Love Potion

A magical concoction that is meticulously brewed with rare ingredients to make your cherished one fall hopelessly in love with you. I once read so many stories and fairy tales where a fairy or a witch or some other magical creature would grant that love potion, after much persuasion, to the desperate lover boy or the lovelorn lass, so they can win over the one that they so desire.

Image courtesy vectorstock.com

The idea of love potion has always intrigued me. Fictional it may be, stuff that fairy tales are made off, but is it possible to make someone fall love with you – just a spoon of love potion to be mixed in the drink and the one you love will be yours forever. And if magical potions make love possible, it that ‘love’ really worth the effort? These questions bothered me even as a girl. ‘Mythological bullshit it is,’ I told myself dismissively, but the idea stayed with me and the many questions.

One reason could be my love for fairy tales – fairy godmothers, magic wands, fairy dust, one swish of wand making everything possible. Cinderella turns into a princess and finds her prince charming, the magic fades though and the prince knows her no more. It takes determination of the prince who had fallen in love with Cinderella and a little bit of magic, the magical slipper, to bring them together. I could live with a little magic when heart is in the right place. Often wished for a fairy godmother, or a Gennie to take me to a wonderland or even help me with daily chores. I know that’s not possible, but no harm dreaming. A few strokes of fantasy to add intriguing hues to otherwise humdrum life!

But love potions? Doesn’t that go against the rules of magic – for magic cannot make anyone fall in love with you, it says. Magic also cannot bring back the dead or change the past. Thank god love potions are just fantastical, or who knows in one of those weak moments when I was helplessly in love, I may have been tempted to try some such magical potion on the person I so desired then. For love does make you do crazy things at times!

But then, imagine my surprise, when I learnt that for many love potions are for real. There are even recipes available online that are supposedly ‘safe, simple and powerful.’ Do people really try those recipes? I hope not. I can live with food or fruits that are aphrodisiacs, but love potion goes against the very idea of love. After having loved and lost and loved again, the only thing I know for sure is that no magic or miracle or love potion will work when it comes to making someone fall in love with you or making love work. The very idea that I would need love potion to win someone’s love is kind of humiliating.  Love is magical only when it’s voluntary, for it takes a lot of effort to keep that magic alive!

The only love potion that works is the one that’s brewed within, the nervousness that we feel in the pit of our stomach in those early days of love, or the calm contentment of mature love, that can turn even a cup of coffee into love potion. Sometimes magic fades, the potion loses its power, it’s best to let go then, rather than desperately concoct some magical tonic to hold on to love that may have run its course!

My Kitchen Garden with the help of those tiny hands by Titas Mazumdar

Working Mom – isn’t it always a big challenge? The guilt of not able to give enough time to your little ones, and the fear of not creating enough childhood memories. I am no different and not free from those guilts. I keep on brainstorming and engaging my little time after work and weekend with my daughter with a lot of creative stuff like DIY projects, best out of waste, bottle painting, soap making and the list goes on and on. The best one which is also a stress buster for me is gardening with the help of those tiny hands.

I always dreamt of having my own vegetable garden but never had the luck of staying on the ground floor to grow my own, but as the saying goes, where there is a will there is a way. Luckily, I am blessed with 4 big terraces that prompted me to take up terrace farming. I realized that’s the best way to keep my little one engaged and create some childhood memories for her.

YouTube is my best teacher; yes there ought to be couple of hits and misses but I never lose hope and faith, and always remember there are no gardening mistakes but only experiments. These video and tips help me a lot in my journey of building my terrace garden. I never buy seeds from market, I use vegetable seeds, shoots, cuttings to grow my veggies. Pumpkin, bitter gourd and watermelon are the easiest to grow, they have never failed me. I let my daughter pick the fat healthy seeds from these fruits and allow her to sprinkle them all around. The excitement in those tiny eyes to see the seeds sprouting is unfathomable. Within few weeks tender leaves comes out and within a month, if the soil is healthy enough, the plants start flowering. 

There is also another very interesting aspect when you are farming at home with your kids. I introduced her to the concept of photosynthesis, pollination, male and female flowers and fertilization. It’s very easy to identify male and female flowers in these melon category plants. Many a times male and female flowers are out of proportion in numbers and hence I use hand pollination (Remember those 80s Hindi movies 🙂 and hand pollination does help too, got quite a good result from it. Trust me growing a kitchen garden with my daughter has been so much fun!

