Monday, December 20, 2010

Right Choice, Charia

My mother grew up in Central Calcutta; Free School Street, to be precise. It’s not called that anymore, although its new name—Mirza Ghalib street—is not very well known and is also a bit ironic since the poet envied the growing ascendancy of Calcutta over Dehlee, penning this little ditty after a trip to the city: Kalkattey kaa jo zikr keeyaa tuney hamnasheen, ek teer mere seeney pe maaraa kee haaye haaye ("the very mention of Calcutta is like a dagger through my heart", or something to that effect).

Free School Street at the time (60s/70s) was populated mostly by Sindhis, I’m told, with a fair share of Anglos and Hindustanis—a quirky Calcutta/Bong term for Hindi speakers which alludes to the historical meaning of Hindustan, a region which more or less maps to the current Hindi belt. This population mix still holds, more or less, with Bangladeshi tourists being added to the mix (which has resulted in a couple of pretty decent Bengali restaurants there). Consequently, I’ve grown up eating a fair bit of Sindhi food that my naani picked up from her neighbors which was then in turn picked up by my mother. Daal pakwaan, chanaa daal with crisp, almost brittle, puri-esque fried bread, is a personal favourite and gee’ar—basically a latticed jumbo jalebi—is nice too. And although I don’t particularly like the tangy sindhi kadhi (I think it has imli in it), a lot of people in my family do and it was the only sort of kadhi cooked in my house.

Unfortunately, the Sindhi’s best food habit—as I’ve recently learnt from Wikipedia—never made it across to my naani’s house:

Johnnie Walker Black Label is considered the sindhi alcoholic beverage of choice. Many sindhis choose to drink this with Coca-Cola or Diet Coke


P.S.: Charia is a really popular Sindhi swear word (it was, at least, popular with the Sindhis I've known). I don't know what it means though.


Atul Prasad said...

My Landlord, when I was studying in Ranchi, was a Sindhi and I had food at his house. Though the food was cooked by the maid who was a Nepali, the food was cooked well according to the "Sindhi" way. However, as far as I remember Kadhi never had imli in it. The only peculiar thing was that we put Pakodas in our Kadhi and the Sindhi aunty instructed the maid to put Matar :)

Hades said...

Pakodas? Or badi? But then again a badi is a besan (?) ka pakoda. Our Sindhi Kadhi does have imli in it; I checked with mom! Dunno which is the "authentic" one though.