are devoid of the true experience of summer that sweeps northern India and some other regions in the months of April to July. With coming up of malls and supermarkets, even those visits to local bazaars, bathed in sweat and grime , laden with cloth bags overflowing with groceries etc have become rare for us.

Indian summer is not romantic, short, and full of blooming flowers and mild sunshine like the English Summer nor is it anyway near to the descriptions we read in the western stories. It is a furnace that engulfs all that comes within the range of its gaping mouth, an extreme season with heat rising from the asphalt and sweltering hot winds screaming through  towns and villages like a lunatic. In big cities however the summer almost loses all its nuances of sun and shade, thirst and cooling sherbets, sweat and breeze. There are those for whom summer is cold dark air-conditioned places and others for whom it is dusty heatwaves, sweat, prickly heat and a doomed existence under the merciless sky with sun spitting fire.

In northern India summer is a season of trees. I have spent endless summers in north and everything revolves around shades of trees for a common man and the other creatures that are destined to atone for their sins under the surveillance of a cruel barren sky.

Sitting in cool comfort of my 20 degrees Celsius room and sipping a chilled beer I was suddenly filled with a longing for those summer afternoons that stretched languorously, endlessly. When life moved at slow leisurely pace, when long power cuts made us yearn for comforts, when preparations to combat the hellish summer was a meticulously planned task, when something new was invented everyday to pass those still, listless days and nights, when adults were too wary of controlling the children and afternoons were spent under makeshift huts of upside down chairs and cool white sheets, when we read and sang and played indigenous games, climbed trees, plucked fruits or simply lazed on a straw mat (chatayi) or  under the tree shade, mainly  flaming Gulmohar, Neem, Tamrind, or Molseri, like a buffalo immersed  in pond thankful that it doesn’t have to swish its tail to shoo away flies.

Even blinking an eyelid took effort so we just lay there, very still… sometimes carelessly nibbling on a twig of grass and trying to decipher the cacophony of  crows, mynas, barbets, parrots and other birds hidden in the thickly covered branches. We even had the house sparrows then.

As the day progressed the shops pulled the shutters down, streets wore an empty look, people dozed under huge  trees in parks and roundabouts. Schools had holidays and parents had one more trouble on their mind – how to keep the restless kids engaged but we found our own ways and even conjured up mischief , knowing none of the adults would lift a finger , leave alone come chasing us.

We have lost peace and joy to comfort and stress in these modern times. There was ample time to just do NOTHING and it did not matter at all. As the fragrant mango blossoms began to turn into small green fruits, we knew it was time to gear up for yet another summer. Earthen pots (ghada and surahi) were bought with utmost care to keep drinking water cold. We even had small earthen pots called kasoras for making curds and chilling kheer and phirni (Indian sweets made from rice and milk).

Khas mats were rolled out and a systematic arrangement was made for them to keep drenched with water. The sweet fragrance still intoxicates me as I think of the cool breeze that used to filter through them to fill the curtained room.

In the evenings water was sprinkled on terrace and garden which steamed angrily but eventually cooled down under our bare feet. Wooden woven charpoys would be neatly arranged in verandas or terrace as most people slept outdoors on summer nights. A big table fan would sometimes add some music to the stillness or we would lazily sway a hand pankhi (fan) made of cloth or straw, even old newspapers served as fans .

The nights were deeper, darker and full of zillion stars. It was a fairy tale that came alive outside the mosquito nets.  We would lie down wearing the minimum clothes needed and listen to the night sounds.

The fabric used in summer was usually handspun khadi, thin handloom or mulmul ( voile). I remember cursing the men and boys for having one advantage over us girls – they shed everything except their lowers and let the breeze flirt with them. It seemed unacceptable and cruel. We also wrapped wet gamcha ( thin cotton towel) on our heads and half of face when we stepped out in heat.

