Food connoisseur - Chandra didi

Sunita Giri 12:03 AM |

I am ok if you call me foodie, because that what I am. My favorite channel is TLC, and my favorite shows are masters chefs USA or Australia I watch all competitions regardless of amateur, junior, senior or star chefs. No wonder, I know most of the famous food connoisseurs that ever graced our TV sets like Nigella Lawson, Dona Hay, Gordon Ramsay, Jamie Oliver, Julia Child or Madhu Jaffrey. These are the personality I know much better than the rock star you are fond of, its just like they are big celebrities in the world and I must know their name. Its not easy for me to remember since when I started having keen inclination towards gourmet food or the art of culinary.

Knowing where I come from and the kind of food I grew up eating, I think its bit unusual for me to be interested in gourmet food or culinary art. Because, where I come from; we   eat somewhat plain food. Cooking to finish the task is more important than knowing the art how to make it delicious or making it healthy as well as making it to please our eyes and nose. One thing for sure working in five star hotel and having bosses who have clear ideas how to cook. Then working in the environment with the people who keep suggesting the party throwing what they should keep in their menu so that their host will talk about it for months to come;  must have gave me this idea of cooking and then learn to enjoy life.

But, before I started working in hotel there was Chandra didi who was fond of good food than the rest of the people in Bal Mandir. If there was a festival or a special day to celebrate in Bal Mandir, Chandra didi was always the one, most wanted person during such occasions. Be it big festivals like Dashian & Tihar or small occasion like making a pickle of cucumber or new type of curry that was never tried out before, she used to come forward with her knowledge to share. She is the first person in my life who I can say knew the the art of culinary.  During dashain, remember occasion even cook used to come to her to seek her opinions asking for how much particular spices to add in the meat and how long they should keep it aside before they cook. She was the one who used to make pickles in big clay pots for 200 people to rejoice for weeks.

Here what I really must tell my readers that, she was not the cook to prepare food for all. She just had the ideas what makes good food and how to make tasty and delicious food. There were cooks, who used to prepare food for all. During 80s era people were very traditional and non flexible to other caste people making food for all. The cook must be brahmin and there is no exception to this fact.  It was not necessary they know cooking or not but they must be brahmin. The interest and knowledge part was given least importance than the caste base work therefore, people gave more importance to the caste not the knowledge. By this standard she was Shrestha woman definitely not the one who are trusted to enter in the kitchen and then make food for all caste people. But her knowledge was trusted to make good food there was no doubt about it.

Most of the time I was mere observer of what she did, Very rarely I was picked up by her to assist her to mash and then mix hot lupsi pulp to mix in the pickle she was preparing. I am not sure for this  whether she used to work in palace cook team before her posting here in Bal Mandir or not but the name she used to take or the process of making some of the dishes was sure not for the common people to enjoy. That I am sure of.

I am really surprised how come I could not make the best pickle like her, when I grew up watching her for so many years ? Now, I really have tried it so hard for many years and then I really can wow anytime you drops at my place for lunch or dinner during dashain.

When I really need to feel good about by treating myself the food I would like to master, it sure is more the food I grew up eating with not the food I watch on TV. When I say   I would like to master some culinary art it has to do  direct connection with to the food I grew up eating during festival times in Bal Mandir. Although, I was not in the age to keep my eyes on those who make it, instead of mastering how to finish it faster than it was made, however its not easy for me to remember when was the year she was not there to help make festival foods. It may be that, because, I do not remember a big day - Dashain & Tihar - without good and quality food on our plates and I must have presumed that she was always there to make sure the food is good. Let me add one more important thing here as long as the housemother Kedar shrestha was there to supervise, she took the task in hand making sure the festival foods do not reduce its quality than the year before.  

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Troublesome math

Sunita Giri 10:13 PM |

Reading national daily today came with somewhat new sense of relief in my heart. Today the SLC result was out and it said out of approx 500,000 the people only about 44% passed but those who failed in their SLC exam, 43% failed in math alone. This is the highest percentage than any other subjects in schools. I can personally understand this because when I was in school math was my weakest subject. To be honest math was, is and will remain the weakest subject in my life. OK, fine I can do some basics but that's it. I do remember my school days when this was one of the weakest subject and used to put me in trouble; low self esteem in front of those who were smarter in this subject and bad relationship with math and science teacher is one of the reason. Well, maybe, more than me the others around me also was not comfortable with math being my weakest subject.

I could have been about 10 -11 years old, when I sat down with Nee. Her name is Niru but most of us used to call her Nee. Knowing that she was good in math I asked her to teach me some math problems. Remember, I was not very studious girl to go to somebody for help that too when the subject is as boring as math. But, there must have been some strict warnings if we do not do that particular homework in time or I could have been noticed by my math teacher due to my weakness. I don't remember it now for whatever the reason that made me to sit down with Nee to seek help in this matter. So, Nee started with very good intention to help me in my math problems. Opening a book and picking one particular   exercise, she started the class like she had seen her teachers doing it during classes, “suppose X + Y = 5” or something like that. I stopped her there and then asked her, “what is suppose ? why do I have to suppose ?” She looked at me for some time and then changed the word with “imagine X + Y = 5.” I had to stop her there too, to clear my confusion; I looked at her with cats look on my face and then asked her, “imagine, what is imagine and how can I imagine  X + Y = 5  ?.”  

She was very sweet and helpful person and because she was very good in math than other girls in our class and in room also, so she was willing to help me but now she thought to give in when she saw that there is no way she can ever help me in my confusion about math. Because I do not remember another such sit down with Nee and then Math remained my weak subject throughout my school and college days.

