The yearly pickle ritual


It is 11 am in the morning; and as I type away on my keyboard, one corner of my eye is watching my phone for a call that I have been expecting from a friend.

This is not a regular ‘catch-up’ call. This call signifies a yearly ritual, when one my dearest friends buys special raw mangoes, makes the yummiest mango pickle, bottles it and then gifts it to all her dear friends.

So, today is that day..and just the thought of the pickle makes me salivate.

Soon, my screen lights up and I hop down joyfully to our lobby, where my friend passes the bag, waves a cheery goodbye, and drives away in a rush.

I hug the bag and walk home. Before I put the bottle into the refrigerator, I open the lid and inhale the aroma. Pure bliss!!

Image courtesy – http://www.shutterstock.com

I look at the clock, an hour and a half to go for lunch. I get back to work. But like a child who has been given a gift or who has a happy secret, I keep smiling in anticipation.

As I try to focus on my work, my Dad visits my thoughts. Back in my childhood, whenever my Dad sat down to eat, and when the first hot serving of rice was on his plate, the first thing he would do was to add a little bit of ghee, and then add mango pickle or lime pickle to his rice and eat that as his first course. And if we were around, he would give us spoonfuls of hot pickle rice, and we would devour them with relish.

It is finally lunch time. As all of us sit down at the table, I heap hot, fluffy rice on my plate, add a little ghee, and add my friend’s mango pickle. I mix it, and take the first mouthful. Divine!!!

And for a minute there, I go back to my childhood kitchen, and feel my Dad’s presence. The years have flown by, but time seems to have gone back to the past for a brief sojourn.

I ask my kids if they want to taste the pickle rice. And they taste it and love it! No surprise there at all!!

I smile. The bigger things in life may keep changing, but there are some simple moments in life that are sheer magic, and that don’t change.

I bless and thank my friend for all her efforts and love each year.

Very, Berry Good


I am doing my weekly vegetable shopping; my eyes fall on lovely, green gooseberries.

We Indians pickle gooseberries, grind them into chutneys or eat them raw, with a little salt.

My mouth waters when I see these beautiful berries. I quickly unroll a plastic bag from the dispenser and fill it with gooseberries.

As I stand in the checkout line, I smile as I remember how we loved these small berries as children.

Just outside our school, was a street hawker, who sold all kinds of berries. She was usually seated on a stool in front of a small table, where beautiful triangular mounds of berries called out to young children.

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              The Indian Jujube
   Courtesy – http://www.maalaimalar.com

The measuring of these berries was done using small metal containers called ‘padis’ – a measuring system that goes back hundreds of years, and which was still prevalent when I was growing up. There were measuring containers of different sizes, each priced accordingly.

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     The padis used for measurement
       Courtesy – http://www.thehindu.com

The lady usually had an assortment of berries, all in vibrant colours – Naga Pazham (Jamun), Vicki Pazham (a local wild berry), Elantha Pazham (Indian Jujube) and Gooseberries.

We usually bought an assortment for 25p. With our school bags slung on our back, we would receive the berries in our palms, and bite into them lazily, as we took the bus home.

The Naga Pazham usually coated our tongues purple, and we would sometimes pretend that we had worn lipstick, by applying the juice on our lips.

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                  The Naga Pazham
          Courtesy – http://www.agrifarming.in

The wizened, old lady who sold these berries, was there as long as I can remember. She must have sold thousands of berries to school children over the years.

She did not speak much, but just cackled out the price, when asked. She had a jute bag, under which our coins would disappear. During winter she wore a scarf and a shawl, but she was always there, come rain or shine.

I come back to the present and feel a tingle of anticipation when I think about eating the gooseberries I have bought.