Saturday, 1 August 2015

Tetul Dhyarosh / Ladies finger cooked with tamarind
Ma called this morning to give the news.
"The developers have started work. Amader bari ta bhanga shuru holo."
I had just picked the laptop up and settled down to make this post ... one of Thamma's recipes.
But suddenly feel disoriented.

I sit down for a while. Everything stops still. The cold wind that has been blowing all morning, the noises from the road, even the TV playing downstairs somewhere ... everything stops.
A huge silence engulfs me. 

I knew this was coming.
Ever since we cousins gathered together at Dadu's house a few months back, we knew we would get this news one day.
We knew we were getting the whole family together for the one last time.
Dadu's house was being sold.
And we had wanted to be together to relieve and hold on to old memories.
Of this house where we had grown up.
The house where Thamma ruled.
Where the whole family of five brothers and their brood stayed together for years ... long after Dadu or Thamma were no longer around.
The house that held huge orchards of mango trees, betel trees, banana and coconut and chikoo trees together ... cushioning us from the outside world. 
The house that has two huge ponds still ... one on the south and the on the east.
The house that had a khidki duaar / side door, on the pond on the east ... where Thamma would sit on quiet afternoons, letting the cool breeze from the jamun and jamrul trees dry her thick, long hair.
To build this palatial house of his dreams, Dadu had set up a brick kiln in the premises. The bricks held his initials.
I can still see him, very fair with shiny white hair,  sitting with his friends in the cane chairs, outdoors on the portico, every evening.
The breeze from the ponds ruffled his dhuti and kurta of cream silk,  as well as his hair, lightly. 
The shine from the golden buttons on his kurta would reflect in his open hearted laughs.

The mango orchards have seen us in our childhood ... playing hide and seek, climbing the low ones and hold picnics and choduibhaatis under the big ones. Ma and Jethimas would cook khichuri and mangsho in makeshift chulhas or stoves. Dadu would sit us down and make us sing by turns.
In the end, the mali / gardener would instruct his assistant to climb up the coconut trees and bring down tender coconuts for us.
While the elders drank the water, we children were more interested in the tender flesh inside.
What days they used to be!

Thamma was a lady.
All of four feet or a little less, she was the quiet strength that held the family together.
Head held high, thick black hair tied into a severe bun, crisp white sari with one single chain with a guinea as pendant and blue opal studs in her ears, Thamma looked a lady in every way.

Never have we heard her worry or think of anything negative.
Never have we seen her raise her voice as she commanded over a huge family and numerous househelps as well as the people working for the zamindari.
Huge amounts of food used to be cooked everyday for numerous people. There used to be an unending stream of relatives too. But everything ran like clockwork.
From the daily morning green grocery shopping to the dinner menu.
From entertaining Dadu's friends at tea to looking after the childrens' meals.
From keeping track of the helps and their families to keeping count of exactly how many mangoes or bananas or coconuts each tree of each variety produces every season.

But my favourite vision of Thamma was in the evenings.
Fresh starched white sari with a red border, hair just tied up, face clean and shining, she lit the evening lamp at the Tulsi plant in the uthon.
And then, in a big sized dhunuchi in which the helps would keep a few smouldering coals and some coconut husk, she would add the dhuno ( a resin like sap that creates fragrant smoke when burnt ).
Then she would walk all around the huge house with the fragrant smoke billowing out from the dhunuchi.
She would start from the Thakur ghor / puja room , upstairs, in the center of the house.
Then would complete the whole of the upstairs that included Jethu, Ranga kaku and Sejokaku's rooms and anterooms. Then the terrace.
Lastly downstairs ... the drawing rooms, the maajher ghor / ante rooms, Choto kaku's rooms, Dadu's room, the dining room.
Then the two kitchens, the bharar ghor and the goaal ghor / cow shed.
Moving lightly from room to another , she was a vision.
I loved to follow her and would often take the bowl of dhuno from the help and walk with Thamma.

The memories flow freely and wildly.
As do my tears. 
The house of my childhood is gone. Is this how things come to an end in this life?
Starting with your dearest ones? 
Does it always hurt this much when you lose things, memories or people close to your heart and life? 
Chokingly, I ask about the ponds. 
"They are still here. Since they are too deep, nobody is interested in them." 
I sigh in relief. 
They are safe. They are a part of my life too. I shall share their stories another day. 

