Friday, 21 June 2013

Finish The Sentence Friday Blog Hop (FTSF) # 25

"If I could have dinner with anyone in history it would be with..."

This post is my contribution to Finish The Sentence Friday Blog Hop (FTSF) by JANINE, KATE, DAWN and STEPHANIE.                                                             

I consider myself very fortunate that I am born in India, a country which hosts one of the famous Seven Wonders of the World - TAJ MAHAL. And given a chance I would like to have a dinner date with the Moghul Emperor Shah Jahan  You may want to know why...But first things first.
Having born in India, Taj Mahal has been an integral part of my studies. In history classes in schools, we were taught " Shahjahan built Taj Mahal in memory of his wife Mumtaz." Since then it has been a constant refrain whenever Taj Mahal was mentioned.
Then we grew up with a regular dose of love and romantic saga from bollywood where every other romantic song was picturised with a backdrop of Taj, a symbol of eternal love.And it was only recently that I had an opportunity of visiting Taj with my husband and children.

The majestic view of the Taj, the splendid Mughal architecture, the marvellous marble structure with intricate carvings left us spellbound. We could not help remembering Shahjahan, his love for his wife,his board of architects under imperial supervision, including Abd ul-Karim Ma'mur Khan, Makramat Khan, and Ustad Ahmad Lahauri,generally considered to be the principal designer.

When we took a India Golden triangle tour of Agra, Delhi and Jaipur, having an opportunity to visit the empire of the Mughal,we had our share of fun too when we were given plastic socks and we were made to walk like ducks!

We took with a pinch of salt the narration from the guide when he showed us this image and claimed it to be a "owm" a Hindu symbol integrated with Muslim architecture.

Shah Jahan, the Mughal emperor is well known for his contribution to arts and architecture. So deep was his love for his wife Mumtaz and so disheartened was he when he lost her that he built a grand, artistic and a marble monument which became one of the seven wonders of the world.

When I stood in front of the great monument, the image of the eternal lover crossed my mind along with several other great actors right from Dilip Kumar and Madhubala to recently shot Katrina Kaif. The films Taj Mahal to the latest Slumdog Millionaire danced before my eyes.

So recently when an e-mail started doing the rounds with a lot of accusations against Shah Jahan in the net, I was shocked. The following were the allegations targeted at him which put him totally in a negative light.

(1) Mumtaz Mahal was Shahjahan's 4th Wife, out of his 7 wives. That means, he married "3" more ladies after her.

(2) Shah Jahan Killed Mumtaz's husband in a battle ground to marry Mumtaz.

(3) Mumtaz died giving birth to their "14th" child.

(4) After her death, Shahjahan Married her sister.

(5) Shah Jahan ordered to kill all the workers who built Taj Mahal.

So, in this context, given a chance, I would like to have a date with Shah Jahan and put certain questions to him. Not only do I want to know the truth, but one should not speak evil of the dead and he should be given a fair chance to defend himself.

If what is being proclaimed in the e-mails is true, so be it. But without knowing the facts or having proofs it is unfair to accuse a dead Emperor.

I would like to know :

Is it true that he killed Mumtaz's husband to lay a claim on her?

Did he really love Mumtaz to such an extent that he had that urge to build an
eternal monument in her name?

If so, then why did he remarry after her death?

Even if it is an absolutely personal choice, how could he justify himself for being the reason behind the death of Mumtaz who has to undergo pregnancy and childbirth for an unbelievable fourteenth time?

I don't believe in the allegation that he got the hands of the artisans severed or killed them because India is a country of artists and sculptors and by cutting even thousands of hands, one can't expect the Indians to stop to recreate the magical sculptures. And how can a person having such a romantic heart even think of something so barbaric? 

So Jahapana here is your chance ........

