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Mouthpiece #57


Vibha Sharma

August 19 · Issue #57 · View online
Weekly digest of Vibha Sharma

I am who I am
I think I chose to let go of my “identity” when I quit the job to be a stay at home mom. Because usually what we do, forms our identity, especially in our society where the work is tightly associated with certain designations outside, monthly pay checks, growth in any organisation and climbing the ladder towards zenith.
I usually do not engage in discussions on comparison of working women with non-working ones, because I have always felt and believed that there is so much to any personality that a single aspect cannot be compared in a fair manner. What the word ‘working’ signifies for one may not be the same for others. Moreover, a very significant aspect of this choice is how well this decision works with the rest of the parameters of running a household successfully.
Having said that, there are times when one actually begins to search for that identity for oneself. Who am I? Being 'so and so’ are just the roles that we play throughout our lives, but what is it that actually defines me? I have started confronting this question more now than ever before. I wonder, is this what mid-life crisis or revelation feels like?
It so happens that, one becomes a filler for almost anything and everything, one’s opinion or choice is not considered important because being at home is interpreted as having given up the right to choose what, where and how; on many occasions one loses the assertiveness in decision making because ultimately the necessary fuel for its execution does not rest with you; one actually becomes a subject of different interpretations by different people - lazy, not aspiring, a fool, a potential case of depression and similar such.
Having spent many years in this status, I can say that it does need a certain amount of courage, fortitude, unflinching belief in one’s decision, single focus and most importantly, faith on how God shows the path and turns one’s thinking accordingly.
If given a choice would I want to change my decision of working or not-working, perhaps not, because I don’t see any other better way of spending this time than being a close companion to the kids and then letting them fly without any strings attached.
So an identity or a lack of it - I know - I am who I am.
What's cooking? Vegetable pakoras
I very vividly remember those wintry and/or rainy evenings when the dinner used to be ‘something different’, different from the regular affair of dal-roti or sabzi-roti. Why not rice-dal or rice-sabzi because rice at night was quite unheard of, especially in traditional Punjabi households. But those evenings, followed by those dinners were, well, DIFFERENT because vegetable pakoras adorned the menu for those nights. The preparation for pakoras used to begin pretty early - vegetables were cut in specific shapes and sizes, besan (chana flour) was mixed in water well in advance, the batter was infused with multitude of flavors of - grated garlic-garlic, finely chopped green chillies and coriander leaves; and the mustard oil was heated up in a big wok. The whiff of flavours emanating from the kitchen used to be just too irresistible. I clearly remember how those minutes waiting for the dinner call were so killing. Now when I look back, I really wonder, how big and special were those little joys of life.
Over to the time when we were in Boulder, Colorado, USA, during the first year post marriage. Trying to recreate the magic of those bygone days (in fact nights), I would plan pakora-dinner for the evenings when it snowed there. But soon realised that during the season, it snowed pretty frequently and even when it was not snowing, it used to be so cold that piping hot pakoras with hot ginger tea is what one can call sheer bliss.
I love making pakoras and as mummy would say, making pakoras is an art which demands artist’s (here a cook’s) love and happiness. Without further ado, let’s begin our journey in the pakora heaven.
Chana Besan: 2 cups
Grated ginger-garlic: 2 tbsp
Finely chopped coriander leaves: ¼ cup
Finely chopped green chillies: 2
Red chilli powder: ¼ tsp
Garam masala: ½ tsp
MDH chana masala: 2 tsp
Baking soda: ¼ tsp
Mustard oil : for deep frying
Salt: to taste
Take a bowl and put chana besan in it and add 1 ½ cups water to it. Mix thoroughly. Cover the bowl and let it sit for half an hour. Again mix it well and adjust the water to make it as runny as dosa batter (slow running consistency). Now add all the ingredients, except mustard oil in the batter and prepare a smooth batter with all ingredients well incorporated.
Vegetables used:
Brinjal: 1 big to be cut in round 2cm thick discs starting from the purple tip
Cauliflower: in small florets
Potatoes: 2 (to be cut like brinjal discs)
Spinach: 1 cup (chopped finely)
Green chillies: 4 (with a slit in the center)
Onions: 2 big (cut in thin slices)
Put oil in a deep pan and heat it up, now reduce the flame to medium high. Keep the vegetables ready in the meantime. Sprinkle a pinch of salt and red chilli powder on the cut pieces before putting them in the batter. I prefer to start with brinjal and potatoes as they start changing colour if kept exposed to air. Dip the pieces in the batter and drop them carefully in hot oil one by one ensuring that they don’t stick to each other. Turn the sides so that they get fried nicely on all sides. Remove the first batch from the oil and spread them on paper napkins so that excess oil gets absorbed. Cauliflower, green chillies are to be fried next. Now divide the batter in two halves, in one put the chopped spinach and in the rest put onion slices. If the one with spinach looks too runny, add some dry chana besan to it and also adjust the salt and other ingredients in it. Now with a spoon, pick small portions of both the mixtures one by one and fry them in the oil.
The whole process will take some time and a lot of patience too but the outcome will be worth all the effort, I vouch.
I usually keep the pakoras ready till this stage well in advance and when they are to be served, I re-fry them in piping hot oil. The pakoras get ready in a jiffy and they remain hot when served.
Serve them with hot phulkas (chapatis) along with mint chutney, home-made saunth (tamarind-jaggery chutney) and grated radish. 
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