Freshly grown tomatoes

After successful fertilization, the wait time is a little longer as the fruits grow slowly at their own pace. Bitter gourd can be harvested quickly within a couple of weeks but pumpkin and watermelon take more than three months to grow to full size. It’s a different kind of pleasure growing your own fruits and vegetables, though in a small quantity, the satisfaction is immense. Someone rightly said growing your own food is like printing your own Money 🙂

We bongs cook almost every part of the plant, say for example the leaves of bitter gourd are used with lentil paste for fritters, we eat flowers of Pumpkin plant dipped into gram flour paste and deep fried, the leaves and vegetables go with mixed vegetable curry in mustard and poppy seed paste.  I even wrap mustard coated fish in pumpkin leaves and steam it. It’s one of my family delicacies. Serving something on table from your kitchen garden is indeed tastier and healthier.

The most exciting part is when you use your vegetable waste/throw away to grow your garden. This year late winter I planted the throw away stem of a market bought cabbage, and guess what – I was gifted by nature with three medium size cabbages. One point I have noted in my last 2 years of terrace farming, you cannot expect market size from you own kitchen garden. I think one reason might be I grow in pot, ground produces a better size and secondly, I don’t use market fertilizers, it’s completely organic. I use my own fertilizers. I use fish water, egg shell, used tea leaves and coffee powder. I have two compost makers; all my kitchen waste goes there and after couple of months I get home made organic fertilizer. If you have plants you are sure to invite few pest guests too. Easy solution to keep unwanted guests out from your garden is spray diluted Neem oil with water and a spoon of Shampoo.

Pickle with home grown chillies

Garden has a tremendous healing power on a stressful and tiring day, it soothes me and relaxes my nerves. Last year I planted a Mango, Avocado, Guava tree. This year Guava plant blossomed with 25 beautiful hairy white flowers, almost 15 flowers turned into fruits but heavy wind and birds didn’t allow to grow into full size. I am just left with a few now. Lesson learnt for next year, I have to create some shade for my guava plant. I have a 6-year-old a different breed of a lemon plant (We call it Gandhoraj Lemon- King of fragrance in Bengal). This plant is yet to bear fruit but so what, I use its flavorful leaves in my Thai & Malaysian Curries and Bengali daal. It tastes heavenly.

Pasta is my daughter’s favorite and what can be tastier than making your pasta from hand-picked basils from your garden. Two varieties of basil Sweet Basil and Thai basil grows in my pot round the year for all my Southeast Asian and Italian dishes. 

Ajwain plant is another low maintenance herb and easy to grow from stems and has immense health benefit. I use thick green succulent Ajwain leaves for making Chai, Pakora, Paratha and Daal. Tomatoes and chilies will never upset you; these gorgeous sexy reds enhance the beauty of my kitchen garden.

Katha with cabbage 🙂

I also try my hands in microgreens, they are full of nutrition and gives results in just 3 to 4 days. Salad lovers will love microgreens of Moong, Methi (Fenugreek), Mustard and many more. That’s again another kind of gardening, can be very easily grown even in dark corners of your kitchen engaging your little ones. And the best part is, the kids cannot say “No” to what they have grown, even the pickiest eaters fall into the prey of their own kitchen garden and start eating veggies. Isn’t it a win-win situation for the mommies?

Titas is a banker, a mom, passionate about gardening and cooking. Look out for her next post on the many delicacies that she dishes with the yields from her kitchen garden.

Wardrobe Woes

Last night I had a dream. My saris, blouses, dresses and tunics were floating around me and talking to me. ‘When are you going to wear me again?’ asked my purple kanchivaram in her silky voice. I had worn the purple beauty only once during my cousin’s wedding, I recalled. Pretty pink jamdani glared at me angrily. I had almost forgotten about her. My range of designer blouses, tunics and dresses started jostling for my attention. Golden stiletto and red sandal started accusing me of neglect. They started dancing around me as if in frenzy, pulling me in all directions. The golden stiletto suddenly kicked hard on my ankle. Startled, I woke up. ‘What a crazy dream or rather a nightmare!’

