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Monday, 4 November 2019

NaBloPoMo 2019: Day 4: Upma? No Upama!

Reading my blog series about Amma, my cousin’s wife Kanaka replied to me, saying,

“I remember coming to your house most of the weekends with my kids. She used to give something or the other to eat.”

Knowing Amma, I’d say “give something to eat” is an understatement – “force to at least taste a little” was more like it! 

And once you had taken a tiny bite, you’d find your hand involuntarily kept dipping into the plate until it was empty! My colleague who tasted Amma’s Gokulashthami goodies had quipped, “This chakli is like they say in the Lays advertisement – No one can eat just one!”

Amma was a great cook and had that special touch that converted the simplest of items into mouth-watering dishes. I remember the first time my to-be-husband-and-in-laws came to our place to finalize the engagement plans. They were blown away by Amma’s signature dish. No, it wasn’t any exotic food – it was just the humble plain rava upma that many people deride as “concrete”, which, having been prepared by Amma’s hands, had acquired an unimaginably divine taste.

The food Amma cooked was always tasty. Had someone tried validation of her food, she’d have scored a perfect 10 for accuracy, precision, ruggedness, and robustness – every time she made an item, it had exactly the same perfect taste, whether she cooked for her family, or in larger quantities, because relatives or guests were coming home.

Amma’s kitchen always had those huge brass, hindalium and steel dabbas, and they were like a treasure trove of some or the other sweets and savories. 

Gokulashthami used to be our favourite festival because Amma would make at least 12 to 15 different items, each tasting better than the other. Today, when I struggle to make about just 6 of them, I can’t help but wonder where Amma got the energy to do so much work all alone!

We kids would realize Gokulasthami was coming because we’d see the rice washed and spread out to dry on mats covered with Appa’s old panches (dhotis). Amma would take the items to the mill for grinding, bring the powders home, sieve them, and store them carefully. When the festival was just two days away, our home would be filled with the aroma and gurgling of butter melting into ghee, and the jaggery water bubbling into a thick gooey paste, and the sizzling of the oil as it let Amma’s expert hands turn the milled powders into perfect golden-yellow chaklis and tengols and kodbades. 

Gokulashthami tindis tied in front of Lord Krishna along with fruits
Amma knew each child's favourite dishes, and in her typical impartial spirit, she would cook them all with equal frequency. And since you knew your favourite would come in its turn, none of us ever made a fuss about eating something that we may have liked a little less. 

Amma never pampered us by cooking something separately for someone – you had to eat what was made that day, and she wasn’t unduly bothered if you ate a little less because you didn’t like it. 

She’d bend her own rules a little once in a way, though. For chapati in the lunch box, Bhargavi got chutney podi and butter mixed in, while Vatsala got chutney podi with a ripe banana mixed in. (Or vice versa maybe). In case you’re surprised at these unheard-of combinations, well, that’s just another thing Amma was good at – improvisation and trying and learning new things. More about that tomorrow!


  1. Your writing about the various episodes of Ammas life in particular this one is really touching. Feel grateful to have her as our Amma.

    1. Thank you! Your ideas and suggestions have certainly helped a lot!

  2. I really loved reading your blog on Anna. Was wondering how you will handle this emotional year's blog. You have well chosen the opening subject.
    I was one of the many beneficiaries of Anna's hospitality. Yes, the bland upma when offered by Amma was delicious. And she took great delight in people having more than a mouthful of her offerings. And I did not dissapoint her.
    And yes - Gokulashtami sweets and savories were mouth watering. I made an excuse (not that I needed any) to visit your house a day or two after the festival and was all the dishes. You have really kindled my memories!

    1. Thank you for endorsing my choice of topic! Amma used to be very happy with all of you who did full justice to her cooking!

  3. Oh my! Am salivating reading this blog today. Those were the day we comfortably could gobble away so much food. And any day mom made is best. Am sure you have had the best times and delectable dishes that aunty made. Thank you for writing this piece.

  4. Anu, your description is so amazing.... I can imagine every scene ...When love blends into every act that we do.... the outcome is simply perfect!

  5. Mouth watering expaination ..... Wondering how the dishes would have been

  6. Same here I just hate upittu and I really call it a concrete may be v can never match up to there energy level! !


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