The air outside was crisp and the a cool breeze swayed the curtains. I heard the bells and the sound of conch from the near by temple. I looked outside through the narrow gap between the windows, it was still dark. The morning hustle bustle in our house had started much early.
Aai (my maternal grandmother) had switched on her old transistor on full volume. A familiar voice recited the chants of various hymns of 'Mahisasura Mardini'. I guessed it was 'Mahalaya' ! I have always associated Mahalaya with an early morning audio montage of recitation of stanzas from 'Mahisasura Mardini'.
I heard Padma fill the bucket with water and splash it. Her glass bangles moved in rhythm to make a nice jingle as she swept the courtyard. Gopal Bhai the 'Phul wala' was also early. He rang his bicycle bell twice before he left the small woven bamboo basket with flowers for the usual morning puja. But today there was a 'Laal Mandara Mala' (Red Hibiscus Garland) along with the marigolds. Aai had asked Gopal Bhai for the Laal Mandara ..... she wanted to beckon the goddess by offering her favorite flower. Padma finished sweeping the courtyard and grabbed the faded plastic bowl in which Aai kept the Muruja ( Muruja is fine rice powder/flour. It is used to prepare motifs/rangoli ). She moved her hands swiftly to make a big rangoli around the 'Tulsi'.
The early rays of the sun and the early morning breeze was intoxicating. This morning was quite special in it's own way.
Aai was ready for the morning puja . Her long wet grey hair swayed in the morning breeze as she lit the lamp near the 'Tulsi' and watered it. I stood behind her as she began the puja . My eyes were stuck on the special bhoga/ prasad. "Aai is it Mahalaya ? Does that mean it is Durga Puja ?" Aai smiled and nodded as she gently caressed my tangled hair. Aai completed her Puja and placed a laddu on my hand. I happily roamed around the house nibbling on the laddu.
I knew it was time for new dresses, sweets, buying balloons from every balloon wala that passed by our house, exchange of puja gifts among kith and kin. And most importantly it was time for family reunions and pandal hopping.
I spent the rest of the day following Aai wherever she went and listening to stories of 'Maa Durga' and the victory of good over evil.
I have got so engrossed and busy with life that I have almost forgotten the true meaning of celebrating Puja. I wish I could unwind time and wake up to run to the courtyard and hear stories from Aai while eating Khichudi, Dalma and some warm Kheeri.
Sending this to Pree's 'Beyond Five Days of Durga Puja'.
Preparation Time - 30 minutes
Basmati Rice - 1/2 cup
Mung Daal - 1/2 cup
Chopped Onion - 1/2 cup
Chopped Methi Leaves - 1 cup
Cumin Seeds - 1 tsp
Cinnamon - 2 inches
Cardamon - 4
Green Chili -3
Roasted Peanuts - 1/3 cup
Clarified Butter - 1 tbsp
Salt per taste
Sugar - 1/2 tsp
Method of Preparation
1 Wash the rice and mung daal and keep aside.
2 In a pressure cooker add the clarified butter. When warm, add the cumin seeds, slit green chilies, Cardamon and Cinnamon.
3 Add the chopped onions and fry till brown. Now add the rice and the daal. Stir fry for about 5 minutes. Make sure you stir continuously else it will stick to the bottom of the cooker.
4 Next add the chopped methi leaves and peanuts. Fry for 2 minutes. Add salt per taste and sugar.
5 Add 2 cups of water and pressure cook till you get one whistle.
6 Remove from heat, open cooker and add some clarified butter on top of it.
Serve warm with Dalma
You can use roasted mung daal instead of raw one.
You can use cashew nuts instead.
Mung Daal Khichudi - Muga Dali Khechedi, Methi - Fenugreek.