I switched on the light and opened the wardrobe. All my clothes were in the right place. Saris stacked up neatly on top of each other, blouses stuffed in the drawer, dresses and tunics hanging close to each other. I opened my shoe closet next. At least 30 pairs of shoes snuggling close to each other, at least 10 pairs that I haven’t slipped my feet into in months. I took another look at my prized sari collection. Many of those, especially the expensive ones haven’t been worn in years. I went back to bed but couldn’t sleep. The images of my overstuffed wardrobe and shoe rack suddenly started mocking me. Locked up at home, with social distancing the new norm, I was quite clueless about when I would get to wear all these clothes and shoes again.

The image of me prancing around as girl in a flowery frock flashed before my eyes. I had about 8 to 10 ‘good clothes’ then that I wore for birthday parties, weddings, for visiting friends and neighbours etc. – frocks, skirts and tops mostly stitched by mom, a few pairs of jeans, and two pairs of shoes, besides the school going shoes. With what sounds like a limited wardrobe now, I was considered to be a well-dressed girl back then. I was very happy accepting hand me downs from my older cousins as well. It was a done thing then.

My mom, who loves saris, owned about 4 to 5 expensive saris then (besides her regular cotton, organza, and silks) that she should wear for weddings and special functions. It was absolutely fine to repeat those saris. She had a beautiful rani pink tanchoi silk sari that she would wear for such functions quite often.  Later, when the sari started coming apart, she cut it and made a beautiful kurta for me that I cherished for many years. She would also wear a beautiful peacock blue kanjivaram with broad red border every now and then.

I started becoming more ‘fashion conscious’ during my college days. Mom stitched clothes were not enough, I wanted branded clothes. When I started working, I would spend a lot of time in Sarojini Nagar hunting for fashionable clothes, knock-offs that would fit my budget. From street fashion, I soon moved to the branded stores and then to the glittering malls that offered great deals on international brands. E-commerce sites that offered everything from lingerie to footwear at an enviable price further added to the allure. My wardrobe was spilling, my shoe rack was full, I had more purses than I could carry, but I just couldn’t stop buying.

Sari day at work

With years I became a little more discerning, chose style over fashion, or so I thought. I developed a fondness for saris like mom and started buying saris from all over India. Be it Bengal cotton, south cotton, chanderi, baluchori, ikkat, bomkai or kachivaram, I have them all. The cotton and the silk ones I would wear often to work. The more expensive ones were worn for weddings etc. I have also built a collection of exclusive dresses and tunics, thanks to my designer friends.   Though I have been spending money on saris and other expensive clothes it didn’t feel like a waste. ‘These are classics that would never go out of fashion’, I would tell myself.

My wardrobe made me feel good. I was ready for all occasions. But every occasion demanded something new because repeating an outfit is an absolute no-no. How could you wear the same outfit or sari before the same crowd? Posting a picture on social media in the same dress twice? Thus, I ended up with so many saris, clothes, and shoes that I love and that look great on me. Ironically enough, I have worn these beautiful things only once or twice, just because I can’t repeat myself. Seriously, when did I become such a hoarder or a show-off, or both!

“This has to stop. I am going to wear all my clothes over and over. I am going to repeat my saris because I feel beautiful in them.” Maybe I am a bit delusional with the extended lockdown or maybe I have more time to self-reflect or maybe it’s both!

The Eternal Traveller

I am a traveller. I travel forward and backwards, to the future and the past, while I try to grapple the present. Yes, I live in the present too, very much so, embracing it, trying to make sense of it at times. From my present, I take nostalgic trips to my past, for my past made my present. My present wanders into the future, at times dreamily, at times with trepidations, for one day the present will melt into the future. And what will that future be? What will that future hold?

The eternal traveller in me, living in the present, is sometimes torn between the past and the future. Don’t get me wrong, I am as excited about the future as anyone else, a future where technology has merged all boundaries, a future that promises trips to the outer space. Exhilarated times we live in that is marching forward so fast, with the so much conviction. Looking ahead with my head held high, as I stride into the glorious possibilities, my past somehow slipped away. The journeys to the days gone by became rarer and rarer, a distant memory that seemed to have been lived by another me, a different me!

Probably, in all of us, there’s an eternal traveller like me. A traveller who has been so blinded by the prospects that the future may hold, that the limitations were completely forgotten and overlooked. The cost that we have been paying seemed but a small price as we willingly, happily let our present melt into the future, away from the past. So engrossed were we with the marvels of AI that we forgot the charm of a good conversation. The virtual world seemed so enticing that we took the real world for granted.

