Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Fathers and Daughters: Potatoes

Dekha Ek Khwaab To Yeh Silsile Hue

Door Tak Nigahon Mein Hain Gul Khile Hue Yeh Gila Hai Aapki Nigahon Se Phool Bhi Ho Darmiyaan To Faasle Hue

" a little tiffin box of alu bhujia"

Chandni looked at her watch and then picked up the book that lay beside her. She opened it to page twenty three, like she had already done a hundred times since yesterday afternoon, when she had purchased it at the airport after seeing off Anand, her husband of twenty nine years. A drop of sweat fell off her eyebrows onto the open page. Chandni wished the book signing was in the evening so she didn’t have to venture out in the midday Delhi summer heat. Even through the tinted glass of her air-conditioned car, the sun was beating down on her and the salmon silk saree she had foolishly chosen to wear was now sticking to her clammy legs.

She cast a furtive glance at the little canvas bag beside her, inside which she knew lay a small tiffin box of alu bhujia, a potato dish that years back Amit used to cook for her when she would visit his bachelor pad near North campus. Then she was his, his to love, his to write about. He used to call her his muse, his dream, his veneration. But that was when they were young, footloose and fancy-free. Even after all these years, when she cut potatoes, she felt a stirring in her heart, in that part of her heart which she had stopped the day she had watched Amit pull out Anand from a burning plane.

"thodi si haldi, thodi si mirchi"

That morning, when she was cutting potatoes to boil for her breakfast, her heart stung again. Before long, she poured oil in the frying pan. Then she remembered reading in the papers sometime back that Amit suffered from some stomach ailment and could no longer eat spicy or fried food. She quickly took the skillet off the stove and tilted it over the sink to let the oil drain, keeping just a little in the pan. Amit loved food hot enough to make his tongue curl in shock and his nostrils flare in distress. The first time he had cooked alu bhujia for her, she had ran around his house, hands up in the air, tongue sticking out, ranting and panting. Amit rather bemused had calmly stood in a corner; arms folded at his chest and watched her. Finally when she had calmed down a bit, he had offered her a glass of water and some salt. A few days later, he had shown her his new poem based on her histrionics and they both had had a good laugh.

Chandni stared at the rows of neatly labeled jars in her spice cabinet, her sparse eyebrows lowered furrowing her forehead further, her right index finger drumming her chin, searching to add flavor to the potatoes that were smoking on the stove. As she was about to pull out the jar of fenugreek, Amit’s words rang in her ears. The one time she had tried to add tomatoes to his bhujia, he had vehemently refused, explaining “Chandni, beauty lies in simplicity; thodi si haldi, thodi si mirchi.” (some turmeric, some chili)

The car came to an abrupt stop lurching Chandni forward. Steadying herself against the back of the passenger seat she glared at the driver, meaning to give him a piece of her mind. She would have to talk to Anand about this new driver; he was too reckless.

“Madam, aapka phone kab se baj raha hai.”(Madam your phone is ringing for a while)

Oh yes, indeed her phone was ringing. Scrambling through her purse, she found it before the call could get disconnected. Shikha, her daughter hollered from the other end, “Mummy where are you? I have been calling for so long." Without giving Chandni a chance to reply, Shikha continued, "Can you please pick up Diya from day care? They called to say she has a slight fever. Sameer is in Noida and I have an important meeting. I’ll get out of here as soon as the meeting’s done.”

Stifling another sigh, Chandni instructed the driver to go to her granddaughter’s daycare instead of the bookstore. She made a mental note to buy green chilies on the way home. Now that Amit would not be eating the alu bhujia, she planned to serve it with puris, when Shikha would come famished from work to pick up Diya and her daughter liked food that was hot enough to make her tongue curl in shock and her nostrils flare in distress.

This is my food fiction for "Of Chalks and Chopsticks" hosted by Aquadaze this month.

Alu Bhujia


Potatoes – 2 medium-large, cubed

Cumin seeds – 1 tsp

Turmeric – ½ tsp

Red Chili powder – 1 ½ tbsp ( if you don’t like your food very hot reduce to ¾ tbsp)

Salt – 1tsp

Oil – 4tbsp (alt. use 1tbsp of oil and a non-stick skillet)


  • Heat oil in a skillet. Add cumin seeds to the hot oil.
  • When the seeds sputter, add potatoes and sauté for two minutes on high heat.
  • Reduce heat to medium-high and add salt, turmeric powder and chili powder.
  • Stir to coat potatoes with spices. Cook till potatoes are browned and done.
  • Remove from heat and serve with rice or Indian breads along with daal.



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