Friday, January 14, 2011

Of Sankrant memories old and new

I had a post on celebrating Sesame all ready for today. But then last night as I put Aman, my 9 year old son to bed, I told him that we would be going to Nani’s house to celebrate Kite Flying day. And he floored me by looking up at me and saying “but Kite Flying day Ashu Mama ke bina kitna adhura adhura sa lagega na Mama?” (Kite flying day without Ashu Mama will be so incomplete no mama?). When did my little boy become so big! 

In that innocent question I also had to face up to the one thing I had been dreading. As we all got on with the painful business of living without him, the thought in the back of my heart has always been how we would all get through this day that was so much him. The DAY I have been dreading since my older brother Ashu Bhai passed on in July last year. Sankrant. Because Sankrant for me, in fact for all of our family, was Ashu Bhai.

And I found myself telling Aman about Sankrant growing up in Munshaw house. I thought I would share the memories here.

When I was a child, preparations for Sankrant began the very day Angadia the famous couriers of Ahemdabad delivered the humongous box overflowing with kites and ‘manja’ (kite string)! The older cousins Hasit and Ashu Bhai would exclaim over the new crop of kites, the excellent manja that was rubbed with glass to make it war worthy enough (to sever other peoples kite strings) and claiming the best for themselves. By this time, they would be well on the way to warming up their kite flying techniques with kites left over from the year before. Thereafter would ensue incomprehensible debates about whose prowess prevailed the year before. And before you knew it preparations began in earnest!

Preparation meant a nightly ritual of the men in the family preparing the Kites for THE day while we, the runts of various litters, would watch in fascination – DON’T TOUCH – punctuating the quiet buzz of conversation liberally, as the older and wiser siblings applied themselves to the task of tying ‘kannis’ to the spines of the kites. If one of them felt benevolent, a previous years reject would come our way and we would be allowed to try our hand at kanni tying as we gloated at the rest of our less fortunate “knee high” peers!
The industrious nights alternated with equally diligent days of practice; otherwise busy papas came home on the dot of six and rushed up to the terrace to join sundry neighborhood kids who had already rushed up straight from school. Some received first instructions in flying kites while others loosened up their flying arms.

Meanwhile elsewhere in the house, preparations of a more delicious kind would be underway. My grandmother would consult with Maharaj (the family cook) on quantities of milk required for endless cups of tea, or supervise her daughters – in – law as they measured out appropriate amounts of ingredients, required for sundry treats. If one was at the right place at the right time, one would get lucky as well. A lump of jaggery or some roasted peanuts would come one’s way from one of the ladies or Maharaj or even our stern faced, twinkly eyed Moti Mummy (Grandma).

On THE day, like any festve day, Ashu bhai would always be the first one celebrating. On Diwali he would be out on the balcony bursting sutli bombs to wae the neighbourhood, and on Sankrant days he would be on the terrace sometimes even before the sun. We’d wake up to his shrill Kaypyocheeeee (I’ve cut your kite) … or Lapppeeeettttt (Your kite’s been cut, roll up your string) and make a beeline for the terrace. But our moms were extra vigilant those mornings, grabbing us by collars and sleeves as we tried to run up in pyjamas. Unceremonious dunkings later, we’d finally burst onto an already populated terrace en masse to add our own bit of chaos!

Today was the day we came into our own because everyone wanted a minion to hold their firki (spindle of kite string). A chance at flying the kite was enough incentive but we knew there were lots more if we were wily enough and we got many a desperate kite flyer into buying us candy, ice creams on that day…. The blue of the sky would barely be visible behind the patchwork hues of soaring kites and shouts of ‘kapyoche’ and ‘lapet’ would ring through the air. We would be running around harvesting manja into little bundles, or chasing stray trailing ends of manja that might have a kite attached to the other end, our faces slowly roasting to a nutty brown under the sun as we feasted on Sesame laddoos, Chikki, spicy Fada ni Khichadi, and ghee drenched Sheera.

And as the sun set, and the most die hard kite fliers gave up in the face of the waning light, Ashu bhai would be right there, flying that last kite, high, high into the sky, ruddy cheeked from a day in the sun, smiling from ear to ear as usual, hands crisscrossed with bandages from cuts rendered with kite strings, urging others around him to get the candeels ready for the night kite. And slowly, as darkness drew its curtain on another Sankrant and pinned it with a star, one by one, the kandeels would dance into the horizon, one, two, three, …. seven, eight, we had to have more up than anyone else…

And I realized as I pulled up Amans bed covers, that, Sankrant is not going to be as hard as I thought it would. Over the last few months, we have all gotten through Raksha bandhan, Diwali, his birthday. With each occasion, his wife, Neelu Bhabi, has been the one to lead us in celebrating HIM by smiling through the days and celebrating them the way he would have. It can’t have been easy, but it has been a good example to set us because there really is no better tribute to pay a man like Ashu Bhai, other than to smile as wide as you can and live life to the fullest you can.

Perhaps because of the Sesame laddoos, Sesame has always has an association with Sankrant for me. I thought I would end this post with a few favourite Sesame recipes I had compiled for the original post, food, fun, family, friends, we have a LOT to be thankfull for, don’t we? Happy Sankrant everyone, “Til Gud ghya anni god, god bola!” ) (have sweetened sesame and speak sweetly).

Til laddoos
1 c white Sesame seeds
1 c Jaggery/Gud (Look for "Chikki cha gud" at your local grocer, gud meant especially for making ladoos and less brittle when cooked or use regular jaggery)
½ c Raw Peanuts
¼ c Ghee/Clarified butter

Roast the sesame seeds and peanuts separately. Keep aside for cooling. After the peanuts are cold, skin and crush them into large bits. Heat ghee in a vessel, when hot add jaggery, it will liquify and begin to froth. Remove vessel from flame and add the sesame seed, crushed peanut and stir in well. Coat hands with a little ghee and take a small amount of the warm sesame mixture into palms. Roll into tiny betel nut sized balls 1 inch in diameter. Store in an airtight container.

Aman’s Sesame potato footballs
“These are very yummy and I like them because I do” is what Aman has to say about these. As wordy as he is, it really is amazing how much he loves them The potatoes work as feul in the form of simple carbs and the spinach and sesame add texture.

1 cup mashed potato
1 cup shredded spinach
2 tbsp cream cheese
½ cup toasted white sesame
2 tbsp black sesame
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the two sesame seeds and set aside. Place mashed potato, half the spinach, cream cheese salt and pepper in a bowl and combine well. Shape into smooth walnut size balls and roll in sesame mixture. Scatter leftover spinach in tiffin box and arrange balls on it. Stick a patch of net to one side to really get into things!


Sanjeeta kk said...

Love the recipe of sesame potato balls. The till ladoos look tempting, am going to make them right now. Have all the ingredients ready.

swati said...

Rushina, what an excellent tribute 2 a person like Ashu,v will never b able 2 overcome his loss, but his spirit will always give us the strength 2 celebrate all occasions with his style of grandeur, & so rightly put, that v need 2 learn frm Neelu hw 2 reciprocate true love. Your seasame potato balls recipe seems very interesting, will surely give it a try.

7dayholiday said...

Hi! I dont know the person you wrote about, but very well written. It made me remember of the chaos & fun during celebrations.

I just stumbled on to your blog, interesting stuff! I love the pic of the kid looking on to the sesame laddoos!

The perfect caption for that would be 'open sesame' the magic words in ali baba's story! :)

Sunshinemom said...

a great post and lovely kids:).

Kalyan Karmakar said...

What a lovely read. Id read it before. Loved reading it again. Ashu bhai would be so happy