A picture on a group, sent me back on a memory trail...a trail of love, lovely people, wonderful relationships and the yummiest food. Yehh these wrinkled, fair, veiny hands reminded me of Mummyji, the senior Mrs. Kaul, our short, slightly heavy,matronly landlady. I did not know she was our landlady till much later, always knew her as Mummyji and her husband was Daddyji. She considered my Mom as her daughter. Like the kids in the house we were a part of her stock of grandchildren. Both she and Daddyji loved us all equally, only difference being that she would scold us for our naughtiness and Daddyji just smiled at them.
Khetchmaavas and Yakshas
Mummyji was full of flavours...he he..yehh literally...her mood showed diffrerent flavours throughout the day, so temperamental that she was. Early morning the whistles of her cooker would wake us up and the travelling aroma in the air alongwith, came as a bonus. Either haak, or gogji rajma(shalgam and rajma), kadam(knol khol), chaman wangun(paneer baingan)...whatever...these were the aromas and tastes i grew up with.
Festivals always were looked forward to...Herath(shivratri), Navreh( new year), Khetchmaavas, Gadd Batt (fish rice day) were so much fun. The whole household would come together, Mummyji, Badi Mummy(her mom- in- law), Jyoti Aunty &Usha Aunty(her DsIL) and my Mom too...they would get going with the spices, the veggies etc etc.and the end results would be flavoursome dishes all prepared by Mummyji.
I am reminded of one particular day. It was Khetchmavas. We kids would come together while Mummyji and the others made preparations. She was a pro at shelling the peas. While Mom and the others were still on with it ,Mummyji would have a huge pile ready to be steamed/boiled and cooked. Alfter the preps it was time for her to cook and we kids would huddle outside the kitchen on the thick carpet, tucked in quilts, as she narrated tales of yakshas who came visiting that dark night every year in the month of Paush.
Darrar darrar the peas would get crushed in the mortar by the pestle..creating a scary ambience. She would then add saunf, saunth, kashmiri red chillys( pounded), asafoetida, salt and all would go into that cauldron of oil...with a chhhh sound and we kids would cling to each other tighter. She would then take it all out to cool and start on with the khichdi which would have to served with other dishes at night to the yaksha. The hissing sound of the tempering would make us sit closer as Mummyji told us about how yakshas could change into snakes. That they keep a watch on us and if we lie or do wrong they come to scare us with their tongues and poison( imagine our plight, who would at times lie ). With a fleeting glance and a smirk she would then sit down to roll the puris with the peas stuffing to lower them down into a cauldron full of bubbling oil. The sounds, the stories were all so scary, but the aromas intoxicating. I still have not gotten over from the hang over of them.
After everyone worshipped that huge pestle like greyish greenish stone(taken as Kubera) , Mummyji would serve all the delicacies on a pattal(a plate made of leave) and keep it on the boundary wall for the yaksha. She would then make all the kids and the male members partake of the feast, with stern directions to us kids not to look outside. But naughty kids that we were, we would all deliberately ask to sleep together that night, in the room near the wall( as if she didn't know why) and after the lights were out would take turns to peep out of the window, parting the thick curtains to catch a glimpse of the yaksha. Waiting for the yaksha we would all go off to sleep huddled together.
Sadly gone are the days of waiting for the yaksha, gone are those stories. Mummyji was gone long back. So was Daddyji! My Mom, my Dad,Papaji(Jyoti aunty's hubby, Mummyji's elder son) are all stars shining above, but the aromas of Mummyji's kitchen are still with me. Her tastes refuse to part with me and so does her love and her memories.
*Many of you must have wondered about this Bong-punju name with her love for Kashmir..so this is me...i grew up from being a child to a teenager in J&K and so all things Kashmiri and Dogri being a part of me.