It was a morning of a date which is quite unclear in my memory. I woke up to the rising sound of traffic and the fluttering of pigeons eternally stuck in the window railings. I picked up my toothbrush, squeezed the last remains of the toothpaste, and tucked the brush into my mouth. I needed some company before sitting on the toilet seat, so I walked towards the door and pushed it open. Lying there was my roll of newspapers, with colorful bunch of pamphlets. But along with it was an envelope addressed for me.
It was strange as no courier guy or postman would have delivered it so early in the morning. It didn’t carry any seals or stamps, and who had sent it. Curious to know, I first tore it from the corner, and then ripped through the edge with a single slide of the finger.
Before I could open it, I could smell something. There was a pungency of garlic and mustardy feel of turmeric in the envelope. I was now almost sure of the contents of the envelope, this was a highly familiar smell.
I could not help but smile. Finally my beautiful friend from Hyderabad was about to marry one of my closest friend from Mumbai. Yes, the Sambhar from Chutneys was finally set to marry the Dal from Bhagat Tarachand.
I had known her (the Sambhar from Chutneys) since my trips to Hyderabad became frequent after 2010. I visited Chutneys on almost all my visits, skipped my rendezvous with 5-6 chutneys on offer, and always spent the most time with her. This sambhar had a smooth texture like none I had ever tasted. There were no obstructions of drumsticks or pumpkin pieces so pervasive in sambhars all across India. The flavor was rich with spices and a more than generous helpings of black pepper gave it the perfect zing. But what set it apart was its use of Garlic, something which I haven’t frequently encountered in sambhars across the country. Over the years the sambhar from Andhra had been my favorite (Andhra>Tamil>Kerala>Karnataka style sambhars, especially don’t like Manglorean/Udupi variety popular across many Mumbai eateries, which has a dash of sweetness from jaggery/sugar), but this one climbed to be top of my list.
I first met him (the Dal from Bhagat Tarachand) on of my countless trips across Mumbai in search of good food. I found him hiding in one of those countless Bhagat Tarachands (so many of them at Zaveri Bazaar), where my encounter with him offered peace in between the maddening crowds of Zaveri. I mostly met him with his best friends, Papad Churi and a Ghee laden Chapati, at either his Zaveri Bazar home, or his more suave R City adobe- Shvatra. Like the sambhar from Chutneys, the brilliant use of Garlic was its forte, but what set it apart was the use of Ghee-fried onions, similar to ones used frequently with Biriyanis (possibly a connect with the Hyderabadi Sambhar). We hit an instant friendship and both of us being in the same city (and him staying close by in Ghatkopar) meant countless encounters.
So when both of them agreed to come together, no one could have been happier, as I was the one who connected both of them. I can’t even imagine how awesome their kids would be. Surely healthy with so much of protein running in their veins.
I reached the wedding venue few hours prior to the wedding. As expected the environment was somber and lacking energy. Both of them have had a tendency of moving under the radar, when some of their other contemporaries have been involved in maximum showoff with minimal flavors. Gracing the occasion were the family members, friends from the spices community- with peppers dominating the group. The pandit was busy preparing the holy fire and doing other preparations.
The pandit seemed adept at handling both the mantras and kitchen equipment, as he placed a huge vessel over the fire. He started pouring in lots of ghee, and then crackled a bit of jeera (cumin seeds) in the vessel. As the crackling voice soaked the environment, the bride and groom entered the proceedings. Both of them wet, soaked in water and fresh and ready for the wedding.
The sambhar had a garland of curry leaves around it, and the dal looked composed with a pot of ghee in his hands. The background was infused with sounds of ceremony and usual wedding banter, and smells of spices and fresh coriander. As both the bride and groom settled down in the mandapam, the pandit started the fiery rounds mantras. With each swaha, he tossed a clove of garlic in the ghee-jeera mix. Pandit then took out a shining silver spice box, and started adding them one by one in the mix. As the ceremony proceeded, the attendees were handed ghee-fried onions for sprinkling at the bride and groom during the seven rounds across the fire. These onions were the ones which had set apart this dal from the rest for so many years, and it was a great way of welcoming the bride in this family.
After the rounds around the holy fire, there were the usual ceremonies of sindoor (made of red chilly powder) and a mangalsutra (made of raw mustard seeds).
The wedding ceremony ended with a feast with no parallels, with a mix of cuisines from west and south dominating the platters. I was as always indulged in the glory of the dishes and sat along with the rest cleaning my banana leaf and waiting for the servings. A little girl was going around with the gulaabjal sprinkler, used so often during weddings to welcome guests. The girl came towards me, gave me a smile and then sprinkled a bit on me. It was hot. I wiped the drop of my lips and tasted it. It was the sambhar, or was it the daal? It was sweet!
And I woke up to my wife trying to wake me up, sprinkling drops from her hot steamy-sugary cup of tea on my face. The dream was broken, and I had a smile on my face thinking about it.
There was a rising sound of traffic and the fluttering of pigeons eternally stuck in the window railings. I picked up my toothbrush, squeezed the last remains of the toothpaste, and tucked the brush into my mouth. I needed some company before sitting on the toilet seat, so I walked towards the door and pushed it open. Lying there was my roll of newspapers, with colorful bunch of pamphlets.
But along with it was an envelope addressed for me. From Hyderabad…
I wrote this sometime back in October, and posting it now. There are striking similarities to two of my friends who got married just a few days back! Wishing them and the pulses loads of luck