If you live in India then you have all just been witness to a new kind of activism – the non-violent, light-a-candle protest for a cleaner, corruption-free India. You may well ask what is new about that – did the Mahatma not start it all those years ago? I beg to differ. Those were sustained movements that had mass support from people who knew what they were struggling for. Anna Hazare rightly said that the struggle has just begun. But the masses that turned up to support him, especially those in this most corrupt of cities, do they really know what it means to be part of a clean society? I will be amongst the happiest people if Delhiites really want to be honest and clean.
But I seriously doubt we understand the meaning of signing up for never paying a bribe. It will mean waiting in line for our turn. It will mean following rules and living by the laws. Even when we don’t agree with them. It will mean no unauthorised constructions, building within prescribed FAR, no encroachment on public land. It will mean paying our taxes. It will mean jail time every time we break the law (imagine that!). It will mean being civil! Those who were there at Jantar Mantar the past week to support Anna in his mission, do they understand the full portent of being part of a non-corrupt society?
The visual media came into its own and declared it a revolution. If these journos spot a white person in a crowd they assume them to be experts and ask, “So, do you think India has changed?” ??? What kind of a question is that for a tourist? The forthright white woman told this senior journalist she couldn’t answer that but she might call what she was witnessing a spark perhaps. I think it was lost on our reporter from NDTV who (and many others like him) went on to then compare it with the recent uprisings in the Arab world! Don’t ask. Here’s another perspective.
I didn’t join the protesters at Jantar Mantar. I didn’t join in the fast from home. But I think I know what it will mean to live in a clean India. I have never paid a bribe. Barring the procedure arranged by none other than a lawyer for a group of us registering out flats in the notoriously corrupt neighbouring state ruled by a woman; it made me ill and I was upset (and let us agree that an exception proves the rule). I did not pay a bribe to get our building plans sanctioned. I did not pay the electricity supervisor who came to install the new electric meter (this was in NOIDA!) and then refused to give me the papers till I visited him in his office the following day. I did not pay any donation for my son’s school admission. I did not pay any donation for my son’s college admission. I (try to) insist my clients pay by cheque (and, increasingly, the do!). A few years ago, I made four visits to the Passport Office 12km away, waited for hours each time, to rectify a nonexistent problem on my passport. Yet, the next time we needed new passports, we did not pay the policeman who visited us to verify our details. I know a cleaner Delhi will mean I will not have to worry if we are misfits for the way we choose to live.
I wait in line at the neighbourhood grocer for my turn. I never jump a queue. I rarely honk. I do not litter. I hold the door for the person following me. I have never ever had a maid who was underage (in fact, all my maids have been older than 20, and I have never permitted their daughters to lend a helping hand for even the tiniest of chores in my house). I try to use legal or free software. Till recently I did use one that I needed but couldn’t afford (I would have had to sell my practice to buy it) but I justified it by using the version that was 1o years old and did not ‘upgrade’ to the newer ones till I could, at last, finally afford the licensed copies last year. What a relief it was to us. I do not make photocopies of entire books. I tell my students to be ethical.
To be non-corrupt is to be ethical, no? What I do not do is speak-up when I see injustice. That needs courage. Being ethical only needs discipline and conviction. I am not saying I am a saint. What I am trying to say is that I have been an Anna supporter all along and will be one of the happiest people to get to live in a less corrupt India.
That above, is the first politically flavoured rant on this blog! Who knows what will follow. But let us get back to the main theme: food!
Summer is here and with it is the scarcity of greens at the greengrocer. We can now have our fill of gourds and potatoes, with only spinach and coriander for green relief. I have been cooking with wadi to up the blandness of the squashes – bottle gourd cooked in ghee benefits the most. This is also the time to fall back on old faithfuls like pitla and zhunka – I made a fiery version with buttermilk, garlic, and kadipatta which was fabulous with ghee soaked bajri bhakri. Lentils of all kind are the other staples in the pantry that always help when you can’t cook with the stinky end-of-season cabbages and cauliflowers.
I may be an enthusiastic cook but as you can already know from the infrequency of my posts lately, that I am a bit constrained for time these days. I may, on many occasions, have neither the inclination nor the time to plan elaborate menus when family decides to drop in at the slimmest of notices. The dal for such occasions then is the fabulously decadent dal makni that practically cooks itself! If I am in two minds over what to cook, the ever helpful husband will prompt, “Dal makni?” I did it the bhuno way for many years till I watched the trusty Madhur Jaffery’s cook her version in Amritsar right after talking about the most delicious kind served as part of prashad at the Golden Temple. I have also attempted the slow-cooking simmering-way (after the initial pressure cooking, of course) to get to the creamy dhaba-esqe quality, but this has been the only way for me since.
Here, my friends, is another one of those quick Indian cooking recipes from my kitchen that is sure to become the family favourite on many a busy family-table for those who love home cooking!
Mah di Dal or Dal Makhni
1.5 C whole urad dal
1 C rajMah! (red kidney beans)
2 red onions, chopped (about 1.5C or thereabouts)
2-3 tomatoes, chopped
a few cloves of garlic, chopped
a heaped T grated ginger
2 t red chilli (cayenne) powder
1t turmeric powder
1 t Punjabi garam masala
a big knob (1/8-1/4C) of white unsalted butter (homemade if you have)
2 t salt (or to taste)
1 C milk
1/4 C cream (optional)
Soak the lentils overnight. If you remembered in the morning that you folks are coming for dinner, all is not lost; soak the lentils in hot water for four hours till the lentils plump up. Drain and rinse in fresh water. Cook in the pressure cooker with enough water (I am guessing here – maybe 6 cups, I have never measured) till the lentils are tender and mushy. Mash with a wooden masher (or whatever other implement that might do the same work such as a ravi, or a rolling pin). You will likely need to add more water at this stage. You should have a reasonably thick, not watery, consistency.
Put in all the other ingredients except the milk and cream.
Pressure cook for a further ten minutes. Remove the lid of the cooker once the pressure subsides. Stir and check for consistency; it should be like what you get when you order at your favourite restaurant. (🙂 Sorry, if that was not very helpful. You need to go and order some right away!) Now add the milk and give it a good stir. You may add the cream now or later, as a garnish. I mostly skip this step. Serve it with hot naan or paranthas or even pita.
Try it and let me know how much you loved this version that allows you to be a domestic god(dess) with no extra fuss!