Deepavali...... With Besan Undi, Chakkli, and Chooda !!!
The festival of lights and stars is here again. Lights, sweet and celebration! Lamps painted with colours and decorated with glasses!
But the name deepavali painting  brings back another memory. That of my Amma painting the bathroom before every deepavali with white and clay mud.Then filling the water in HANDE with fresh water and decorating with delicate rangolis and diyas. Not only the  bathroom but the entire house was filled with beautiful intricate rangoli designs and light from the earthen diyas throwing wonderful rhapsody of light on the dark nights. What a wonderful way of celebrating and worshiping the elements!

Today there are rows and rows of sweets prepared with all possible dry fruits and decorative motifs filled in the house.But I can't help getting nostalgic about " ele shyavige paayasa "  and " sandige"  in the night followed by kheeru poori, Jamoon made from fresh dilliwala khova on the following days. Shall I let you into a little secret? Amma used to prepare hundreds of gulab jamoons from fresh khova of which some 20-25 were always set aside by her in a secret little carrier. They were all preserved for me " sannaaki " ( the little one ) to be savored after festival when all the sweets were exhausted. Yumm!!!

As for Naraka Chaturdasi ......

What ? Is it ? Asking me  whether I know that Naraka chaturdasi is the celebration of the death of Demon Naraka, son of Bhudevi in the hands of his own mother who was incarnated as Sathyabhama and was killed at the behest of Lord Krishna ? Yeah sure, sure. I had read about that.

But the word Naraka Chaturdasi  rings in the memory of the day when we started bursting crackers. It was the time to get up at dawn, perform aarathi, get our share of money put in the aarathi by dad, brother, uncles to be shared by us women folk. Though this was a bonus, there was a   down side too ! The compulsion to forego the bursting of  dangerous crackers to boys. Though   never bothered about the equal share in property, during Deepavali we made anna to count each and every piece of crackers and distribute equally among we children.

Somewhere I have read that Deepavali is also celebrated as a festival  culminating the return of pandavas from thier vanavasa and agnathavasa. But the only thing we had learnt from Pandavas was to play PAGADE! Albeit nobody could beat or come anywhere near shakuni in his skills (?), there used to be Dharmarayas and Duryodhanas in equal numbers.
Without the onslaught of TVs and computers, we used to have very lengthy days and yet they were not enough to satiate our desire to play more. Entire locality used to assemble in somebody or the other's house every day during the festival and the games never used to end. Haan kabhi kabhi Mahabharat hote hote bach jaate the!

The ultimate treat of Deepavali was the Naastha ( snacks) wherein we used to get invitations for diwali pharaala each day from friends and relatives for almost a fortnight. And a sumptuous treat of besan undi, chakkli, gilaganchi andchooda, daani used to follow... The taste still lingers.....

Do you want the recipes? sure here they are !!!


This extended festival of lights has always enchanted and enthralled me since childhood. Amma would say " keep some crackers for Tulasi Lagna" and we would obey, eagerly waiting for the D day. I would invariably ask amma whom Tulasi is getting married to and she would smile and say " Damodara i.e Krishna ".

Then she would narrate the story. This is the story of Vrinda, the daughter of giant named Nemi and the faithful wife of demon Jalandhar. Being born in ocean, Jalandhar
claimed supremacy over the ocean and all the treasures churned out  during Samudra Manthana. He declared war over Gods and could not be conquered because of the boon that he would be free from death till his wife Brinda was chaste. Vishnu, in order to kill Jalandhar, assumes her husband's form and beguiles Vrinda. When she realises this, Vrinda curses Vishnu to become a stone ( Saligrama ). Vishnu regrets his action and in admiration of her impeachable chastity and piety, transfers her into the sacred Tulsi plant and promises to marry her annually on this day of Kartik month. The story is registered in my mind along with the heavenly aroma and the taste of laddige prasada amma would prepare on that day. ( yeah, I will give you the recipe!.)

