The smell of desi ghee

It’s only been six months since I were home (less in fact, but it will be over six when I go next) and it’s really been only a few days since I had a my dose of desi ghee parathas.
Every time she is home Grandmother spends a couple of days cleaning the pooja room-just that she like to arrange it in her style [generally my dad is operating it]. She speaks about how hard the ‘cleaning’ in detail lest no one misunderstood the gravity or extent of her effort. On the second day, she finally sits here making diye [lamps] filled with desi ghee to keep the Gods happy. In some time the room fills up, till we stop smelling it any longer. When I’m back from office, grandmother insists that I be given ‘bread’ with tea- since I travel far and need nutrition. Mother uses a bit of ghee and a pinch of salt and makes my bread on a pan. I eat it alongside Lipton chai. Sunday mornings though instead of bread breakfast is often parathas with ghee. Several times the ghee is over and then mother instructs me to get some quietly from the pooja room [to cause no hue and cry over lack of ghee planning]. It is a secret because grandmother doesn’t want the same ghee be used to pray. Mother thinks Gods won’t get angry if we eat breakfast. I think it’s our secret and challenging to complete the task without grandmother noticing. All of us claim mother uses too much desi ghee, and finish everything quickly. The smell stays well into the afternoon, till we start watching a random movie on Sony Set Max. Grandmother sleeps.

via Tonk

At the boat club (that I was debarred from entering in the first month of college- being ragged by a regional body) usually in the afternoon Pune people open up plastic lunch boxes. Of course in the hostel we have lunch at ten am, and mothers who live far to pack for a day snack. The first time I see Neeti’s lunch I’m taken aback: Rolled up roti with a filling of [raw] desi ghee and sugar [toop-sakhar that I later learn]. It appears revolutionary because I mother never makes us eat desi ghee raw. I resist first to have a bite- partly out of embarrassment and because the thought is alien. One day I try. I do believe I have been the most voracious [sometimes solitary] eater of her lunch box since. Surely she has noticed. We never speak about it.
In the final year as an intern with Dishnet, we manage permission from the warden to come back late till 11:30pm. This means we can stop over at Chaitanya and eat different kinds of 15 rupee [fabulous] parathas. These come with ghar ka desi ghee or makhan- white. It is always the longest wait and the fastest dinner. I’m always more hungry on the way back out of greed. I think it’s too much to spend another 15 rupees on it. I dream of how it smells in the night.
Everyone has a holiday. It’s winter time. And offices and schools are closed. Offices because of curfew. Grandfathercan’t go to the kandur [baker], so at 4pm, while the men play cards [with money], the women are in the kitchen. On grandmother’s orders, everyone is busy preparing tea and snacks for the men. Maaji [aunt] makes square parathas with machine like precision dripping in desi ghee. Mother makes Lipton chai. Durgatakes them out in a thaal[i]. Raju Bhaiya and I entertain the women dancing on Sridevi’s ‘Chandni, tu meri Chandni’. We refuse to venture out of the kitchen in case we miss the parathe. We both feel life is wonderful because everyone is always home. I think of Aaliya. We love holidays. We insist on dancing when others discuss running away. We stuff ourselves with the smell of ghee. We realize much later (in Gudiya’s wedding last year) that we both can’t dance and yet we insist on it. We also feel comfortable dancing with each other. He thinks he is outdoing everyone. I feel I look much less worse next to him.
Simon is always amused that I make my own ‘bread’. There are three bakeries close to where I live. Just that they don’t use ghee. Even today after it’s been a year, they don’t smell like mother’s hands.

  1. Liked reading this. Of course I had to substitute ghee with a preferred alternative. It was the only way to finish reading the post to the end 🙂

Comments are closed.