Summer food included everything that acted as a coolant. Fresh green coriander, mint, raw mango, coconut Chutneys, fresh salads of kakdi and cucumber, fresh chilled sherbets made from khus, lemon, phalsa, bel ( stone apple) were kept ready at all times. Even thandai, rooh afza, aam panna, Kokam sharbat, nariyal pani (coconut water) were great favourites.

At our home there was a tradition to offer petha or peda (Indian sweets) with cold water to anyone who came from outside. It protected against the excessive heat. Various raitas ( condiments made from yogurt) were included and dahi bhat (curd rice) seasoned with curry leaves was a must every day. Curd, in various forms was included in every meal.

Most of the meals ended with mangoes. Dashehree, langda, chausa, neelam, safeda… the variety was endless. Even the little chusee aam ( to be sucked) came in abundance. Fruits also included jamun (java plum), phalsa, watermelon, musk melon, loquat (Japanese Plum) , plums, apricots, peaches and pineapples. Mango eating was a ritual in itself. Mangoes were soaked in cool water in big tubs or buckets. None ate one or two of them. They were eaten with passion and abundance with juice dripping from between the fingers. we had to drink a bowlful of kachchi lassi or mix of water and cold milk to calm the heat after eating mangoes. Green raw mangoes were used for chutneys, pickles and aam panna (drink).

Burf ka gola (balls of crushed ice dripping with colorful sherbets) , faluda kulfi were a healthy substitute for ice cream which was a luxury at that time. We even had chilled phirni, custard, jelly, fruit smoothies etc as everyone had sweet tooth.

Roasted / boiled corn cobs with masala and lime or butter and spicy tamarind chutney (Sonth)were the delicacies we enjoyed in the evenings.

A staple thing for us kids was roasted wheat flour mixed with boora cheeni (kind of powdered sugar considered to be cooling) and namakpare or mathri. Sattu made of powdered barley, horse gram and other pulses was another coolant which we had to drink with salt or sugar. I began to enjoy it much later though. Sattu is made with seven  cereals, millets and pulses.

There was a certain pleasure in sweating it out to prepare these delicious things, serve and relish them with family. A pleasure mostly lost these days, with everything delivered and available at one call’s distance.

Being born in a family which has confluence of two cultures, added to the summer delight.

The only thing that I resented as a kid was to travel in DTC buses to public libraries and cultural centres. Reluctantly I would walk out of house at snail’s pace all covered to protect myself and believed that time was a conspirator who deliberately moved slower than ever but at later stages as a teenager I began to enjoy those outings. Sometimes we also went to India gate lawns and to see circus or visit old city, monuments, parks and museums etc.

I itch to go back to those days, and to the true Indian summer which is now only a memory. I am glad that I made my kids experience at least some of it by taking them to village and other places I had visited and introducing them to many of the summer rituals that not just brought joy and helped pass the endless days but also brought the family together.

Lines from a favorite song come drifting to me …..

Dil dhoodhta hai phir wohi , fursat ke raat din ….


			

The Old Begger : A Memoir


I was in no mood for this journey and cursed my luck as I wiped the sweat from my sun damaged face. The hellish summer sun was spitting fire and the intense heat was becoming unbearable. The train was zipping across the parched dry Indian landscape but beyond the window nothing seemed to move.

Typical Indian summer mercilessly devouring all the life on earth, vast expanses of uncultivated land, plants which once bore the fruits of love were now shriveled old lifeless things, unending lines of leafless trees, naked and exposed to heat and dust, all silently atoning for their unknown sins under the surveillance of a cruel sky. I watched the ceaseless fight to survive and win over the most difficult time of the year with dull and vacant eyes. The glare was too much to bear and after a while my eyes began to revolt. There was little I could do.

The sky was barren too except for some lonesome patches of white clouds drifting aimlessly in the distant horizon, gloomy and helpless. Sweltering wind swamped me with the dry, bleak lifelessness prevailing outside the window of my compartment.

