My Sambhar Saga
A few days ago, I stumbled into an amusing sambhar chronicle. Amused and entertained, it reminded me of my nearly 6-month on-and-off love affair (or should I say forced marriage?) with sambhar. Reminiscing about those days, it’s a tale just as fresh in my mind…just that some thing that then seemed ridiculously overwhelming only seems amusing now.
So, here we go…this is for Arindam, my new blog friend and James, my best (and also English) friend and Aaron who suffered and endured those days with me.
Let’s start with quirky fact about Indians…going abroad for international experience, we are always on the look out for Indians around there! And I was no different, at least in those initial days in Manchester. I must admit that it is a comforting feel.
So, going with the norm, I was happy to discover to a couple of Indian mates in my class. They were not from Mumbai, but this change only seemed refreshing then. They were both south Indians and this was my first contact with a typical (or rather non-mumbaite) south Indian. Strange that this happened outside India. I was even happier when in a few days, I formed a strong bound with the whole lot of south Indian boys (one was Goan though) bundled under my first friend’s roof. I became a part of their household very soon, sharing even the groceries, eating most often at this friend’s house.
And then, started my love affair with sambhar. It was one of the really few things that all the boys knew how to make.
It wasn’t love at first sight at all…in fact it was amusement at first sight when I would see these guys have sambhar with any thing…on its own, as a soup, with rice and as an accompaniment. For a mumbaite like me, sambhar was just something you had with south Indian food, which of course was restricted to idlis and dosas! And here I was, with a group of guys who worshipped it. The sambhar was an everyday presence at our meal table, almost a person impossible to ignore or neglect.
Soon, just like I was picked up the ‘ra’s and ‘da’s of Telegu and Tamil, I picked the taste of sambhar as well. I am still not sure if I ‘really’ loved it or thought it was the most nutritious must-have daily food on earth. I will admit that in some ways, there was some thing comforting about sambhar rice, like your own worn out jumper or fleece that never fails to bring you comfort on a cold day. But then, you don’t really look forward to wearing that fleece or jumper everyday…do you? It was bearable in the company of good friends, and when it wasn’t, I would look at my Goan friend, and his quick nod and lowered head would assure me that we would get through it.
Soon, like in about 3 – 4 months (and I am surprised that it was that long), the charm did begin to wear off. Even after I had taken the reigns of the house in my hands, I couldn’t banish it from my kingdom. It was OK if every one else wanted to have it, but it was always a dilemma as to why it became important for me to be in love with it as well! The boys tried presenting it wrapped in different gift papers – with spring onions (this one was indeed very nice), with aubergines, with potatoes, with a mix of every imaginable vegetable on earth. They tried and failed each time, but they never gave up. I would cook food some times just to get out of this only other option that existed when I didn’t cook.
It was a dish of celebration and everyday existence. So, as a farewell of a one of the boys, I and James decided to cook him sambhar. But that didn’t go well! He wasnt amused at all. The only reward we got then was a pointed and aimed dagger look that chilled us to the core and a passing comment, ‘Seems like some one has been trying to cook sambhar’. He did taste it though, passing it off in a second with a sarcastic nod of his head whihc just meant, ‘you fools…you will never realise the beauty of this dish’.
That was the end of…I broke up with sambhar then, after a 6 month love and hate relation. Probably, it was too good for me indeed. But even now, in one of those rare nostalgic moments, I do crave for it…even if its just to remember the old times!
PS: On an official counting program, I and James dug out more than 10 sambhar masala packets in the house. This was of course in addition to all the house made sambhar masala!