When I was a kid, there was a maid who worked at our grand-mother’s house. We used to call her Pisi (Aunt). Pisi was very close to us, and loved us a lot. Though we went to my grand-mother’s place only once a year, but it never felt like that Pisi was not a member of our family. Maybe it is because as kids we have a bigger heart and we do not look at things in a complicated way. So, Pisi used to do all chores for my grand-mother, mostly cleaning the house and the utensils. I remember, then we had a kitchen with mud floor, it felt very cool during the summers (we spent our summer vacations here). And summer means eating paanta bhaat or semi-fermented rice with lots of water.
The recipe is simple, just put lots of cold water in the rice and leave overnight. The heat reacts with the rice and gives a semi-fermented look. It is very cold and makes the heat bearable. It tastes awesome with some fried daal and just raw onions. And due to the little alcohol content, you will definitely feel sleepy after eating it. Hence, no eating it if you are going to drive later.
So, this Pisi, lived in a shack near a pond. She came from Bangladesh with her daughter. I do not know anything about her husband. The shack was made of dried leaves and bamboo, with terracotta tiles for roofing. I remember, she had a very high bed. It served two purpose: lots of things went under it, and during the rainy season, if water gets into the home, at least the bed will be dry. The pond was very dangerously close to the home. That was one part of excitement I used to feel when I went to Pisi’s house, which was on most afternoons. The close proximity to a pond, and not anyone to deny access to it. Water bodies always attract kids, I was more attracted owing to the many restrictions my parents had imposed. It was very exciting to stand by the pond and see Pisi wash the utensils with the water.
On most afternoons, at Pisi’s place the menu will be paanta bhaat. Just that rice with some pickle and raw onions. If it was her lucky day, she would have brought home some onion bhajjis from the last house she worked that noon. Believe me, it was pure heaven, the taste, and the ambience in that small shack beside a pond on a hot summer afternoon. Things were so simple those days and we got happiness from the small things of life. Now, I look at all these kids who frequent the malls of Bangalore on weekends and eat overpriced meals at KFC and the likes, and wonder, if they are missing on the simple joys of life.
Life has moved on so much from those days. I do not even remember when I have had paanta bhaat last. It is not that hot in Bangalore, besides all my afternoons are spent in AC office, hence I do not need paanta bhaat, yet I miss the taste as much as I miss those moments.
They say, life is all about memories and memoirs, it is true. The other day I was thinking about those days and my eyes were full of tears, not that I was sad, it was because I was overwhelmed by the fact that such simple thing got me so much happiness, whereas now even after a five course lunch at a star hotel, I would give the place a 4-star rating.