Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Mirchi ka Achar / Green chilli pickle - 2

Mirchi ka achar

In every moment, hour or day, in our life, there is a lesson hidden. Every person, every animal, every change in nature teaches you something. You are vigilant enough, quiet enough inside .... you get to learn.
Like I am doing these days.
I am learning what 'class' is ... all over again.

Life has doled out to me my share of bullies ... and more. And to tell the truth, I have never been one to handle them well. I'd rather stay back and let them do all they can to get attention. I had learnt early that bullies want attention. To feel important. To feel they are in control.
Starting in school, where I had to face this bully of a girl who had slid down two classes and landed with us and her little sister, who was my friend.
Her idea of superiority lay in scaring us, just before exams, with numerous ideas of what could go wrong and how we could either have to hand over a blank paper or write every answer wrong and end up with a zero.
My getting good marks was not enough to instill even a little courage, or wipe away the fear this caused, in me.
It has stayed on as a terrifying memory always.

Later in life, there have been other bullies too.
But what I had noticed most was their pattern and motive was always the same.
To create fear. To subdue. To feel superior. To grab attention.

Ma had always tried to drill it into me, "Never give in to insolent might" ... quoting a line from one of Rabindranath Tagore's poetries, that we often sang at our school assembly along with other hymns.
"And always remember your class. "

I often wondered how difficult it must have been for Ma, a spunky and educated lady, belonging to a prominent family, brought up in a city like Delhi and later married into an equally prominent but very traditional family, to bring up a quiet, shy, sensitive and introvert daughter like me.
She did make sure that I took part in everything ... and excelled too. School dramas, debates, singing competitions, good marks ... every possible thing.
And I loved them too.
However, while this made me every teacher's pet, it made matters worse when it came to the bullies.
Thankfully, my growing up in a joint family hugely helped in not turning me into an unsocial person.

Mirchi ka achar
When I left home to come to this city for further studies, things started to change.
My friends here brought me out of my shell. Family instilled values and Ma's constant encouraging voice was already inside me. Coupled with my friends encouragement, I started to open up.
Learnt to express my thought and feelings ... to a certain extent albeit.
Bullies were around in college life too ... but they very few. And very subtle.
My achievements would draw a couple of cold shoulders ... that is all.
But with wonderful friends, they were happily ignored.

That is when I started to learn how to deal with the bullies.
Ignore them.
They wanted the attention they could not get by their usual activities ... which were hardly of any worth, not surprisingly. Hence the aggression.
Slowly, I learnt. Later in life, there have been different kinds of bullies in every turn.
Some love to hurt with words. Some love to show aggression.
But they were all the same. To me.

And I learnt to ignore. To keep my head high. To stay quiet and move to the back of the crowd.
To not stoop and retaliate.
To remember what 'class' is. 
And to do the best in whatever I am doing.
That, eventually, would shut them up.

It is difficult to develope a thick skin, but in the end you learn to dust the hurt off your shoulders with, if not a flick, a good two or three hard pats, and resume on with life.
There would be tears for a while, but as I grew older I realised not everyone had the patience to deal with them.
Life is a teacher. And a good teacher too.
And last night, something happened to remind me of bullies .... that eventually led to this writeup.

Green chilli pickle
On the streets just outside our housing complex, roams an abandoned dog, since last monsoon, when he was still a growing puppy. He is healthy, his black coat has a shine and walks with a grace unseen in other strays.
Clearly, he belongs to a good breed.

Our watchmen and other people of the society adopted him when food was concerned. He sleeps under the watchmen's table. But he needs company.
Bouncing with energy, he approaches anyone nearby to play with him.
While the humans often respond with love and attention, the street mongrels are not so friendly.
In fact, they refuse to allow him to be anywhere near them.
We watch with hope that he would be able to mingle with them eventually and learn the ways of surviving on the streets.

Last night, I watched as he tried to approach and befriend a group of street dogs, who reside in this area, again. Futilely.
The dogs started to growl and bark at him. Some, who were on the opposite side of the road, rushed in too.
And jumped on him, all the while barking furiously.
But all he did was keep stepping back. Neither once did he growl back, bark or show any kind of aggression. Which is surprising for a fully grown dog.
But no. Not once did he retaliate.
I have seen this happening a lot of times, and as always, he quietly stepped back and slowly walked away. Head high, nary a sign of defeat in his stance.
The rest of the mongrels kept barking at him till he turned around the corner and disappeared.

And all that came to my mind was " That is 'class'."

Cooking green chilli pickle
A few days back I got these very fresh Kashmiri green chillies and wanted to make something new with them.  Did not feel like cooking them the usual way and see them wilt.
So chopped them up and made this quick Mirchi ka achar or pickle.
The fresh crunchiness stayed. And mixed with the pickle masala and vinegar, tasted beautiful.
I did not have hing/asafoetida at home ... so this is a no hing achar.

Need :

Fresh, green Kashmiri chillies - 6 pieces, chopped into big pieces
Paanch Phoron - 1 tsp ( Saunf+Sarson+Kalonji+Methi+Jeera)
White/Yellow mustard powder - 2 tbsp (I just gave a pulse in the grinder)
Red chilli powder - 1 tbsp
Salt - 1 tsp
Vinegar - 2 tbsp (I had chilli vinegar)
Mustard oil - 6 tbsp

How to:

Heat the mustard oil in a kadahi, till it smokes.
Remove from heat and cool slightly ... so that the Paanch phoron does not burn.

Add the Paanch phoron and return to heat.
When it starts to splutter, add the chopped chillies and toss well.
Add salt + red chilli powder.
Fry well, till the chillies are a little cooked. Do not cover.

Add the mustard powder and the vinegar and toss well on high heat.

Lower heat and give a good stir and remove.

Mirchi ka achar
Cool before serving.

This stays well in the fridge,covered, for a week.
You can add half a teaspoon of sugar too ... if you want it slightly sweetish.

Goes great with a meal of hot rotis and sabzis.
 Or on the side of a rice meal too.
I often dunk in the masala and a little oil in a simple dal ... takes the dal to a different level.

Here is a snap of my lunch plate with his pickle ... Rice, Bhaja mooger dal, Aloo Borboti fry, Salad and Mirchi ka achar.
Bengali vegetarian lunch plate

Enjoy folks !!

My other Mirchi ka Achar, made with small green chillies is here 
... with an equally long, but hilarious, write.