It’s been a year since we shifted to New Delhi from Pithoragarh, Uttarakhand. My husband is Divisional Forest Officer and we came here on deputation after spending few years in remote places for field work.
So, talking about Pithoragarh, we (my husband and two children) lived there for about 8 months and let me tell you it is a beautiful place and those 8 months were really the most beautiful days of my life.
The forest guesthouse was under renovation and the place they were providing us was not good enough to live in, so we decided to live on rent as we found one astounding pristine house located not too far off from my husband’s place of work. We also got a small primary school not far off from this place, so we were sorted. Though on little outskirts, it was a serene place with vivid and delightful woodlands. We lived on the ground floor as we wanted one and on the first floor there lived one family of four. My kids were 5years and 3 years and with time they got mingled with the kids upstairs (7and 3.5 years old) quite much. In the evening, these four children used to play in our garden and I used to sit there watching them with a cup of tea and waiting for my husband to come. Their mother, Bhawna was a little bit reserved but very elegant and composed. Quite often I asked her to join me for a cup of tea in the evening and we talked while the kids played. Her husband was a wildlife photographer and rarely did we get to see him. Sometimes, both of us ladies also went for an evening walk around our premises and I was the one mostly talking while she smiled and listened. Our 8 months stay there went by very fast but beautifully.
Two days back, I came to know that our Pithoragarh’s house landlord welcomed a baby boy. Our landlord belonged to quite an affluent family and lived in New Jersey, US.
So, I called her to congratulate. It was really kind of her to receive my call though a welcome party was going on in her house. She talked to me very nicely and I told her how pleasant time we spent at her place in Pithoragarh. I asked her about our upstairs neighbors there as how were they or were they still there or moved somewhere else. She answered me, Neighbors, who neighbors? I told her the ones who used to live in her house upstairs, she answered again, you were the only ones living there, and nobody lived upstairs. My heart missed a beat and my blood ran cold. My lips went blue as I sat on my sofa speechless, hello she said. Are you hearing me? I could hear her voice and the voices of the guests in her house but I just froze and words didn’t came out of my mouth and thinking a network problem she disconnected the call. If nobody was there all that while, who were actually those 4 people. I trembled like a leaf. Bhawna’s voice, her face, her children started to engulf my whole mind and sent chills over my spine as I relived every instance I met them in those 8 months.
I called my landlords wife again, she did not received. I called her again after few hours, she picked the call and after enquiring a bit she told me that the last time somebody had lived upstairs was 5 years back. But unfortunately, the whole family died in a car crash. And since then the house was vacant until we moved in. At once I recalled Bhawna once telling me that they had a very bad accident once. I had asked her you must have been really injured, to which she had just smiled. Her infectious smile scares the daylights out of me. It’s been two days now and I haven’t slept and I don’t know when will I be able to. I am just waiting for my husband to come. He is off to Almora for some official trip for a week and am here with my kids and house maid.
Bhawna and her mystery will always haunt me. I still remember our last day there, she hugged me to say goodbye. I can still feel her cold touch. I also asked her to stay in touch and she told me she had to change her phone number and as she has my contact she will call. She never did. And am highly thankful for that and I pray she never will. Her last view was waving her hand along with her kids and then fading off. But will she really fade my memories? She never will. Neither will I get the answers nor do I truly want them to be answered. Some things are better if not unraveled. I have to live with this fear of the unknown which is really the fear of the known my whole life.
As promised at the onset of my blog that you will also witness some of the easy-to-follow culinary options, here’s the first to start with.
Let me clarify that I am not a professional cook nor do I hold any such professional qualifications, and not a beginner (5 years back though) as well but still have lots to learn.
So why would you follow my recipes??
Because I have somehow tried to lessen the amount of work you would actually do by searching ample of recipes to select the very best and consider cooking as simple as it can be.
So writing this post, I was wondering from where to start with.
But as they say “Beginnings should always be sweet” so get ready, open your mouth and savour your taste buds with the indispensable Indian sweet ” Rasgulla” or ” cottage cheese dumplings”
Cooking Time:Approximately 25 to 30 minutes
Milk: 1.5 liters (makes around 10-12 Rasgullas)
Vinegar: 2 to 3 tablespoons
Corn flour /all-purpose flour: 1 teaspoon
Sugar: 1 cup (or more as per preference)
Water: 4 cups
Rose water: 1/2 to 1 teaspoon
Step 1. PREPARATION OF COTTAGE CHEESE
A. Place the milk to boil and as the first boil comes, add little by little vinegar into it. Do not stir and if you fear that the milk will come out of your vessel, just place it half on your gas. The moment you see cheese and water separates properly, it’s done.
B. Place a Muslin cloth on a sieve, drain out the water and wash the cheese properly under tap water to remove the sourness of the vinegar.
C. Squeeze the water out properly from the cheese by holding the ends of the cloth together or you may even hang it for a while. Remember, to let a little moisture be in there otherwise your dumplings will dry.
Step 2. MAKING OF DUMPLING BALLS
A. Now it’s time to knead your cheese as smoothly as you can. Better you do it on your clean working station. With the help of your palms knead it for about 4 to 5 minutes. Then, add corn flour /all-purpose flour (not more than a teaspoon) and knead again until all your cheese sticks together firmly and form a dough.
B. Now make balls, size depends on your choice but shouldn’t be too big as the balls will be double their sizes afterwards.