Couple of years later, Nee and I was in same room [Bal Mandir]. I think we had been sharing   same room for many years but this time because we were paired up to do some work together so I remember now. The work was to carry the morning and evening plates to the kitchen from our room for a month. We could do it together each time or give one time of the day to  each one, meaning if I do it in the evening then she has to do it in the morning time. It so happened that I was doing it in the evening and we were doing it separately.

One day Nee requested me to do the job morning time instead of my usual evening time, saying she has some other work in the morning time and in turn she will do it in the evening time for couple of days. Her logic was, “why not you do it morning and then I will  do it in the evening.” I had did this just the last evening and now she was telling me to do it in the morning again, so my response obviously was, “but I just did it last evening and I have to do it again this morning too ?” She was trying to convince me that, “anyway we have to do it once in twenty four hour, what difference it makes if its morning or evening ?” But I stick with what I said before “ but I just did it and you are telling me to do it again.”

Nee was very level headed person compared to other girls in Bal Mandir and so tried hard to convince me with her reasoning and problem to understand the situation which I did not get it then. So she may have switched this work with other girl for next month or so to sort out her problem, as I was not understanding. I was not understanding her reading but if I try to look back and try to see it from her angle, it seems that it was more of the thing I was not ready to cooperate with her rather than being confused with time factor issue. One thing for sure, I don't feel bad now about the stupidity of my childhood or teenage mistakes.

Years later, during our rare gatherings I sat down with Nee and then try to catch up our old time, I asked her, “Nee, do you remember trying to teach me math or my confusion with suppose or imagine questions ?”  It seemed that she had forgotten all that but responded wisely like she always does, “what difference it makes if your math was so weak, you are so good in what you are doing and your weakness does not even matter to anywhere and definitely not you !”

I did not know that my childhood friends saw me with so much respect and so high regards for me than I see myself, Now she is right I can say 5 + 5 is 25,  or it could be 2500, nah its not even close it can be 5,000 or 50,000 without much reasoning. Well if you don't believe me then try to put some negative message in your Facebook status that is about our corrupt politicians cursing them to see how many buzz it will create in the society and then see the result yourself in just couple of days.

Mark Zukerberg, you have no idea how thankful I am to your magic invention of social networking site, Facebook. I can be soo wrong in math when I say 2 + 2 is 22 or 22,000 but in reality it will crush all the preconceived notion about the math in reality and in real world.

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Uncivilized people or society ?

Sunita Giri 10:39 PM |

When I bought my TV set the first channel I was hooked on was Animal Planet and National Geography. In the beginning, I was not understanding why I was liking it so much it even when the ugly crocodiles were tearing the body apart of zebras in muddy water, which were trying to cross the river. The water got muddier when  the crocodiles were taking and turning to tear the zebras before they can convert it into easy bite sizes. I do remember watching it, as if, I have to give exam tomorrow on this subject matter. There was nothing  good in particular about watching it, except for the narration and the passion was put in the document to make it so interesting. I was immensely fascinated, the way animals were treated with so much respect, liked and loved. Above all, they were not  being judged about their wild behavior.

It was more of narrator's voice which was so captivating, with full of respect and understanding for animals, even for their wild behaviors they took before they trap their prey. More I watched, more I learned that many nature conservationists were studying hard throughout their lives about wildlife and their behavior, with so much passion and respect. Interesting, no judgement for its wild and untamed behavior.

As a young child, I was customized to hate animals of all kinds including cats [ it was viewed as a symbol of black magic]. Killing another animal for its food and then devouring it instantly when the blood is still hot was regarded very bad. Now, I was watching it live on my TV and yet not hating it for what it was doing. It was the wildlife in jungle and that's how they manage food for survival. There is no way judging them for the food it manage for living.

Watching these channel has one good point and one bad point in it. I like it the way the wild animals were treated and understood but, I did not like the fact that how badly we were treated when we were growing up in Bal Mandir.

I have been writing about this second class citizens behavior from the staff at the Bal Mandir in many of my posts and then be judged that we are bad, purely because we came from bad family background they ignores that it was the situation that went wrong with us. Many thought the bad things happened to us, because we must have done some bad work in our early life- the philosophy of karma you know. Had I not watched these channels, I would have never ever learned that we were treated worse than these animals. Me being a very slow person to get things fast, it really took me time to get the real reason behind; why I was so hooked on to watch that channel and why I liked it so much.

Like everyone I like being respected and understood. But, I learned something  only after seeing how animals were being treated and respected by humans. and how badly humans treated another human beings.

Honestly speaking, I did not even have heard the word dignity nor I knew the meaning of it  until I went to college. One of my friend was talking about it. Then, I came across this word when she used the another word ‘humiliating’, which was again a new word for me by then. I grew up in an environment where we were not respected, loved, liked yet I was not aware of all this words. Now, its something pretty strange for me to absorbed even today. What I was missing in those days was respect, dignity, right and freedom of being who we are and what we are. To feel good about ourselves regardless of the situation that went bad in our life.  

The channels let me know [without intending] that the it was human's decision to treat good or bad way to other human being or other creature on earth. It has nothing to do with us or our condition and then the book by Gijubhai [Divaswapna] gave  me the glimpse that it was something which even family members were treating with their own children in 1920s India. That in fact, it was consoling to me in so many ways but it was the sign of uncivilized society.

With some exception, we know that that if we treat roughly to the wild animals they are bound to attack us and then harm us. We might get killed under its wild anger. There is no doubt, humans can be very dangerous creature too, if; they are treated worse than animals. I have seen people who has the simple motto in life, “you treat me like one I behave like one.”

There is no doubt that I was not brought up in civilized environment but it seems to me that it was our society not just my environment. If we want to be treated good we must treat others with equal respect. One thing for sure, for best result treat them like the humans ! or in simple language be civilized in your behavior.
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