Most of all, we forgot those songs that we sang under the mango tree, as we swayed on a makeshift swing made out an old tyre, on her enduring branches.  We forgot the Bakul tree with her fragrant flowers next to the gate that was mercilessly chopped to make room for the new house. We moved away from nature, cleared forests and endangered the wild, our factories pollute the air with harmful gases. For we want fancy cars, hi-tech phones and flashy clothes more than clean air to breathe in. Our concrete jungle feels safer than the cool shadow of the forest. We arrogantly believed that the world has been created just for us and we could do what we please, kill and chop, make and break to clear the way for our march to the future.

Of course, we talked about climate change. So much money has been spent on those climate change conferences, world leaders deliberated upon the grave issue but did little. Nature hit back in her fury to put the puny humans in their place. There were tsunamis, forests fires, volcanos and earthquakes that killed many, damaged and ravaged our properties, our land. Yet, we refused to learn.

Then came a tiny virus that brought our lives to a standstill. The march to the future came to a sudden halt. We were kept locked up in our homes like wild animals we keep in the zoo. There’s uncertainty and confusion all around as we try to figure ways to counter this virus. Of course, technology has come to our aid. Social media and the virtual world have us helped stay connected in these unusual times. Limitations of the technology also glare at us now, as we long for the human touch.

As we stay locked in, nature has heals. The air is clean, the grass is green, the sky is blue and the rivers flow merrily into the sea. When I look up at the starlit sky at night, I remember the girl sitting on her terrace trying to catch the falling stars.

All it took was for a virus to endanger humans, for the world and all the other life forms in it to flourish!

As we halt, with nowhere to go, it’s time for us to ponder, to look back, to introspect, learn lessons from our past before we rush ahead. Will this virus change us for good? Will we finally learn to care for our planet and nurture the environment in which we thrive? Only time will tell.

Food trails and many tales: Dishing wonders with waste

Zero Waste Cooking, the term is now in vogue. World has suddenly woken up to the fact that we waste a huge amount of food everyday and need to minimize it by changing our cooking style and eating habits. Average Americans waste 1 pound of food per person per day at the household level, according to USDA. I am sure we anglicized Indians with our penchant for western style fine dining are no better. But now suddenly the West has woken up to food waste and we Indians must toe the line and follow the trend! Therefore, we are bombarded with zero waste recipes, cooking styles and eating habits.

But, as a culture, didn’t we Indians always practice zero waste? Haven’t we laughed at our grandmothers and mothers for trying to squeeze the last bit from a toothpaste tube or pour the last drop of oil or ketchup from an almost empty bottle? And, when it comes to cooking with what many would toss out of the kitchen, we Bengali’s are the masters. We make yummy aloo ka chilka fry (aloor khosha bhaja), Chehki made with tender lauki chilka is a delicacy. We chop and put the stems of gobi in daal (khopir datar daal) that is both nutritious and delicious. The delicacies we make with the seed of ripe jackfruit and pumpkin seed are unparalleled. Kanchakolar khosha bata is a chutney that we make out of the chilka of green banana. There are so many more recipes where we use the so-called food waste and turn them into culinary delight!

Aloor Khosha Bhaja

Aloo is available in every Indian kitchen. Most of our dishes are incomplete without aloo. Use the potato peel or chilka for this quick recipe.

Image courtesy YouTube

Ingredients

1 cup potato peels, 1/2 tsp – poppy seeds, 1 tsp – vegetable oil, pinch of kalonji (nigella seeds), salt to taste

Method

  1. Wash the peels, bunch them together and roughly chop them.
  2. Heat oil in a wok and temper with nigella seeds. Add the chopped peel. Stir fry for 2 -3 mins on medium heat. Add salt and poppy seeds. Cook for another 2 mins, constantly stirring.
  3. Take it off fire and serve with steaming hot rice or with hot cup of tea.

Since a tiny virus has pushed the mighty human’s indoors, since we are forced to live with less and of many these ingredients may already be available in your kitchen, this is a good time to try out these recipes. Tea with aloor khosha bhaja should be quite a treat in the evening!

