I opened the bedroom window to watch the rain. It was 6.30 in the morning. The sky was grey and the earth was moist with rain. Daylight with shady clouds is beautiful. I captured that scene through my eyes. No Nikon. No lens. Just plain eyes but the view was processed and saved in my brain. I turned around to look at my son’s innocent face, he was smiling in his sleep. I watched him for few seconds and then I was back to admire the rain dripping in the corner of the window silt. It was 1st of February. My dad’s birthday. I have to call him before its 2nd in India. I talked to myself.
A daughter-father relationship is very special. Neither I have told him about how much I love/miss him nor has he told me that. But deep within me I know there is one soul living in the far away land who is thinking about me 24×7. I have had arguments and fights with my mom, many think that I open up to her but to the contrary my mom is different, she is a perfectionist who wants everything to be right and at the domestic front, she comes from old school thoughts where women need to subside to everything in life. Ofcourse she is close to me but whenever I have an opinion or a topic to discuss, I don’t even have to say a word but my dad would catch me when I am upset. His simple question “Are you doing fine?” will convey so many meaning to me and my wet eyes and heavy heart will always beat to say “Don’t worry dad, I know you are there for me”.
As a child I didn’t get to spend much time with him as he was busy establishing his CPA firm. As days went by, I would meet him by the end of the day for dinner and one common question he had was “How is school? Have you done with your homework?” I don’t even remember seeing him for school day functions. May be he would be standing at the last row of the crowd to watch me grab the endowment prize and walk with pride waving at my mom. That night he would treat me with an ice cream. And if he couldn’t make it, there would an ice cream tub tucked inside the freezer. That was a routine which we followed every school year. Then middle school melted into high school. I would call myself a grown up and like any other kid on the block, I went through the phase of teenage-syndrome: attitude, mood swings and preferred being alone. It was my mom who would pass on galore of advices day in and day out . My dad would hardly scold and if he does, the roof will come down, sky would fold and engulf me into a tiny ball. He was known for his temper that came once a while. Once I entered college, he gave me a long rope but would pull me back silently when I walked beyond a given perimeter. It was freedom with restrictions. I graduated and flew out of the nest for the first time to UK. He gave me his never ending support and encouragement. I got the courage and confidence to live alone. Everyday I thank god for giving me a dad who knew what to give, who taught me how to live and who was proud about me.
As I stand before a brand new day, I thought about what I owe him, what he had done for me , his laughter and his jokes that would crack me up, his fiery hot temper, his intelligence, wisdom and love. I weep in happiness and sing a happy birthday song inside my heart. I wish he lives lifelong is my prayer everyday. At-least until I am alive, an added request to God.
To celebrate his birthday I decided to make sakkarai pongal for him. He likes everything associated with him to be authentic and ethnic. So here I am fixing a vegetarian dish which is as sweet as my dad. Full of cardamon and brown sugar fragrance and the beautiful streaks of orange from Iranian saffron and crunchy cashews, this homemade, creamy pongal marks the beginning of a new year for South Indians. I have made a twist by making the dish with brown rice instead of white rice. Happy birthday Appa!
Source: My mother (with my variations)
- 1 cup brown rice
- 1 cup yellow moong dhal (available in Indian grocery stores)
- 8 cups water
- 1 cup warm milk (1% fat)
- 10 saffron strands
- 4 cardamon pods
- 1- 1.5 cups brown sugar or jaggery
- 1/4 cup ghee
- 1/2 cup cashews
- Saute the rice and lentils separately in a dry pan for 5 minutes. Set aside.
- Pressure cook them with 8 cups water for 8 whistles or cook over a stove top until they turn mushy, about 45 minutes. Mash them with a blender or ladle into a coarse paste (half smooth and half mushy consistency).
- In the mean while, heat 2 tablespoon ghee in a saute pan and fry the cashew nuts for 5-8 minutes until they brown lightly. Don’t burn them. Drain in a paper towel. Set aside.
- Soak the saffron in 2 tablespoon warm milk. Set aside.
- In a large cooking pan, melt the brown sugar or jaggery with remaining milk until they turn syrupy about 10 minutes. Add the cardamons and let it boil. Mix in the brown rice-lentil mixture. Stir and cook till they are well incorporated.
- Add the fried cashews and remaining ghee and serve hot.
- After a while, the rice mixture will turn hard. To smoothen the texture, add hot water or milk to turn them back to the previous consistency.
- Always serve this dessert hot with dollop of ghee on top.
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