The Tulasi plant and Parijata flower connected with our rich culture and vibrant heritage have always remained my favorites.  Parijatha with its divine and pristine beauty and Tulasi with her love for Lord Krishna and with the  her medicinal value have been on the top of my priority list of home plants. It has been my cherished  dream to have a big Parijata tree in my aangan along with rows and rows of Tulasi plant.

Alas!  I always proposed and thieves disposed. On many occasions whenever I chanced upon Tulasi seeds, plants or seedlings at resorts, gardens and friends' houses, I would beg or borrow and bring them home. Living in a west faced house, I was always forced  to plant the seeds and saplings  on the compound in planter box.

I would squeal in delight when rows of seedlings would take life. But invariably in a week or so, to my chagrin,  my saplings would start disappearing. I had  neighbors who would put up beautiful pots and plants on footpath without any problem and here I was losing every single sapling to these thieves. But like a never- say-die Trivikrama and Bhageeratha I would go on and on with my efforts and face the same results!

As if this was not enough, I had this " Gow Matha ", always pulling out my little "babies", if by any chance left by those thieves with her long tongue right in front of my eyes, disregarding my shouts and threats. I am really dismayed by their attitude and judgement! I have seen in many areas, besides their huge gardens, these "RICH(?)" people will occupy footpaths with  mini gardens and these "holy cows" sitting by the side of these gardens lazily munching with semi closed lids, never daring to even glance at the plants. Is it fear of "RICH N POWERFUL"? Naah! Methinks she just loves the taste of our little angels,  put up with all the love of our heart and soul !

I would try to deter her with some prickly boundaries. No sir! She would care two hoots for such silly tricks! As a last resort one day I put some big glass pieces as boundaries for my planter boxes. Hey! Don't look so flabbergasted! Genuinely I meant no harm, just wanted my kids to grow! Don't take side with her, she was not as innocent as she looked. I stood there when she  arrived and we both stared at each other. She would look at me and then at the glass boundary and at the plants beyond ! Did I see a glint of amusement, sarcasm or was it an indulgent motherly look  at we selfish human beings  in her eyes? Whatever -  she decided not to pursue and left me alone with my plants since then.

Before I could heave  a sigh of relief and hope that all is well, this extraordinary incident happened.  One evening around 7.30, both myself and my husband Prakash were talking  in the balcony in the first floor. Suddenly Prakash looked down and exclaimed " Look! somebody is lifting your Tulsi pot!" This fellow beat everybody else in the game! Instead of plant, he had lifted the whole pot and before I could come out of my dismay and shout, he just coolly walked off !

I pulled Prakash's hand and dragged him down, pushed him onto  his bike and hopped behind him in my nightie.For  5-10 minutes we had totally lost any trace of him. But soon we could spot him walking in the next cross, holding the pot to his chest. As Prakash drove his bike by his side, I jumped from the bike, ran across and held him by the collar of his jerkin like a Jhansi Ki Rani!

All the anger and frustration towards my unknown thieves came surging as I gave him a sound  piece of my mind. So stunned was he at being caught and at my verbal tirade that he even forgot to close his open mouth. By this time a few passersby had gathered, who were both angry at his misdemeanors  and bemused at my histrionics and  heroism! Like a trophy I carried my Tulasi back home amidst much fanfare from my husband and kids. But since then I have almost given up the hope in the face of such onslaught by these "petty" thieves, and my dream of having my little rows of Tulasi has remained just that... A dream...
One day... Maybe one day.............

             LADDIGE          ( Groundnut and Hurigadale Laddu )


Ingredients :

Roasted and pounded Groundnuts    :    2 cups ( They should be pounded into big pieces,size of hurigadale  )

Hurigadale                                       :    2 cups
Jaggery powder                               :    1 1/2 cups
Ghee                                               :    1  cup                       
Elaichi powder                                 :    1 tea spoon

Preparation           :

In a thick bottomed kadai heat ghee and jaggery powder only till jaggery melts. Remove from the heat. Add elaichi powder, ounded groundnut, hurigadale and mix well. Wait till the heat recedes and then roll into laddoos.