 Kanchakolar Khosha Bata 

Image Courtesy YouTube

Ingredients

  • 2 Raw Banana
  • 6 cloves Garlic
  • 1 Green Chilli
  • Salt to taste

Ingredients for seasoning:

  • 2 tablespoons Mustard oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kalonji (Onion Nigella Seeds)
  • 1 Dry Red Chillies

Steps

  1. Pressure cook the 2 raw bananas until soft. Once cooked, peel the skin. For this recipe we will be using the cooked and peeled skin and not the banana pulp (you can make a sabzi of your choice with raw banana).
  2. Blend the banana peel and the remaining ingredients into a smooth paste. Transfer to a bowl and keep aside.
  3. In a small pan add the mustard oil. Once the oil is heated; add in the kalonji and the dry red chillies. Sauté on medium flame until the red chilies are roasted and browned then add in the peel paste and sauté on low heat for 2 to three minutes until the raw smell goes away.
  4. Serve the spicy and delicious Kanchakolar Khosha Bata with hot steamed rice or chapati.

Reclaiming Aadda – the lost art of a good conversation

The pleasures of growing up in a Bong joint family! Forever surrounded by Kaku, pishi, dida, cousins, so much pampering and conversations all around, storytelling, reading out to each other. I never lacked conversations growing up, till date nothing hooks me more than a good conversation. I miss those good old days, those conversations. Most of all I miss my kaku – a master story teller, a great conversationalist, in  whose room every evening would gather his friends and conversation would flow on art, literature, music, politics or football over cups of tea, moori makha, padad bajha or chop. There would be friendly banter, heated debates, enlightening dialogues with music playing in the background on the gramophone. My mom, and sometimes my pishi would heartily participate in the discussions. As a kid then I would sometimes peep in, take bite from my kaku’s plate. Though I couldn’t make sense of much of the conversation, I could feel charged atmosphere, the excitement around. Such was the magic of good conversation or Aadda!

Coffee Houser Aadda

The quintessential Bengali Aadda, that can be loosely translated as the art of conversation or discussion, probably emerged over a century ago when Bengali gentry (or bhodrolok) would congregate to discuss various issues ranging from art to politics to changing weather. Aadda, Coffee Houser Aadda, had a certain snob value about it. Prominent writers and thinkers would gather at a Coffee House talk about various existential and intellectual issues. Then there was Aadda in a drawing rooms or a living rooms, like the one in our family house.  Aadda, where boys of the neighbourhood gather on a staircase or parapet (rock), called Rockbaj Aadda, is considerably low brow. You wouldn’t want to be caught by your parents being part of Rockbaj Aadda.

Rockbaj Aadda

But no matter where the Aaddabaj (connoisseurs of Aadda) would gather, the spirit of Aadda, the free flow of conversation that was often intellectually stimulating, defies all definition. Usually a small group that could range from 3 to 10 people, Aadda could be dominated by one person or run into heated debates. It has been often said that these aimless Aaddas led to the downfall of Kolkata, once the intellectual capital of India. Maybe, or maybe Bengal fell from grace because Aadda lost its spirit somehow!

Aadda sessions in my kaku’s living room came to end with his untimely demise. I left home a few years after that. In college and university, we had our variants of Aadda, often literary discussion or idealistic talks about love and life ahead. Then real life happened, while struggling to fit into the real world, I did enjoy many animated conversations with my newfound friends over cups of coffee till wee hours. But people kept getting busier, drifting apart, conversations turned to long phone calls, online chats and somehow that spirit was lost. There was partying, there was pubbing and there was clubbing at the cost of a good conversation. Even families glued to their phone and social media forgot to talk.

Today, suddenly out of nowhere the world is inflicted by a novel virus that has pushed us indoors, shuts down pubs, clubs and malls. The term social distancing is suddenly in vogue. With nowhere to go we don’t have sassy pictures to post on social media, and the virus jokes and alerts are kind of getting on our nerves. While COVID is disrupting our lives, playing havoc with our schedule, maybe it’s giving us a chance to reconnect with our family and friends, revive the art of conversation. So why not use this family time as an opportunity to reclaim the magic of Aadda!

