Deserted afternoon streets, piles of watermelons on the roadsides, exuberantly priced mangoes and frequent power outages. Does this ring a bell ??
You guessed it right - The Indian Summer.Our schools were closed and we were a bunch of juveniles running around Aai's (Grandma) courtyard, mostly engaged in regular squabbles ..... like who would sleep next to Aai during the afternoon story telling session, yet another thing that we fought over regularly was who would get to eat the takua (Mango seed or Endocarp)!
While we fought about the most trivial things within the comfort of the four walls caring little about the difficulties of life, there was one sweaty lean guy who struggled to make a living ... Raghu Kaka. He was probably in his forty something, dark complexioned and wrinkled faced, paan stained teeth and unkept hair ... in short nothing close to looking attractive. The only thing that made him look human was his warm affectionate smile.
Every morning I would see him sit by the staircase having a word with Aai. He would often talk about the village politics,his daily business and the sabzi mandi, his family and about his four kids who went to school. At times Aai would offer him a cup of tea with some Mudhi (puffed rice). He was supposedly from Aai's native and was a fruit vendor. He would arrive by the early morning passenger train and pull out his rickety rusted cycle which he kept in one corner of our garage. He would carefully inspect the bicycle and then tie a big bamboo basket behind the cycle and tightly secure it with a rope before riding it away. That was his everyday routine. I would sometimes watch him sitting on the staircase leaning against Aai as they made a conversation ..... Some days he would offer me a mango. But it was Aai's strict instruction not to take anything for free.
This was everyday routine to see Raghu Kaka during our summer vacations for years together till he grew old and weak and stopped coming.
Today I remembered him after decades ...simply out of the blue without any relevance while preparing this South Indian delicacy. There wasn't anything significant about this person that would leave a lasting impression ..... he was like any regular guy who came to the city to make a living.
I wondered why he crossed my mind after all these years .... Is it because things which we sometimes consider to be insignificant and irrelevant leave a bigger impression on our lives ??
Preparation Time 60 minutes
Small Tender Eggplants/Bringjal - 6
Peanuts - 1/2 cup
Sesame Seeds - 1 tbsp
Dry Coconut powder - 1 tbsp
Chopped Onion - 1/2 cup
Ginger Garlic Paste - 1/2 tsp
Dry Red Chilis - 5
Cumin Seeds - 1/2tsp
Cumin Powder - 1/2 tsp
Coriander Powder - 1/2 tsp
Curry Leaves - Few
Turmeric Powder - 1/3 tsp
Asafoetida/Hing - 1/3 tsp
Tamarind juice - 1/3 cup
Jaggery/ Sugar -1/2 tsp
Cloves - 3
Cinnamon - 1 inch
Cardamon - 2
Bay Leaf - 1
Salt per taste
Oil for cooking
Method of Preparation
1 Wash the eggplants and pat dry. Slit them into four halves with the stem intact and fry them in oil. Keep aside.
2 Dry roast peanuts,sesame seeds, coconut powder and red chilies. Grind them into a paste adding little water and keep aside.
3 Heat little oil in a wok. Add all the whole spices,curry leaves and cumin seeds. Add chopped o onions and fry till golden brown. Add ginger garlic paste and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add salt and turmeric.
4 Now add the tamarind juice and add cumin and coriander powder. Mix well and let it simmer. Add sugar/ jaggery to it. Also add the asafoetida.
5 Take the peanut paste and add it to the above mixture. You may add water to adjust the consistency.
6 Once the gravy begins to simmer add the egg plants and cook. Make sure to stir the gravy in between.
Serve as a side with pulao/rice or any Indian Flat bread.