Before coming back, Bapi had asked me if there was something I would like to keep from the house. 

"Just keep a couple of those bricks with Dadu's name on them, if possible."

Since I had started to make a post on Thamma's recipe, I will do so.
Thamma made two kinds of tauk or ambol. One with tamarind and the other with whole amchur or dried mango pieces. 
To the ones with amchur, she always used a little mustard paste too. 
With the tamarind, it was just mustard seeds and whole red chillies and jaggery. 
I did not have jaggery, so used sugar instead.


Bhindi / Dharosh / Ladies finger - around 10 pieces, washed and dried well
Tamarind pulp - 3 tbsp 
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp 
Whole red chillies - 1, broken 
Haldi / Turmeric powder - ¼ tsp 
Red chilli powder - ½ tsp 
Salt - to taste 
Sugar - 1 tbsp ( this is a slightly sweetish dish, so use the amount of sugar to balance with the tartness of your tamarind pulp )
Cooking oil - 1 tbsp ( I use mustard oil )
Water - around 2 cups

How to

Cut the dharosh / bhindi into medium sized pieces ( refer pictures ). 

Heat oil in a kadahi / wok. 

Add the mustard seeds. As soon as they start to crackle, add the red chilli and the bhindi. 

Give a good stir on high heat. 

Add the haldi powder + salt. Cover and lower heat. 

Cook till the bhindi is done. 

Remove cover, raise heat and add water + tamarind pulp + red chilli powder + sugar. 

Cover, lower heat and let it simmer till the water thickens slightly.

Serve cool or at room temperature.

This was lunch thala with the Bhaja Muger dal, Aloo dharosh bhaja, Potol bhaja and this Tetul dharosh or Bhindir tauk.



  1. Amar chokhey jol eshe gelo. Many years back we had our purono bari broken and divided just for the sake of each of us having a diff. home instead of joint family. Though our new house sits on the same property it never had been the same. Gone was the pond and the garden and cowshed and so many things. Even worse now that the open fields are nothing but ugly lines of houses around. Brishti r diney, jhoop jhoop kore taal porto gach theke... frogs croaking in the pond...where are those sounds? Hugs to you Sharmila. I can understand your tears. Some things will be cherished only in memories and beautiful writing like this.
    I have some dhyarosh. I think I will go ahead and make tauk in this summer heat. Take care and hold on to your memories. Thanks for sharing,

  2. sob sob sob dekhte pachilam chokher samne. amaro pore mon kharap hoe gelo. recenty eirom kore amar desher bario change hoe geche. ami beshidin okhane thakini kintu mone hochhilo amar chotobelata harie gelo. eirom touk amader bariteo banay mach die. mainly choto chingri nayto choto puti etc die. kije bhalo lage. sesh pate mishti mishti tok nie galpo korte korte bela gorie jeto.

    1. Sayantani ... shotti, chotobela ta e shesh.

  3. My heart weeps whenever I visit Chembur and pass by the chawls where my grandparents,uncles and aunts used to live..the playgrounds where we used to play with cousins, the streets that we used to roam at nights during Ganesh chaturthi, the garden where my Massi used to take us for evening strolls..the neighbors there, who were more close to us then, in comparison to what our own relatives are today, the stalls we visited for some quick evening snack..things have changed, people have moved on, the stalls are gone, the chawls are still there but no known faces could be seen...swanky shops, huge malls, metro trains..the changes are inevitable but memories are enduring !

    1. Very true Alka. That's what life is all about I guess ... moving on.

    2. Alka said it...change is inevitable but memories endure...that is how those who leave us live our memories. Thanks Sharmila for sharing your lovely memories with us, thereby helping bring back some of our own.

  4. Sad the old house had to go. About 35 years ago my father built the home that stands today but now it is waiting to be divided. Very sad to see. I feel your pain. I know the inevitable will come my way too. Hugs dear Sharmila.

    1. I knew it too but it still hurts. Thank you Anjali.

  5. Hi.. Some things just cannot be said with words.. We just have to be brave and try to find our way through tears and turmoil within...

    Take care,


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