** If the ball is not rolling up properly, then knead it again for a while.
** If you feel cheese is dried up, just add few drops of water and knead.
Step 3. SUGAR SYRUP
A. Add sugar and water and let it boil for about 5 to 6 minutes.
B. In the boiling syrup, add the balls 2 to 3 at a time. Don’t add them at once. Gap should be few seconds not minutes 😉
C. Let them boil at high flame uncovered first for 2 – 3 minutes and then cover it with a lid for about 5 to 8 minutes. The lid should have an opening to let the steam pass or else just keep the vessel a bit uncovered. Until now, do not stir.
C. Open the lid, turn the balls slowly with a spoon and again cover it and cook on low to medium flame for 4 to 5 minutes.
D. By now, they should be done. How to check?? Take a glass of water and put one ball, if it sinks, clap for yourself 😀👏and if it floats, cook it for a while again.
**Remember to take wide-mouthed and a deep vessel.
Step 4. HOW TO SERVE
A. Let the balls sit there in the syrup until it cools down. Once the temperature drops, add rose water. You can add dry fruits also.
B. Garnish with saffron sticks and place in the refrigerator to cool it down.
The story involves two school friends, Ajay and Raghav. Story is narrated by Ajay.
“……and then I learned something from him that made me stopped dead on my tracks.”
Raghav and I were quite close to each other since our school days. While I was always an introvert, he used to be an ambivert. We lived in Shimla, Himachal Pradesh and were together till class 12th after which he got selected in a reputed Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), New Delhi while I stayed back for another year there as I was unable to crack any competitive exams and then took admission in BSc chemistry . After his B. Tech., he got quite a handsome package in one of the leading construction companies and he shifted to Bangalore. I did my graduation, Post-graduation and Ph.D. and was now a Teacher in a college in New Delhi. Initially, we had a lot of phone calls between us but gradually with time as we got busy in our lives, our calls got restricted on special occasions only and now it’s rare that we talk. I remember last time talking to him was when he bought a new flat in Bangalore and got his family shifted with him. He had everything now what is needed to be called a successful person in life while I was still struggling to join my blocks and build life. I always thought that he got everything in life very easily, cracking IIT, job, huge salary, marrying the person he loved and as such a wonderful life with less efforts while here I was, though being more laborious and intelligent than him, a teacher in a not so good college, married the person of my mother’s choice and still struggling to buy a flat. Sometimes, I envy him for this. What is this life, why such an unbalanced distribution. It should be according to who deserves what and not be like one getting to travel in business class and the other thinking hundred times to even air travel.
So, it’s been 4 years since we talked the last time.
Today, I am in Shimla. I came here to attend my Father’s two years death anniversary a week ago and decided to stay back for a while. Two days back, I gave up my ego and inhibitions and thought to go and visit Raghav’s parents.
The house was locked from outside and looking at the outgrown hedges, it seemed no one had lived there since quite sometime now. Then I saw, “House on sale” board. I decided to enquire about it with one of his neighbors. I was shocked to learn that his mother passed away and his father being alone suffered mental health issues so he took him along with him to Bangalore. Coming back home, I picked up my phone, took a deep sigh, scrolled his name, Raghav and pressed the call button. The phone rang and after few rings I heard his voice. We started on a very formal note and then returned to being just Raghav and me. We talked so much, laughed and then I learned something from him that made me stopped dead on my tracks. In the past 4 years, my friend had lost his mother and his wife to an accident and is living with his father being challenged mentally. These past 4 years, I had no clue he would be going through all of this. I didn’t call him just so as I thought, “WHY ALWAYS Me?? While he must also be having this complain from God “WHY Me?? “
I regret leaving him at a time when he needed me the most. Now if I see, I have everything what a good life needs to be, a mother, a lovely wife, 2 beautiful children. Sad, I realized this after knowing my friend is longing for the wonders I have in my life.
“The grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence”
But in reality it’s greener where YOU water it.
Remember, “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.” – Abraham Lincoln
And Today, I am elated as I am leaving for Bangalore to meet my very dear friend, Raghav.
Hope you are staying safe and taking every precautions to beat the Covid19 pandemic with much resilience.
Why have you received this exclusive invitation?
Because I wanted you to be a part of when I am starting my first blog and provide your blessings and criticisms with equal ease.
So, I invited you over and I must for that reason be a good host and keep you well entertained (fingers crossed 😉).
I may not be a barrel of laughs but will try to keep you lingered here every now and then with positive, emotional yet encouraging candid writings. Sporadically, you can also get to see me as a Culinarian.
“A mind forever voyaging through strange seas of thoughts, alone” – William Wordsworth
So yeah, this is me, always expressing my emotions through writing and it took me eons to start my blog and am elated to be in my element right now.
From where I got the kick start??
“When from our better selves we have too long
Been parted by the hurrying world and the droop,
Sick of its business, of its
How gracious, how benign, is
Solitude” – William Wordsworth
So, after being home alone (not actually though, my husband and little son were there with me) disconnected from the outside world during this pandemic period for a whole lot of time, I saw myself through my own eyes (getting philosophical) and realized.. “I Can” and voila!
“Here I Am, this is me.. and nowhere else on earth I’d rather be” – Bryan Adams
(You can also hear me singing at times 🤪) And yeah, this is me.
If you are interested to accompany and sail through my dreamland, do subscribe and wish me luck.