Every year during this time of the year I reach a festive high because its Durga Pujo, and her divine presence fills me with childhood nostalgia. Amidst dhakir’s dhal (drummers drum) and conch shells remembering old ties, forging new bonds while I continue to spin a new dream for my children.
For me the incarnation of a female goddess in real life was my mother, strong, evocative and yet so vulnerable. I have introduced her time and again on this blog through my writing, anecdotes and thoughts. Her untimely exit from my life left a lacuna, untouched and sore for a long time. But just as Goddess has several manifestations similarly there are so many roles donned by a woman.Revolting against the paradoxical monster-in-law nomenclature, my Mother in law or aai marched into my life. As any daughter in law I had my initial reservations mounted as icebergs which slowly began melting with her warmth.
A self made woman, for 30 long years working relentlessly with a Telecom company and a fiery zeal to execute a plethora of responsibilities. Her structure petite but with a gigantic vigour made it all so pleasing. Extremely benevolent but a very judicious decision maker.
I was raised by my mother but it was my Mom in law who fine-tuned my skills.
A sass who made wine at home and stirred palette of thousands with her cooking. Held forte in so many cuisines. Entertained my friends who came over, made me an onlooker while she cooked up a storm.Pamper my kins as her own. Travelled with me to unknown places in the most uncomfortable conditions and at some other time we scavenged several exhibitions and sales. Digging into several rounds of faloodas and pani puris. Deciphering marathi serials in her company like Asambhav, Kalat na kalat, prapancha, and kimaya (if this makes you giggle please do 😉 ) Listening to her pent up emotions while I drowned her in mine. I lost one mother to find another. Alas only to let her go…..
There were thousand of such moments in the span of just four years which blossomed but just as every autumn in my life…the leaves turned grey and fell off. What remained was the strength to deal with life in every changing season. I have the memories bright but not as the image of the real person in your life. In most cases you hear such animosity about this tabooed relationship that you feel shy and protective of your own experience. Those memories which make me quiver with longing.
Every year it is believed Goddess Durga comes down from the Himalayas to reside with the mortals and enrich their life with good old tradition and spiritual fervour. The very basis of the Hindu tradition. I am not an atheist and always believe in the presence of god,but I have let my active praying go sublime with the ashes of my loved ones. What remains is the desire to recreate the magic for my fledglings almost an art I learnt from the two great women in my life. Just like Durga Maa if they could come down to relive those memories.
If you are a bengali then you would know the importance of eating Biryani. I have ditched the traditional Calcutta Biryani for a seafood based pulao for which I could receive a lot of heat from the purist.This is one of my mother in laws recipes and everyone has their version she made it this way. Last year I made the Tender coconut prawn curry this year I chose Kolambi Bhaat.
This holiday special recipe hails from the western region of Maharashtra and has all the ingredients to make a delicious one pot meal with a good balance of spice and sweetness of prawns.
- 1 cup Prawns or Shrimps, cleaned and deveined
- 2 cups Kolam Rice or Basmati rice
- 1 onion, peeled and chopped
- ½ cup green peas
- 1 large potato, cut into 4
- 1 tbsp Ginger Garlic Paste
- 1 Tomato, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp malvani masala or any garam masala of your choice
- salt to taste
- 1 tbsp refined oil\
- 1 tbsp ghee
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 cup coconut milk
- Fresh coriander leaves
- 1 tbsp tamarind paste
- 1 black cardamom
- 1 bay leaf
- 2-3 cloves
- 1 tsp shahjeera
- 3-4 peppercorns
- 1 star anise
- Take your prawns and marinate them with Malvani masala, salt, ginger garlic paste, kokum juice.If you are using any other form of garam masala then you should turmeric as well. A homemade Malavani Masala comes along with turmeric powder.
- These same prawns are used for Prawns Koliwada at home hence she always added tamarind paste to her prawns for marination. It is interesting to note that the tart agent differs from region to region.
- Soak the rice in water for 30 minutes.
- In a deep bottomed pan or kadhai, add your oil and then when its smoking hot add the onions for frying. Once it has rosy pink colour, its time to add the prawns and sauté for 5 minutes.
- Then add the rice and fry it along with prawns for a while. This would ensure that rice cooks sooner.
- Now add 1 cup of water just enough to level with the rice and start cooking on low heat with a cover on top. Now here is her trick to steam cook the rice. She would add another cup of water on the cover. This ensured that the rice is steam cooked in its own flavours without adding too much water.
- After 5 minutes add your coconut milk, lemon juice and ghee and cook it until done. Keep stirring it one and off to ensure rice doesn't stick to the bottom.
- Then remove it from the heat and stir with a fork to fluff the rice. Garnish with fresh coriander.
Traditionally it is served with sol kadhi which also acts as a coolant and beverage.