Inside the stuffy compartment it was an entirely different scenario. I was sharing it with a few verbose middle aged co-passengers. Regulars, I guess. Despite of the heat waves I kept my face pressed to the window, just to avoid the loud shoddy chit chat. A perennial pastime of mankind has been heaping scorns on others in their absence and these men were no different. I somehow preferred the numb dullness pervading outside over this abominable display inside.

The train slowed down with a jerk as a station was approaching. One thing that I must tell my readers is that the Indian railway stations are a kind of anthropological museums by themselves. Each section of our society is represented in its entire splendor. The upper sections of the society get to mingle with the marginalized majority of masses traveling in general compartments. Rag pickers, vendors, children of the lesser gods, rejected and doomed to fight for their daily survival and worst of all the beggars.

The flip side of glorious “India shinning” is displayed in all its nakedness at these stations for all to see. Railway Station is a place where  large number of public stops by while changing two trains to work or back home, unknown people with known faces. It is also a haven to countless homeless elders, jobless youth and abandoned children.

The train slowly came to a halt. Like a swarm of bees the vendors started humming their daily punch lines. Suddenly the sleepy hollow became alive with activity of all sorts. Groups of rag pickers jumped on to the tracks and buried themselves in the filth that lined the gleaming hot tracks.

Engulfed by the numbness I kept staring out vacantly. Then I spotted him, a beggar who was going window after window asking alms and something to eat. People gave him the most hated “go away- from here you filth” looks as if he were not human. They did not want a patch on their highly up market coat.

But he went on begging unperturbed by the cuss words and sharp hateful glances. Showering blessings on every donor and quietly nodding at the others. My eyes somehow got glued to him and followed his each move, each expression.

It is difficult to say if he was very old age-wise, but he definitely seemed very near to the collapsing point of the burden he was carrying, a burden called life. Battered rags covered his frail form. He supported the bent upper half of his body with a crooked stick and wore a perpetual solemn look on his withered face. Even a generous one rupee coin didn’t bring any glint in his forlorn ageless eyes.

Life for him was nothing more than a monotonous, ceaseless and unrewarding drudgery and not an adventurous voyage.

I watched him approach my window.

“Saheb, please give this poor hungry man something to eat, I have not tasted one morsel since last night. God will fulfill all your dreams and will give you immense wealth”, he pleaded with folded trembling hands.

The obese man in a tight-fitting safari suit sitting by my side became jittery and mouthed a volley of cuss words directing the beggar to go away.

Used to such insulting inhuman behavior, He stayed on and persisted.

The fat person was fuming by now and yet another of his creed began in an obnoxious tone, “O Ho Get the hell away from here you scum of the earth, selling your self-respect for a meager piece of bread.”

“What’s the point of leading such a humiliating life anyways?”

The others nodded in agreement. Encouraged by the lot he continued, “At your age you should surrender yourself to the almighty and He will take care of you. There is no dearth of humans in our country. If I were you, I would have let the train run over my worthless body. One burden less on our earth.” His friends nodded and applauded him.

I watched the scenario with absolutely no expression. The wretchedness, the pain and the entire begging act had always seemed artificial to me but at that moment the melancholy and the dejection on the beggar’s face was more alive than the men seated beside me. All of a sudden the upper crust of ice melted and seething stream of water began to shimmer in his mournful eyes.

“What’s the bloody difference between you and a street dog, both living to fill your bellies”, the obese man said in punching voice.

“Dregs of the society I say.

“Scum of the earth” said the one who had started the abusive spray.

The beggar lowered his head and moved ahead bit quickly for his physique. I watched, the pain, hurt and anger all rising within me at the same time. After walking a few steps, he stopped for a while and stared thoughtfully at an emaciated stray dog sleeping on the filthy platform.

The whistle sounded in the background and the train began to pull out of the station slowly. My co passengers resumed their noisy discussion over their packed dinners and cold drinks.

I tried to stop the deluge building up inside me by penetrating the deep darkness through my window. Unable to get their voices out of my head I plugged the earphones and turned the volume high of the Ipod.

“Strangers in the night” began to vibrate in my senses which for the time being had become as numb as the feelings in most of the human race.