Khichdi – the delicious mish mash

Moong daler khichuri

Waking up to a rainy morning would always bring a smile to my face. Rainy day at school, playing in the rain, paper boats and Ma would make khichdi or khichuri as we Bongs’ call it, for lunch. Khichuri, served with maach bhaja (fish fry), jhiri jhiri aloo bhaja (crispy potato fry), begun bhaja (fried brinjal) or fried fish egg (Bengali version of caviar), topped with a spoonful of desi ghee, has been my favourite meal since. Khichuri and kosha mangsho (dry mutton curry) is a much awaited delicacy in Bengali households. But no matter what the accompaniments are, Khichuri has to be topped up with a spoonful of desi ghee, we Bongs prefer the flavourful cow ghee.

Khichuri or khichdi, a mish mash of rice, dal and sometimes veggies like aloo, matar and cauli flower, considered to be a humble meal in North India, is a feast for Bengalis. There are two popular variants of khichuri in Bengal – one with red masoor dal and the other made with roasted yellow moong dal. Masoor dal khichuri is usually made with onion, garlic, ginger and served hot on a rainy afternoon with all kinds of bhajas (fries).

Bhaja (roasted) moong dal khichuri is tempered with tej patta, jeera and other whole spices. We usually put aloo, matar, gobi and tamatar in moong dal khichuri. The same veggies along with beans or anything else that you fancy can be put in masoor dal khichuri as well. Moong dal khichuri is usually served as bhog during puja with a lavish accompaniment of labra (delicious and mild Bengali mixed veggie) or badhakopir torkari (cabbage curry), beguni (maida or corn flower coated brinjal fry), fried pumpkin and crispy aloo fry and chutney (made with tomato and dates). Relishing the cold moong dal khichuri with bhaja after pujo is an experience that I so look forward to.

Another variant of Khichuri is Neeler khichuri, cooked without haldi, that devotees of Lord Shiva in Bengal have every Monday of Sawan. I first had this khichuri at my masi’s place and enjoyed every bit of it. I also like the mildly flavoured North Indian khichdi, tempered with hing and jeera, served with dahi, achaar and papad. Though it is supposed to be a sick persons’ meal I can have it anytime. Be it healthy daliya ki khichdi that I often make or bland sabudana khichdi from Maharashtra, a staple when you are fasting in these parts, I love them all. Quite a khichdi fan I am!

Bisi bele bhaat

The South Indian variants of khichdi, Bisi bele bhaat in Karnataka and Pongal in Tamil Nadu, offer a different flavour. Though these are breakfast food in the South, Bisi bele bhaat and Pongal, served with dahi and papad make a tasty and nutritious meal anytime of the day. I am lucky to have a friend who often makes Bisi bele bhaat for me. It can be easily made with MTR’s Bisi bele bhaat masala. Though my friend usually gets the masala from Bangalore, you can check with the local MTR stores or you can try making your own masala.

Keema Khichdi is another awesome khichdi recipe that I plan to try some day. This aromatic Bohra delicacy is prepared with minced lamb, ginger-garlic paste, rice, moong dal and a melange of spices. Though its slightly time consuming this delectable khichdi is definitely worth a shot.

Time: Old & New, Flying & Pausing

Time gone by & what lies ahead

Old year departs gently, ushering in the New

So lured are we by the glamour & glitter of the New, that we forget the Old, its goodness, its warmth, as we fly with the time

New hopes, new dreams, new aspirations, desires & ambitions lead us on to fascinating avenues & lanes

A journey so challenging & exhilarating that leaves us with little time to pause & ponder

Then, one day, when we stop to catch a breath and absentmindedly look back, the spectacle of our yesteryear’s memoirs, diaries & recollections spring back at us

The lazy days when we would listen to a play on AIR, or the exciting days when TV invaded our drawing rooms with Asiad, to be later taken over by crazy online streaming

Taking eager steps to school in Bata shoes, weighed down by Duckback school bag heavy with books, dreams and ambitions

Travelling in 2nd class, a coach full of students, heart full of aspirations, to the realm that takes us a step closer to so many dreams that whisper in our ears

Some dreams are fulfilled, some forgotten, some broken, some carelessly tossed away, adorn our path as we move along

The pride and joy of owning the first Nokia mobile phone, making the first brief call, packing in as many words in as little time, for rates were high

The arriving in life moment with the first Blackberry, replacing it with little thought with iPhone, Samsung Note and what not, for choices are many

Switching happily from DTC buses, to auto, to the proud ride in first Maruti 800

Moving on from a generation that held on to dreams, clung on romantically to a few material possessions, to a generation that’s spoilt for choice, often confused, bemused or bewildered, easily disillusioned

As we look back, time pauses for a while, to string together our forgotten or lost dreams chipped and dulled with years, new wishes and resolutions glowing with hope and yearnings, into a glittering, uneven multi-coloured necklace.

