Onam, a ten day long festival where religion, caste, creed, gender, age, size, wealth, everything is ignored and the whole state gets together to celebrate. And how! Cities light up with colourful lights strung over all the trees, small melas spring up in all open spaces with one scary fun ride after another, people roam around the city on foot instead of honking behind each other in mind numbing traffic and kids dressed in their new beautiful clothes run from one street vendor to another checking out their wares. Everyone is friendly, smiling and happy.
So you can imagine what a disappointment it would be for someone who grew up like that to be cooped up in a house because of the curfew imposed on my current city of residence due to the rising tension and violence regarding some government decision. I used to be a decently active citizen till I crashed, but this decision didnt even call for the violence it generated. Guess everyone was just waiting for an excuse to vent their frustration pent up over years. Sadly the people who worst bore the brunt of this expression was they themselves. And some people like me. Because trapped in my house without any home delivery service available or shops nearby that were open, was me with periods and no pads.
So, armed with cloth like women in most parts of the world still do… I set forth to make this day as good as possible.
Along with the fun and festivities, there is another thing Onam is very famous for. The sadya. A multiple course meal made with utmost care, extreme planning and oodles of love. The reason one dish follows another has a lot of ayurvedic logic along with the lay of the land and the conditions back then. But all in all it is one scrumptious package!
Now given the lack of provisions I had at home, I decided to instead make a traditional breakfast. Dosa with katta chammandi and chaya.
Dosa, a pancake made with rice batter and pulses have been a family favourite forever. The batter usually ground at home and allowed to ferment and rest over night is now available in easy to use packets. My mom used to joke that given a choice between her and dosa, I would choose the dosa. And she wouldnt be too wrong in assuming that😉
Dosas can be of a million different kinds and come November, I shall in detail explain the ada dosa. But for today I had the regular straighforward simple dosa.
Chammandi or chutney is a dip thats eaten with dosa, idli (steamed rice dumplings), etc. They can be of several different kinds as well but mostly all contain coconut. And katta chammandi is a hard version of the regular chutney that is normally consumed with rice.
Scrapped coconut, roasted red chillies, couple of green chillies, ginger, curry leaves, small onions, tamarind and a pinch of salt are ground together on an ammikallu or a stone grinder. The pestle, a heavy rod of stone is rolled over the ingredients on a slab. It doesnt grind them as much as it crushes them with the weight and mixes them together with the movement. My granny used to tell us how in her childhood when they cooked for dozens of people for each meal, she and her sister used to sit on either side of the slab and roll the pestle to each other chanting rhymes and poems. Those fun days of love, innocence and taste have been replaced by my super powerful mixer grinder in my single homeless house.
So, with a couple of crisp dosas made with ghee, a generous dollop of the chutney and a giant cup of piping hot tea, I settle down to some good music and my Onam breakfast! Here’s to another day of starting my own rituals, another day of conquering my demons, another day of making this house just a bit more of a home. My home! Happy Onam folks!
PS: What kind of a foodie would I be if I waited to click a pic before digging in?😉
Katta chammandi in a steel vessel (an iyer obsession)
Onam breakfast (what kinda of a foodie would I be if I waited till I clicked before digging in)