Never Return a Bowl Empty!
Updated: Dec 8, 2019
That south Indian delicacy sure tasted good, but I don't really remember the name of the dish. Anyways I will ask Niti Auntie when I will return her bowl (Katori) back. I cannot give her the empty bowl, I guess a bowl of Tikki-Chole (potato cutlet topped with chickpea curry) would be nice to bring her katori back. I can hardly speak any Kannada (local language from Bangalore) she barely broken Hindi but we have some level of English to communicate and in our every meeting she picks up a few words of Hindi and me barely a little bit of Kannada. Its not an easy language, the script is different then English or Devanagari (Hindi) even the damn bus and the electricity and water bills are in Kannada ONLY! I had no idea which bus came and went and which bill I was paying. So again the neighbors came to the rescue.
Its a weekend and its raining cats and dogs, the house is smelling of chole-tikki and I am all ready to bring her the crispy tikki topped with chole and a tangy tamarind chutney. R was not very begistered with the idea because of the rain but you know me. There I went! They were just having their dinner, I was glad they didn't finish it. I barged in with a steaming bowl in my hand with my big black grandpa umbrella which I hated. I always wanted one with flowers which I have seen the Japanese tourists carry. Anyways, Niti auntie was very happy to see me and started putting thousands questions about the dish. Just so you know we are talking here about the early nighties, still not the age of internet. Hence the curiosity, as the South-Indians like the north Indian delicacies and vice versa. She has tried this dish somewhere in a restaurant. I just said enjoy it now and if you like we can exchange the recipes later over a cup of filter coffee. Now the best filter coffee you get in the silicon valley (Bangalore) is in these little tiny Kannadige restaurants or else of course at a typical Kannidiga home. Their are these coffee vendors too who have small coffee tanks/thermos on their bikes and they sell it in the parks and gardens. What a treat that was for me and R, we loved it and sometimes if we could spot a Bhutta vendor, to have a bhutta (roasted corn, smeared with hot green chutney) and filter coffee, that was the best snack ever!
Anyways, after few days I got a knock on my door and Niti Auntie is standing there with a plate in her hand. I offered her to come in and asked her for a coffee. She agreed for the drink but for an Indian chai and she even peeked how I was making it. The thing or rather the fact is, a north Indian can make the best chai but should not attempt on the filter coffee and vice verse. OK, there are always exceptions, if you be one. We had a chai and I also tried her caramelized kaju katli (cashew nuts fudge) and I was immediately hooked on to it. With great difficulty I left two for R, otherwise it wouldn't be fair. The caramalization was not intended she said, it just happened and I am glad it did. Now if I think about it, to me it tasted like how Rahm Täfeli tastes today here in the Möö Möö land, Divine, would be the word. But now it was my turn to throw the questions, unlike my dish which had a dozen ingredients, this little humble delicacy had just as little as four ingredients and she told me quickly. Till date I use this recipe base to make my kaju katli.
Isn't it amazing how some dishes remind you of some people and it stays with you forever, the dish and the people. Special! After that we exchanged so many recipes from each other and had many chats over chai and coffee. My first encounter with cooking and south indian cooking too!
Although India is so diverse but in my opinion there are a few things which still keep us together. The most important thing is food. Be it your neighbor or your work colleague, the moment you start living somewhere new the first thing to do is bring some sweet delicacy or other specialty to them. Its just a thing you do, in a way to introduce yourself. It starts there with small conversations, little chai and coffee afternoons, exchanging of recipes and before you know it, you might get close to these people and may become good friends too. The beauty in this whole thing is it happens so naturally and organically that its super effortless. It almost becomes your second nature to do things like that.
Back home that you never return an empty Katori (bowl or dish in hindi) back to your neighbor. So, lets say your neighbor bought some some delicacy to try in a steel bowl or a plate and when you will go to return it back then you will never return it empty. You will always make something special, a delicacy from your town or family, a sweet dish or if you dont have time to make it then it will be returned with some sugar in it. I think its such a nice little thing, call it nature, behavioral or a cultural thing. I never really thought about it so deeply but the more I think about it the more I think, its such a nice thing to do, a little sweet and effortless gesture. Its sweet as a sweet and its just NICE! But this little gesture is much more then that. It brings people and cultures together. There are some exchange of ideas and it feels nice to do such little gestures with an unconditional expectation.
Until now I never really thought about it but where ever in the world I have lived, I really have acted in the same way unknowingly and in return have met some fantastic people, got to know about their way of lives and culture and learned some great dishes too.
After all its all these little things in life that matter...............wouldn't you agree!
Do you have also some little nuances coming from your family, your country and in your culture. Would to hear about them.