So the water has finally fallen from the skies. This evening as we were playing in the park with the baby, the skies rapidly darkened and the sound of thunder filled the air. My son started staring at the sky and screaming “Amanden, amanden”, his word for aeroplane. He thought it was the sound of an aeroplane. We just barely managed to get into the car and start driving when the rain started. Sitting in the front seat and watching the rain drops on the windshield, the baby said “Maani”, meaning paani or water. So I explained to him that the water that falls from the sky is called baarish. He pointed and repeated, “Baayi, baayi.” Soon he was fascinated by the wipers cleaning away the water. How cool, he must have been wondering that these sticks are wiping away the water. But how strange that the water on the side windows wasn’t being wiped away. “Poncho, poncho” he kept insisting. He is a big clean freak nowadays. Any time something falls on him or the ground he needs to clean!
All along the ride home I was thinking this is the weather for pakoras and tea and then I thought how cliche is that? Half of Mumbai is having tea and pakoras so I decided to go with Bhelpuri. I had some packaged bhel mix and some killer papdi and imli chutney which my mom had made for me and I brought over on my last visit there. It was put to good use today. A potato was boiled, onions, green chilies and cilantro was chopped and voila we had some fantastic bhel puri. The hubby had very little – he said he wasn’t very hungry, but I think he just isn’t a bhel puri fan been a Bong and all, I think he prefers jhal muri! So I polished off the whole thing by myself. It had been so long since I made chat. In India we obviously just eat chat out and even in the Bay Area we had so many chat places that we didn’t need to make chat at home. I think in all the time we stayed there we made pani puri once and that too for fun. But at Ohio State we had a lot of chat nights. We had one good Indian restaurant and they didn’t have good chats so we would make them at home. I remember at least a couple of Diwali parties which were entirely chat based. Unconventional, but such fun!
I learned to make chat from my mom. Living in the South where chat was not very popular until a decade ago – there was perhaps one good chat place in all the time we were growing up and it was very far from where we stayed, my mom would make all kinds of chat at home. We would have chat night when we would start with gol gappas, followed by dahi papdi chat and finish off with bhel puri. All of these chats were Dehra Dun style which are distinctly different from Mumbai style. The pani for the gol gappas for example is hot, sweet and sour all at once unlike Bombay pani puri which has a separate sweet chutney. I prefer the former just because you get an explosion of all tastes in your mouth the moment you break the gol gappa with one bite unlike the pani puri in which you have to wait for the sweetness from the chutney which tends to settle at the bottom.
While I was gorging on bhel puri, the hubby and the son were indulging in beautiful big jamuns that we bought a few days ago. I had one a couple of days ago and they are exactly as I remember them from my childhood – mildly sweet and mostly sour, but leaving the tongue feeling dry. In fact so dry that you can’t stop at one. My son loved them, just like I used to as a kid. He kept eating them until the point that I just took the box away from him and put it back in the fridge. He ran behind me begging “Angur, angur”. He thinks they are grapes because they look like them. His face and hands were purple in color as were all his clothes and though a part of me wanted to clean him up I finally didn’t because it reminded me of something. When I was 7 or 8, I went through this jamun fascination. The IIT Madras campus had a lot of jamun trees and after school I would get together with other campus kids and collect jamuns from these trees. Every day it was a different tree. We would throw stones and use long sticks to make the fruits fall and then grab them. It was each girl or boy for himself or herself. What a mad dash it was! I used my pencil boxes and cloth cases to store the fruit. Then I would come come and eat them quietly in the privacy of my room. My mom hated this because all my clothes would have stains which wouldn’t go away, as did all my cloth pencil cases. Then suddenly the season was over and I never went through that phase again. Looks like I have outgrown it completely because I didn’t enjoy this batch that I have now. But it’s true what they say, you can re-live your lives through your children. The jamuns have given me as much joy as they did decades ago.