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tengai mangai pattani chunda

I say “tengai mangai pattani chundal” aloud few times and am instantly transported back in the time to the early sixties. I can vividly recall my regular evening get away, as a twelve year boy, to the Gandhi Park at RS Puram in Coimbatore just to get that small pouch of thengai mangai pattani chundal. It must have probably cost me an anna but no memory of the price or how I managed to find the money! Quite likely that I must have stolen from grand father’s wallet!

To make it easy for non Tamil readers the title translated verbatim means “coconut mango boiled chick pea mix”. Essentially it is a quick snack item with boiled chana (chick peas) combined with tiny pieces of coconut and raw mango. With a decoration of coriander, curry leaves and a piece of chilly raising its head, the snack is a real temptress. No wonder you run back to the vendor to get that pouch again while you battle that sharp twang of the spicy chilly that drives you mad running for water! Frankly you could not stop yourself going for it again next evening!

That was fifty years ago! These days you find frankies, pop corn and burgers but no chundal 
Then why not prepare the chundal at home all on my own?

Wifey, Usha (UG), is in India and I am all alone in Singapore trying to imagine where I should have my dinner. And, the thunder outside coupled with the probability of a heavy shower gave me no option but to try my hand once again in the kitchen. Being bored with dosa and upma, I needed something different and suddenly recalled the vendor’s loud sales pitch “thengai mangai pattani chundal”. So it shall be chundal I decided for the next breakfast. Dinner was managed with oats and fruits as I was busy planning for the chundal breakfast!

Ipad and face time are great help in getting online support from UG in Mumbai. She patiently explained the process ignoring my gentle but repeated hint that she should feel guilty for making me work in the kitchen!

“there must be a small pack of chick pea in the freezer. For one person you do not need much. Pls check”

But she had not answered my basic query “how does chick pea look?”

So I call her again and display all that I can pull out from the freezer. The visual examination of several trays of stored material ultimately yielded a pouch which carried the tile “chick peas”!

“wash it thoroughly few times” .. instructions have now started from the director on the action scene! And, UG was able to visually monitor my (in)efficiency thru Facetime!

“Soak it in water for at least eight hours.. soak it at night so that you can have it as your break fast next morning..” said UG who had retired as the school headmistress just a year ago and was missing the teaching act in her daily life!

The next episode of the drama commenced in the morning with instructions to locate the pressure cooker with all its constituents.. the vessel, lid and the valve..! I was instructed to check if the gasket was in its place before offloading the wet chana into the cooker and to add several measures of water for the next phase.

“Add little salt and turmeric powder and close it properly… then wait for three whistles …” was the clear instruction.

I followed the instructions with discipline and then decided to utilize the waiting period in reading the news paper and managed to do full justice to the week end edition (some seventy pages). The cooker was yet to let out the first whistle and it was already forty minutes!

“Have patience .. it takes some time..” said UG but her voice betrayed a concern when I said forty minutes had elapsed. “Do not rush to open the lid until the three whistles are out…” was the strict warning .. she apparently had no desire to take the next flight to Singapore to visit me in the hospital burn injury ward..!

It was forty five minutes and no whistle! UG advised me to wait in a reassuring voice that the whistles will be heard shortly. “Don’t be inpatient …” said she in a stern voice but I sensed the underlying anxiety .

I decided to switch the burner off and waited for ten minutes to let the vessel cool. I then approached the cooker cautiously while my pulse rate went up several points. I was funnily reminded of the olden day Hindi movies where the act of the bridegroom in lifting the veil of his bride on the first night of the wedding was always accompanied by trepidation, anxiety and anticipation of what he was likely to see! My mental state then was no different. (Note for the non Indian readers – several decades ago, the bride and bridegroom saw each other for the first time only on the first night. The marriage was normally decided by the two families and the bride always stays behind the veil throughout the marriage ceremony. Hence the first time unveiling was, for the bridegroom, like waiting for the results of the lucky draw!)

The opening of the lid was uneventful and there was no rush of steam. The peas were of course cooked … rather over cooked and partly burnt!! The combination of anger, frustration and the hunger would have driven anyone else crazy but I maintained my composure and called UG. She had no clue.

I salvaged the acceptable peas from that lot and managed to complete the process of making it fit for consumption. By no stretch of imagination that could have competed with what I used to devour fifty years ago at the Gandhi Park in Coimbatore!!

The vessel had to be washed at least to get the burnt smell out of the atmosphere. I decided to use the cooker again but with just water to get the scales off. In no time I could clearly see what had gone wrong. The emergency release valve was malfunctioning and was allowing all the steam to escape! My post mortem indicated that with all the steam going out of the vessel, the cooking process was incomplete and further, with exhaustion of all the water, the material inside could only get burnt!

The frustration of not being able to have a decent break fast drove me to the nearest departmental store to buy a new pressure cooker with advanced electronic controls. UG remonstrated at the wastage of money and, in turn, I let her know that the new piece will be marked as my personal property for my exclusive use!

The next attempt at making the tengai mangai pattani chundal was more satisfactory and I could have the break fast without too much of groaning and moaning. Yet in my reckoning it only scored 50% and something was yet not alright!

I went thru a viva with UG as the assessor and I seemed to have done everything exactly as she had dictated. But the taste was still not there!

I went at it a third time not willing to give it up. I approached the whole process with the same enthusiasm as I would approach a squat workout in the gym with the scheduled load of say 135 Lbs. Now that I had had the experience of preparing the dish, the confidence level was higher and I could add the ingredients without any tension or trepidation.

Then I realised what had gone amiss!

The call to UG was to get just one answer ..”where have you kept the turmeric powder?’

“It should be in the freezer in a container”

“Are you sure it is not in the kitchen shelf with other spices?”

“I dont think so” was her answer.

I looked at the powder I was sprinkling in the name of turmeric. Looked at it in broad day light and noticed the powder was reddish and not yellow! The smell indicated it was actually chilli powder which looked yellow in that container and in the ambient light of the kitchen!

Subsequent attempts with the right ingredients have shown excellent results and I could even find the courage to send a parcel to my son’s residence..

The confirmation came when my son called to say “it was very good pa.. can you pls teach our maid how to make that chundal?”

Singapore 8th Dec 2013

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About The Author

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Ganesh - R

Corporate/Business/Professional

SINGAPORE

A corporate manager for over 40  years with an all round exposure. Have had the good fortune of great bosses who unfailingly took the risk of trying me out with  new functional responsibilities  that I was neither qualified to handle nor had any prior exposure. This served as an excellent opportunity for learning and  the exciting process continues even as I am ready to retire! 

 Have bid adieu to formal learning process long ago but the quest  continues.

"Human beings" interest me the most .. the curiosity at observing and learning from fellow beings appears to be a key  driver at this stage of life. Would like to spend the rest of the days in making a difference to them.

Other interests include gymming, music, etc..  

Blogging seems to be a god sent opportunity to laugh at oneself freely and without any pretensions. It also provides an excellent route to introspection albeit a bit loudly!


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