Nani?s khichidi
Written by The Indian EXPRESS   
Friday, 28 April 2006


Nani’s khichidi

Harinder S. Sikka


With her death, my appetite for it died too


Games of gilli danda, and plates of khichidi — these are among the fondest memories I have of my childhood.


My grandmother’s khichidi was very special. Her home was not very far from ours and I was a regular visitor to her kitchen. After getting myself into a dusty mess, playing gilli danda in the park next to her home, I would make my way to the kitchen, just following the aroma that seemed to waft all the way to where I was.





Grandfather greatly disapproved of my entering the kitchen with dusty feet, but was helpless to stop me in the presence of grandmother. Impatient and hungry, I would run into nani’s lap to avoid grandfather who, clad in his military fatigues, would sometimes stand at the gate in order to get me to wash up before I made my way in.


Once I was in the kitchen, things went smoothly. My plate of khichidi would be served to me on a patra (small wooden plank). Nani would sit across from me and enjoy the way I tackled the food she laid out for me, even as she spooned generous replenishments on to my plate.


I always regretted the fact that I never paid much attention to the recipe of nani’s khichidi. But I knew she used basmati rice, moong dal, masur dal, pure ghee, jeera, salt, ginger, cinnamon sticks, cardamom, clove, black pepper and water as its basic ingredients. And, yes, dollops of home-made white butter laced the dish. It was always served piping hot, and I would have to impatiently blow on it to cool it down before I sat down to eat it. Meanwhile, nani’s hand-held fan would swirl gently over my head, until a burp would reach her frail ears.


Once the meal was done, I would wash my hands and feet, comb my hair and go to nana for his inevitable pep talk. It always began with words on the importance of being clean, and end with observations on the patriotic Indian army. It was his great ambition to see me become a military officer and fight a war for India. Years later I did make him proud by joining the navy — but I never got to fight a war.


With the passing away of grandmother, my appetite for the khichidi, too, faded away. In any case, I firmly believed there was nobody in the world who could make the dish in quite the way she did.

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