Friday, April 17, 2009

That Darn Crow

I am slightly hazy about where I heard it first - that the cawing of crows heralds the arrival of visitors.

We lived 6 years in a house that is right behind where we presently reside. Yes, there was a huge tree , right next to our window. I did spot a few birds. But crows? Hardly ever. Life was peaceful enough.
We moved a year ago to the present home. Possibly we have more trees. More birds, parrots, pigeons and now crows !! And the cawing of crows has brought the visitors to our humble abode. And how! We have had a steady stream of guests, fortunately not the unwelcome annoying kind. So I am not complaining. But is there a link between the cawing of the crows and the arrival of the visitor? From statistics ( of the imaginary guest register) I think there is sufficient proof.

And so I have begun to take a great deal of interest in the movement of the crow. Anyone beyond the age of two, would have heard of the story of the clever crow and the
It was all fine to read the story, and for most of us it remained an unimaginable tale with a moral to boot - Where there is a will, there is a way.... Little by little does it...... Necessity is the mother of invention..... And imagine to my surprise when last week, I found a crow swooping down to a tap to put its beak into the spout for the elusive drop of water! Aesop's fable would have to be rewritten ...
Now with the scorching summer sun, its time again for the cuckoo bird and her call for rain. I am reminded of my father and one of his favourite Sanskrit saying
काकः कृष्णः पिकः कृष्णः को भेदः पिककाकयोः /वसन्तकाले संप्रप्ते काकः काकः पिकः पिकः //
A crow is black. So is the cuckoo. What then is the difference between the two? When the two sing to herald the onset of spring, the difference will be known – a crow caws, while a cuckoo sings
Yes there is a difference. When the cuckoo sings it could well be the arrival of rain, but the crow...? For sure when I hear the crow caw next , I shall make a move - either to light the kitchen fire ... or leave home ..... depending on how quick I am on my feet.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


This is a story about a stuffed toy. A dog. That has been part of my home for 25 years now. We visited a friend one evening along with the elder one who was then about two years old. The friend's 7 year old daughter was playing with this huge yellow stuffed dog. She was asked to share the toy with the elder one and it helped keep her occupied. She called it Biyo ( she could not pronounce Bingo - which was a dog in her aunt's house). When we were leaving later on in the night, the elder one refused to leave the dog behind, and the host's daughter was so very nice ( amazing for a 7 year old) that she allowed her to take it home. And thus began the long association with Biyo.

Biyo was really lifelike and soon was known to all those who visited home as if it was a real live pup. One would think that the toy would have been forgotten as the elder one grew up. Maybe she stopped playing with it after a while but it had to be in her room! The bright yellow colour of the dog soon turned into a dull yellow brown as he (she?) got obviously soiled. I was sure the dog was a source of germs and one fine day put it into the washing machine. Who ever knew that the inside of the yellow dog was stuffed with pieces of red sponge. The water caused the colour of the sponge to seep and even though we had a clean toy, it was all a blotchy yellow red doggy. But the love for the dog (of the now close to teens daughter) did not wane. And the doggy moved with us from house to house ( six to be precise). I have attempted so many times to throw it out but each time there were protests. The dog was left behind when she got married and moved home, but we were sternly told not to throw it out. It now lies in a plastic bag with its head and limbs almost apart in the topmost storage unit.

I realise now, that it probably is a part of the junk that has over years accumulated in the house - the three steel cupboards, the old sofa set, the poster bed, an old radio.... the list could go on. I will attempt to get rid of some of these the next time I shift home. Atleast that is what I have promised myself. But Biyo? I think he will remain with us, maybe out of sight, but nevertheless with us for the rest of our lives.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

It will be a while..

Yes, it will be a while before I see the elder one. I guess we had set the month of May to be the time for a family reunion. It has been postponed for a while. There is a deep sense of disappointment. But sometimes, everything does not happen the way it is planned. This is one of them.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Konkani Cuisine

This picture appeared in a magazine and set me off on a trip into the past. To be honest the dish 'Khotto/Khotte' was never my favourite . But it was a big hit with friends of my parents and whenever it was made at home, my dad had to make several trips to deliver it to them. Simply put, the Khotto is idli made in a jack fruit leaf container. It was made for specific festivals. A great deal of preparation went into the making of the Khotto. There were only few houses in our city that had these trees. Special requests had to be made in advance . The leaves had to be plucked carefully. After which they would be washed in water and wiped dry with a soft cloth. Then it would be knit together - 4 leaves - with clean sticks -carefully made from the coconut tree - it was really an art, for it had to be perfect so that the batter would not seep out. Once the containers were ready, the batter was poured into them and steamed. The leaves would then be pulled apart to reveal a perfect cone idli! The jackfruit leaf would impart a characteristic flavour to the khoto and this made it different from the ordinary idli. It could be eaten with just about anything under the sun. A channa/prawn gashi, or with coconut oil poured on it and accompanied with chutney.
The konkanis, it seems, are fond of using leaves in their cooking. Another special treat ( and this was a great favourite of mine) is the Patholi. And the leaf used for this delicious preparation is the turmeric leaf. The leaf would be smeared in the centre with a little amount of rice flour paste, over which a mixture of jaggery and coconut would be placed. The leaf would be folded and steamed. The leaf as in the case of Khotto is discarded, but the aroma of the turmeric leaf added to the taste and it was just divine.
Who ever thought I would miss the food of South Kanara. I must stop now..... sigh..
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