Knitting a Warm Winter Story

There was a time when nip in the air would mean bringing out the knitting needles and wools. All our sweaters would be taken out and evaluated. The ones we would have outgrown would be opened and the wool wrapped into a ball again to be used for making new sweaters. Depending on the wool available at home, mom would buy more wool and start knitting new sweaters for us. Once upon a time, my mom knit sweaters for my dad and the entire extended family. She would refer to design books for newer designs. Even weekend supplements of newspapers carried novel designs for sweaters.

My colleague Arjun, in a sweater knit by his mom, when he was 5

Afternoons were devoted to knitting. Mom would sometimes knit alone, sometimes take us to our neighbourhood jethimoni’s (aunt’s) place to knit with her. Kor jethimoni was a knitting whiz. She didn’t even need a design book to refer to. She would come up with newer designs on her own and finish a sweater in no time. My mom and many aunts from the vicinity would gather at her courtyard to knit with her. She would very happily guide them and help them with new designs.

Knitting in those days was a creative recreational activity for women. They would get together with their knitting needles, chit chat, have a cup of tea and knit one sweater after another. It seemed quite effortless then. It was a common practice to gather around a boudi (bhabi) who was an expert and would help out the rest. For instance, even 15 years back, whenever I would visit Chandigarh in winters, I would find my Kakima (chachi) sitting on the porch with her landlady, both of them knitting away. Sweaters knit by Kumkum kakima were quite popular. I still have one lying in my wardrobe. “Your kakima doesn’t know anything. Bina (the landlady) guides her at every step,” my uncle would joke.

My colleague Riti donning a muffler that i knit in school

As a little girl, I was fascinated by the whole process of knitting. I would hover around my mother the moment she would take out her knitting needles. Once I was old enough, I was given plastic needles and a small ball of wool. With some effort I picked up knitting and even made a small blue sweater for my walkie talkie doll (with my mom’s help of course). I later knit many mufflers. I would ambitiously start knitting sweaters which my mother would finish. When we were in college, readymade sweaters started flooding the market and the charm of hand knit sweaters started to fade. “You can’t make sweaters like the ones in the market,” we would tell our mom. Tired of our constant nagging mom stopped knitting and started buying us sweaters instead. Knitting needles and balls of wool were forgotten, and hand knit sweaters lay neglected in one corner of the wardrobe.

A few winters back while I was cleaning my wardrobe, a muffler that I had knitted in college dropped from the top shelf. It looked and felt so much nicer than the readymade ones. I started missing the look and the designs of the hand knit sweaters. “Can you knit me a sweater ma?” I asked my mom. “Oh! I don’t even know where the needles are lying. I haven’t used them in years. And anyway, you thought my sweaters were not good enough,” retorted mom. “I wish I hadn’t changed loyalties to readymade sweaters so soon,” I sighed. Being out of practice for years I have completely forgotten to knit. What seemed ‘not fashionable’ once, suddenly seemed so desirable.

Sweaters by Srivastava Aunty

Imagine my delight when I saw my friend Chandana’s 5-year-old son Ray in a lovely blue hand knit sweater. “Have you started knitting?”, I asked her all excited. “May be, I can ask her to make me a sweater,” I thought. “My mom-in-law does,” she said. “Till date I haven’t bought a single sweater for Ray. Mummy is so fast and finishes a sweater in no time. She has knit me one too.” Excited I called up her mom-in-law, Srivastava Aunty. She was only too thrilled to talk about her knitting. “Now Ray is growing, so he asks me make sweaters in his favorite colors,” she laughed.

Hearing me talk about my love and longing of hand knit sweaters, my friend and colleague Lovina told me about her friend Tehmina M Yadav who reaches out to her friends and family to knit every winter. Those sweaters and mufflers are then distributed to homeless people. “She’s an amazing woman,” said Lovina. “She has her own merchandising house; she keeps the most beautiful gardens. And every winter she reaches out to people to knit for the homeless.”

So knitting is not dead. Lovina still knits and has agreed to knit me a scarf!!