Friday, April 11, 2014

Hasi Aunty and her Sindhi kadi

Hasi Malkani
For the world, she was my landlady and I was her paying guest, living for many years in one of the two little but very clean and airy rooms of her flat in Khar, Mumbai.
For me, though, she was my Hasi Aunty. (And if truth be told, we shared the flat, she allowing me access to every part of it with typical generosity)
Meaning laughter.
But if you looked at her life, there was very little that Hasi Aunty to laugh about.
The second eldest of a large brood of 4 sisters and 2 brothers, her mother died when she was just a teenager.
And within a short while of her mother's death, her father decided to marry again - a young girl; one of Hasi Aunty's friends, to be precise.
When she got over the shock, the young Hasi was very clear about her father's decision. If he married the girl, she told him, she'd leave home with her entire brood of brothers and sisters - the youngest, a boy was just two years old. (I'm not too sure, but I think one sister - the one older than her - was married by then.)
But her father was adamant about what he wanted to do.
And Hasi about her decision. So, she left home with her brood - of till now siblings, but from now, her children.
Obviously there was little or no money (she later got a job as a postal clerk) and home was a tiny one room kitchen house in an LIG colony. But, in those very limited resources, she somehow managed to get her all her "children" educated and on their feet and her two sisters married - all before the elder of her two brothers started working. He did very well for himself in the real estate business and by the time I started staying with Hasi Aunty, he was a rich builder with a bungalow in Juhu and had bought his beloved Didi this little flat.
She must have been about 56 years old then. Se never married and was still working in the Mumbai GPO along with her best friend of some 30 years, Sheila. She already had a bad back which necessitated that she wear one of those ghastly back support belts all the time. She also had Type 2 diabetes.
But none of that in anyway came in the way of the full, busy life that she led.
She travelled, had a small  group of good friends (other than Sheila) who gathered twice a week to play cards and eat and generally have a blast. She often chipped in as a supervisor in PUC and SSLC examinations.
And most of all, she laughed. And smiled. And laughed some more. And smiled even more. Always true to her name - Hasi.
You'd think life would give her a break after the really bum deal it dealt her when she was young.
Not so.
 Her youngest brother, her baby whom she reared from age 2, died of a heart attack at age 40. Her eldest sister had a miserable marriage and a younger one got cancer. Then the older brother fell sick and she had to see him go too.Finally, she fell out with best friend Sheila and stopped seeing her completely. (They used to be so inseparable that they were known as a "couple" in office!)
But through all of that and in all the years that I have known her, (I continued to visit her long after I stopped being her paying guest) I have never seen her lose faith in life. Or in her Bhagwan to whom I'm sure she asked nothing but never failed to light a lamp twice a day, once before she started her day and once when the day was done, before she settled down for bit of telly and dinner.
And I have never known her not to smile. Or laugh.
She was, in every sense of the word, truly Hasi.
And of all the things that I learnt from this amazing lady, I learnt to make this delicious kadi, apparently a popular dish of the Sindhi community to which Hasi Aunty belonged.
So, I share the recipe in the hope that when you make it, some of my beloved Hasi Aunty's indomitable spirit - and "hasi' - will seep into your life...

Hasi Aunty's Sindhi Kadi
(To serve about 4)

 1/2 kabuli chana (chole) washed and soaked overnight
About 2 cups mixed vegetables – , washed and cut into about ½ inch pieces
 (I use green beans, carrots, gavar beans, potato and peas. But you can change/add as per your taste. Hasi Aunty used to add bhendi but this may give a slight ‘slimy’ quality to the kadi if you add too many...)
Juice from tamarind the size of a marble (adjust to taste)
2 small tomatoes 
15-20 curry leaves
¾ teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon chili powder ((adjust to taste)
2-3 green chillies, chopped large 
(You can skip one chili or the other, depending on your preference and how hot you like your food)
3/4 inch piece of ginger chopped into thin slices or slivers
Salt to taste

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander

For kadi base
1-2 tablespoons of oil
to 1   ½ heaped  tablespoons besan flour (you have to adjust this depending on how thick you want the
kadi. Thicker means more besan)
¾ teaspoon jeera
½ teaspoon methi seeds (optional)
A pinch or two of hing (asafoetida) 

Heat the oil in a thick bottomed pan. Add the jeera. When it starts to brown n swell, add the methi seeds and hing. As they start to brown, slowly sprinkle in the besan flour and brown it to a thick, even, crumbly paste. 
Now this is a tricky part, so make sure that
1. You keep the heat very low
2. You are stirring constantly as you add the besan
3. You add add the besan slowly, otherwise you will get a lumpy, unevenly burnt mess.
When the besan flour has turned a nice golden brown, smooth paste, remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes. Now, while stirring all the time, slowly add water till the besan turns into a smooth sauce. 

Once again, this is tricky and so make sure
1. You have allowed the besan to cool a little, otherwise when the water hits it, it will turn in to hot steam and scald you
2. You add the water very slowly and in a steady stream AND you stir all the time. Not doing either will result in a lumpy mess.

When you have a smooth, golden sauce, thin it with water to that desired thickness. 
Then, reserving about half the curry leaves, add the rest along with all the other ingredients except the tamarind juice and fresh coriander.
Pressure cook - two whistles. You can also cook in a open pot till the veggies are just done.

Now add the tamarind juice and half the fresh coriander and simmer for about 10 minutes on a very low heat.
The thing about this kadi is that it tastes better the  more you simmer. (In fact, it tastes even better the next day!) Of course, you have to make sure the veggies don't disintegrate or turn into a pish-pash!
Before serving, add the rest of the fresh coriander and serve with plain, steamed Basmati rice

I love you, Hasi Aunty and I will never forget you...

1 comment:

Icy Highs said...

Lovely post. For some reason, the occasional exam supervisor gig makes Hasi even more real, more endearing. The joy of detail.