Sunday, August 7, 2011

Ramadan Kareem. Part One.

Nobody, not one person, loses weight during Ramadan.

It isn't just because of the dip in your Basal Metabolic Rate and your body going into starvation-and-scavenge mode. Don't believe everything a bunch of loser-doctors tell you. It's because of the food, dude.

Every Ramadan, I promise I'm going to be good. Attend prayers, stay away from gossip (until dusk, at least. Let's be realistic), feed the hungry and not call sons-of-bitches, sons-of-bitches. It's post-Dusk, Indian time, now. Swearing is not horribly punishable, just plain punishable, when you're not fasting.

Food-wise, I resolve to eat healthy. It is a sincere, written statement, that I fully plan to adhere to. Deep-fried food only once a week, sweets only twice a week, circuit, low-intensity exercises and so on. I stay on that plan for a good, painful two days.

So, after breaking open my fast with an obligatory date, I start off with the fruit. The smell of bondas filled with meat-and-potato explode in the kitchen, with swishy-frying sounds to boot.

But I have my fruit salad. It has mangoes, bananas, oranges, apples, pomegranate. What more does a girl want?

A girl wants Masala vadai that the neighbours sent. A lentil-cumin-curry leafy masala vadai with a cup of ginger-and elaichi tea.

Oh, no. I'm staying away.

I settle for sugar-free pomegranate juice and keerai (greens sauteed with dried red chilli, coconut and caramelized onions). What more could even the hungriest girl want?

Maybe just a teensiest bit of nombu kanji from the Al Huda Masjid in Sait Colony. Every body loves Nombu Kanji, it's soul food. An almost-khichdi like concoction that is given to every person who drops in for prayer at dusk, along with dates and something fried. My non-Muslim friends bug me for this more than they do for Eid biryani.

I eat my little bowl, and I'm happy that I've stuck to my written statement. Go, me. Right.

Dad pops in with bags of food. Unpretentious little paper boxes and newspaper parcels. You know how they say that the best presents come in brown paper packages?

Thus starts the end of my diet and the quest for Obesity (happy, happy quest). Those parcels are from the food stall near the Walajah mosque at Triplicane. Written statement, off to the bin you go.

Check it.

Shammi kebabs. Lamb and lentils pulsed to a fine paste and deep-fried so that it's crispy on the outside, and tender and juicy and spicy on the inside.

Oooh, yes. A little ketchup, and I'm a fat ten-year-old again.

Little chicken and potato cutlets, shaped into hearts and breaded with seviyan and deep-fried.

A big-boned muslim man in kurta-pajamas, a topi and the gruffest of voices made this, I should think. Weirder things have happened.

Some beef kebabs and onions, I have no space in my stomach for. I manage a bite. Why just one bite of grilled spicy kebabs-and-onions (which with Diet Coke is the best supper I can ask for)?

I'm saving the best for the last.

Haleem. I could marry this.

Hello, lover.

Minced meat, broken wheat, vegetables, caramelized onions, dollops of ghee and lashings of spices are simmered for hours-and-hours, topped with lemon juice, some more caramelized onions and a sprinkling of coriander. Served steaming hot. But then again, I can have it congealed and cold; I love it that much. One teaspoonful fills every crevice of your stomach and every chamber of your heart. Did I mention that I like it-like it?

And as one of my best friends, Z, likes to say, "it's sunnath to eat something sweet at the end". Preachy little jackass, who can justify just about anything in this world. Come back to Madras.

So I have to have this gorgeous baked almond halwa, right? It's baked. That's healthy. Semolina, dairy, eggs, nuts. All of it is healthy. Except that is caramelly and decadent and I make enough pastry to not kid myself into oblivion.

All of the above is available at very reasonable rates near the aforemention masjid at Triplicane. I'm told that it is flooded with men at iftiari (breaking of the fast time), who I'm not sure will take very well to a strange girl coming up and photographing away to glory. You know me, though, I'll be more than happy to scandalize people.

Just not now. After all that meat and sugar, I can't move a muscle. I slip out of my food coma only to let the neighbour from down the road in. She brings in a basket of medhu vada and Mysore bonda. I knew checking her Blood Pressure regularly would have its perks.

I know this post comes right after the one on people starving... but there's no place for guilt here. These are hardworking people, striving in the heat to make delicious food they can barely afford. I'll happily give them the money for smaller portions, I've given more for less tasty food. Or neighbours who want to share their home and heart with you... can't turn that down. I wish I could share all of it with all of you.

What is it about food that makes you miss people terribly?

I wish you were here, Syed Sisters. So you can eat double of what I do and make me feel less guilty.

I wish you could have shared this meal with me, W. So you can lie blatantly that I'm skin-and-bones and that I should eat more and fatten up... and proceed to eat double of what I do and make me feel less guilty. This isn't just the food talking.


  1. Ah, at last I have a teensy little spot in your ever famous blog. Am I hungry? No. Would I eat it anyway, hell yeah!

    The shammi and the haleem are all that anyone could ask for, especially me. All this after I've stuffed my face with kanjee, hummus, fruit salad, medhu vada, brownies with walnut topping, mango dal and methi paratha. Are you less guilty yet?

  2. Womagawd! The shammi looks sooo yum! Kanjee and masala vadai is my weakness too!

    Ahh.. you gotta love Ramadhan!

  3. Sarfee: You get a proper guest post next, hokay? And yes, less guilty. :)

    Zarine: Ramadan = total love. Can't believe a third is almost over!

  4. heyy what about me?!? anyway haleem tonight!??! dont say no!! :D