Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Raw Onion

I thought I wouldn’t eat lunch today. At 8 am I had a set of pooris, that is two pooris with alloo ki subji and a cup of tea. Feeling full and all, having drunk a lot of water from then on, thought I would just go without lunch. Did a lot of work between bf and 1pm. I call it repair and renewal. Of self. Then went to mom’s room, thought if I was going to take a nap I might as well do it in her room. Oru kal irandu managa. (One stone two mangoes).My nap and company to her and me. So I went. And lay down. And guess what, as I went on saying the Dwayam, as I am wont to these days, what should pop into my mind but the raw onion.
Now to digress a bit…. two days back, I accidentally came across a book on meditation. I get up from my chair once in a while and stroll around in my office room. (It is impossible to be sitting around for all kinds of hours.) And as I walked, I just pulled out a book from the book shelf and started flipping throught it. And came across transcendental meditation. It sounded so simple to bust stress, that, that very day in the evening after I returned from a game of badminton, spruced up and all, I tried it. And it was like magic. I thought I would try it for 2 minutes and before I knew it ten had passed. I must have, somewhere in the middle fallen in some kind of sleep, I certainly remember the beginning and the end. The middle is what I don’t remember. Well, anyway, this seemed to be working. (Hey, come on, it was the meditation, not the badminton game!!)  So I decided the Dwayam which I anyway utter now and then can be my special “word”. Its not a word really, it’s a full sentence. And I started to use it in my modified form of TM. Working for me, it is working for me. (*gleeful). This job is one heck of a job!  Most stressful. I have put on weight despite forty minutes of walking a day, badminton thrice weekly and generally keeping active. My cholesterol levels have gone sky high and the sugar levels are barely normal. I am sure the blood pressure is also not what it used to be. I attribute all this to this job. But here I am. No one forced it upon me. And let me face it, I am rather enjoying it. And wouldn’t quit for the world!!
So then, going back to my mother’s room.  Here I was trying to get that catnap and there it was the onion leaping into my consciousness. These days I attribute everything to Sriman Narayana, so I didn’t resist the thought of the onion. For some reason best known to Him He has planted the onion into my mind.  I have not eaten a raw onion in maybe two decades. I think. I don’t remember. But what I do remember is my childhood and how onions were inextricably linked to every meal. The onion and tomato chutney was a hot favourite of my father’s. It went so well with idlis or dosas or atlus, as we called them. And come summers, the chaldi kunda and chaldi annam with cut onions… for those to whom these are strange terms, here’s the jaankari… chaldi kunda is the earthernware pot mom used to buy every summer. Largish. After proper cleaning and all, it was half filled with water,  and then rice by then cooked and cooled used to be dropped into it after propitiating all the Gods in heaven. The kunda, or pot would stand overnight. The next afternoon,  the rice would be removed, mashed thoroughly by hand, some “wowam” (ajwain/ omam/ oregano?) salt and a dash of oil would be added to it.  The chaladi annam, chaldannam said in one go, was ready…Dollops of this would be ladled on to a plate, a small katori or two of the kunda neelu, (the pot water) would be added, and medium sized peeled onions would be handed out. Oh how I used relish that meal. A mouthful of the rice, a bite into the onion… my nostrils would twitch with the pungency of the onion, but amazing that one didn’t want to avoid it, one more bite, just one more bite…. is how it went.  And how about raw onions with gongura pacchadi annam? My mom never cut the onions and served them. She would just peel the onions and hand them out. We had to bite into the onions. I remember that so well. And always, I associate the incisors with biting into whole fruits. Even to date, I prefer whole fruits to cut fruits. Come now, how can one bite into a papaya…?
Ah the room again…like I said, I had stopped eating raw onions soon after my marriage. In retrospect all for the wrong reasons it seems. And then by and by I got it into my head that the onion was the culprit behind a lot of stomach problems. I wish I had more sense to think the whole thing through. But then I was trying so very hard to fit in. And the convert, my friend is more zealous than the original thing. Ask me I should know, I was among the best. The top percentile. Anyway… going back to the room and the nap and the forbidden fruit… in a manner of speaking because onion is not a fruit right, it’s a vegetable right? Well, whatever it is, it certainly was intruding big time into my thoughts. And then I thought, well, why not? Why not have that lunch. Well you see, the thought of onions, and the possibility that talli would at long last break the onion fast and actually bite into one  had started making me feel the hunger pangs. I asked my mom a couple of times…. “are you sure you aren’t going to eat food now? “ , “Coming? “ and she told me, “for the last time, I am not having lunch. I had a late breakfast remember? Around 12 noon. How can I possibly eat anything? You go…”
“how can I possibly eat anything?”  Hah! Ask me. I am always ready to eat. Always. Not anything. But norukku as we call it at home. Meaning snacks. Food doesn’t hold a lot of fascination for me. But junk? Oh man, lead me to it!! So then I told her, ok, here goes I am going to have lunch. She said ok, there is the greens sambar , lentil chutney, fresh curds and cabbage curry. I will come and serve your lunch. I hastily said, no no, you stay put, you read, watch tv or read paper or write or whatever , I will get my lunch. No problem.  While I would have anyway said that and got my lunch, today I was especially anxious to be my myself. Because after twenty years I was going to eat raw onions. I prayed and prayed there would be a medium sized one available at home. What a tragedy if there was none or a huge one only, available?  What would I do? In the event there was a medium one available. I cannot begin to explain the anticipation I felt when I peeled that onion and washed it. I considered for a moment for old times sake to leave it whole and bite into it. But… I am now grown up and work hard to be able to buy onions, I just could not imagine wasting it. After all I was eating raw onions after two decades, what if I was not able to tolerate it, what if I couldn’t eat it anymore? Why throw out a perfectly good onion, uh? So I quartered it. Thought I would have a quarter and then see how it goes.
Now in order to relish raw onions, it was crucial that the perfect dish be chosen for consumption. I wanted to eat all of it, right? The onion I mean.  What if I ate it with some cabbage curry and then found mazaa nahin ayaa? So it was that the Collards sambar won the day. A childhood dish, that and one which is made in the inlaw’s house also. Much relished. A favourite of course. And then again, all that quantity, and not much calories in it. That I cannot miss, right. So I heaped three tablespoons of white rice, and poured a generous quantity of the collard broth on it. Mixed it using fingers, south Indian style and …Narayana….one mouthful of the keerai saadam, and a tentative bite into the onion quarter…and…….By God!! It still tastes the same!! Wow!! That was so amazing!! I cannot remember when I last truly tasted a food item, chewed so carefully, relishing every bit of it. That meal certainly counts among the best I have had in recent times. That was one heck of a meal, and I so thoroughly enjoyed it!! Wow! I cant stop saying that!!

Having finished the onion and the rest of the meal, I came back cleaned up my mouth thoroughly, cleaning tongue, swishing mint flavored mouth wash etc to get the onion smell out.  Need to find more ways of freshening up the mouth post raw onion. Because, onion, now that I have found, I’m not letting you go!! Now the reconvert!!