Thursday, May 28, 2015

Launching The Pinch and Handful Memory Jar Project

Do you remember your first postcard? I remember mine. My cousin Hasit Bhai sent it to me from somewhere in Europe. It had the picture of a wrinkled old woman on it. On the back he had written. "Don't laugh at her, one day we will be old like this and have so many stories to share." He passed away at 28. But I will always remember the joy of receiving that postcard. And in that joy I always find him. And I often share stories with him in my head when I think of that. It was just a fleeting scribble. But he was 25 and on his penultimate European adventure. And it told me that he was thinking of me, his pig-tailed, bespectacled entirely forgettable little sister, in that most exciting time of his life.

I have loved post cards, ever since. And letters. I loved LOVED letters, both writing and receiving them. But that's for another post. Over the years I was lucky enough to be the recipient of many postcards. From Romesh Uncle who sent me one from wherever he traveled, from my God parents in Germany, from pen-pals I made in faraway places and complete strangers in postcard swaps! Even some I mailed to myself at specific moments on my travels, so I would have them waiting at home to remind me of that moment on my return.

I remember the joy every time I found a postcard or a letter in the mail. I'd immediately pick it up and find a quiet corner or lock myself in my room to savour it in solitude. To the dreamy, bookish, romantic loner of a young girl I was, it meant the world to me. It was tangible evidence of someone taking a moment out of their busy life to spare a thought for me. I still have so many of them. In a little treasure chest by my bed.

So it seemed appropriate then to make the postcard my messenger of joy for the Pinch and Handful Memory Project.

A few weeks after my book A pinch of This, A handful of That launched, I met the first person who said "Your book reminded me of my Grandmother's Halwa. Since then I have lost count of how many people have written, called, messaged to tell me how it reminded them of somebody or someone's cooking; their Mom's Paneer, their Nani's Dal, their Dadi's achaar, their mausis laddoos, their chachis chutney,  their sisters chocolate cake.... you get the idea...

For me, each time someone has said my book reminded them of someone, it was a precious gift, a sign that writing this book was a good thing. Every event we had for the book, I asked people to go say thank you to those that cooked for them. But I always felt that the journey of this book was not done...

I am glad to have had a chance to pay tribute to the people that have cooked for me, fed me and nurtured me. More than anything I love that my Mom knows I am thankful for her Daal soup, her Chinese meals and her love. That my Nani admonishes me smilingly for giving her chaas and simple home cooking so much  importance. (She does not realise that nothing I say will ever be enough to do her justice).

But I also often wished I had had a chance to similarly thank my Dad for his fried rice. I would sell my soul to taste it again just one more time! And my Dadi for her aam papad, the ghesh she saved for me on her fasting days and her chai masala that scents my mornings everyday. And my father - in - law for his meat bhaat, kebabs and those two apples he scoured Dehra Dun for because I was pregnant and craving Apples.

It was a thought that was often echoed. Many people that told me the book reminded them of someone, said, "I wish I had told her/him...

It is from this that the Pinch and Handful Memory Jar Project was born....

We are all fortunate to have been the recipient of somebody's love in the form of food, cooked with love and served with care. But how many times do we actually thank that person? The Pinch and Handful Memory Jar Project is for each of us to do exactly that.

On Saturday 16 May we launched this lovely project at the Bombay Local, a homegrown Local Festival that celebrates home made, artisnal food and food producers through all its endeavors. A most appropriate space for the launch I thought. Thanks to the Insia and Paresh of Small Fry Co. for supporting my bizarre idea!

Some special friends from the food industry were also kind enough to support my insanity to inaugurate the project with a panel discussion. Kalyan Karmarkar, of the blog Finely Chopped, Chef Ranveer Brar, master story teller, one of the most erudite chefs I have met and an amazing friend, my favourite tale spinner archaeologist, food anthropologist, provider of great Parsi food and lots of laughter, Dr. Kurush Dalal and Rukmankan the man behind Trekurious a company that has brought so much excitement to Mumbai Dining with their fabulous curated experiences.

Each shared memories of people that cooked for them and added them to our installation of the memory jar. And then, each wrote a postcard to the people they remembered as my daughter distributed (rather over enthusiastically) retro candy. After this the audience shared their stories and memories and we inaugurated the installation that was open till late at night for people to stop by, dip into the candy jar, leave a memory and write a postcard.

It is a measure of the times we live in that most people were taken aback when we shared the idea. But almost immediately they smiled, popped a bullseye, jeera goli or aam papad and settled down to write a post card, or two, or three... or 10 (yes one young lady did that too!)

Over the next couple of weeks hundreds of postcards will go out carrying messeages of love and thanks that I hope will make people feel special and smile. And I would love to have you join us in this. If you would like me to send you a post card to start you off, email your address and I will. Or just share a memory in the comments of this blog post or on the Facebook Page of A Pinch of This, A Handful of That ( and send off a post card or many on your own.

Share it with the world and us, or don't, but send out that post card!

Much love,

1 comment:

The knife said...

What a lovely read and reminded me of the joy of receiving and writing letters. Thank you for filling my morning with those lovely memories

Was a privilege to be a part of the project at the local