I am not a foodie . I will eat anything that is set before me at mealtimes. For me , it is too much effort to undertake a trip to the other side of town to check out the food in a restaurant even if it receives rave reviews from connoiseurs. On the rare occasion that I do get to dine in one of these places that come highly recommended, I still look forward to the conversation rather than the food. Last Friday I met my friend Asha at a nice restaurant in UB city and later when Akila asked me what we had for lunch, I struggled even to describe it to her leave alone remember the name of the dish.

I would have imagined that a non-complaining consumer like me should be the favorite of any cook. But that is not the case. Good cooks want their creations to be criticized, appreciated , evaluated. The older women in my family cooked sambar, rasam and vegetable on a daily basis but eagerly waited for feedback from those who ate it. “sambar sariya irukka?’ (‘is the sambar ok?’) my grandmom would ask as you took the first mouthful of sambar mixed with hot rice and ghee. That was your cue to savour the mouthful and tell her how good it tasted. To be fair to her and most of the ladies of her generation , they turned out delicious sambar and rasam with unfailing consistency. She would have been delighted with a response a la wine tasters about the full body and the delicious blend of the spices and the divine aroma. Or at the minimum, a comment about the balance of salt and spices in the dish. Naturally she would be disappointed with my insensitive treatment of her labor of love as just a means to whet my appetite -no more, no less. No wonder she preferred to seek the opinion of my sister who could say that one-eighth of a pinch of salt would make the dish perfect.

Looking back, what amazes me about the cooking of these women of earlier generations is the consistency in taste. My grandmother’s rasam tasted the same every time she made it. Not once have I seen her put a spoonful in her mouth to check for taste while cooking but the finished product always had the same taste. We called it “kai manam” or the taste of the hand that made the dish. And we ate the same dishes most of the days of the week – a sambar, a rasam and a curry or kootu and yet the meal was extremely satisfying to the palate and stomach. It was simple, tasty and healthy. In recent times I have watched several cookery shows – Indian and international– on the television and that is when I realized the amazing simplicity of our cooking both in terms of the ingredients and in terms of the processes. We just boil, steam or fry. The basic ingredients needed were coriander seeds, chillies and tamarind and a set of spices stored in a box with 5 containers (anjarai petti) for mustard, fenugreek, cumin, pepper and asafetida. This is all they needed to keep their family fed on happy meals most days of the year.

A few days ago, my cousin gave me a cookery book containing recipes of everyday dishes cooked in our family handed down the generations. Today I made a kootu (vegetable and lentils gravy) based on a recipe from the book and when I ate it, there were tears in my eyes as it tasted just like the kootu prepared by my mother. It brought back so many memories of her moving about the kitchen, making these dishes and serving us hot food at every meal whether she was sick or tired or sad. In my mind, the taste of the food that she used to make was so much a part of her - as much as everything else she was. As the author calls it in this article, that taste was a part of my ‘food ancestry’ and it moved me to tears.

This experience is probably something that the younger generation cannot relate to. With the demands and pressures their careers impose on them, there is very little cooking happening in many houses of younger couples these days. It is true that today we have an endless range of food options within our reach and so there is no reason to confine ourselves to the traditional recipes of our ancestors. And whether people want to cook their meals or not is a matter of individual preference. But when the hearth no longer symbolizes family togetherness, children of coming generations will not have memories of growing up intertwined with watching their mom/dad cooking and the medley of smells from a warm kitchen, the signature taste of the way mom used to make this dish or that. With the rise of take-out, eating-out culture, a lot of traditional recipes may soon be forgotten too.

Since these recipes are so much a part of our tradition and culture we could probably make an effort to save them from total oblivion. Do you have any traditional recipe or cooking tip specific to your family that has already disappeared from most kitchens? Please do share as a comment or mail me at

One way to get the most reticent of ladies to open up is to ask about their child. I have noticed that mothers are always enthusiastic to talk about their kids even if it is to complain about them. With pet owners, a sure-fire icebreaker is to ask about their pets. I have known the most curmudgeonly persons open up on the subject of their most wonderful pet . It is the same during morning walks. When I am at the other end of the leash, I find other dog owners, total strangers, nodding to me or smiling. By virtue of owning a pet, we all seem to belong to a club which has no physical existence but whose rules and by-laws we all know instinctively - the non-existent association of pet owners everywhere. These are the people who identify people as 'Munni's mom" or 'zoozoo's dad'. The other day someone in my colony was saying something about Mr.M, who used to be the chairman of XYZ bank and I found myself responding: 'who is this now - oh ok, you mean Simba's dad?" To some of us, even Barack Obama might be better known as Bo's dad.

When friend's call me the conversation invariably veers to the subject of my dogs somehow or other. I have a couple of friends whose children insist on visiting us every time they are in Bangalore just to spend some time with the dog/s. One such friend was in bangalore last month and he was enquiring about Munni. He had met her last when she was about 4/5 months old and remembers how hyper she was. In case you have read this post you may not have forgotten what a psychotic pup she was. I never thought she would grow to become the docile, laid-back character that she is. Now Zoozoo makes me think that Munni was an angel. This one makes me want to feed her Prozac to calm her down and pop one myself after chasing her all over the place . By contrast Munni appears totally zen. When my friend heard this he laughed and said "I think pets tend to reflect the personality of their owners. They are probably the way they are because of you and your spouse." Well, this friend knows us for over 30 years, that is from the time of our restless youth. I have to agree that there was a period in my youth when I was as hyper as munni and zoozoo. That this period may have lasted for about 20 years doesn't really give him the right to make that comment but you know how friends are.

His comment made me think about the personality traits of the dogs I have had and how unique each one has been.
First of all there was Patta. She was a tiny pomeranian who was primarily my aunt's dog but spent quite some time with me whenever my aunt travelled. This was one dog with an attitude. One of her legs was damaged at birth and she walked with a limp but that did not deter her from facing up to the fiercest street dogs that dared to cross our house. To prevent her from running away I had her tied to a cane foot stool thinking that would be sufficient to hold this tiny dog. one day I had left her like that and gone in. When I returned she had disappeared and I found her a few meters from our house. There she stood with the leash still attached to the stool and there were 6 street dogs around her and she was scaring them all with her persistent bark.
Such was her spirit!
This was a dog who wanted to go for a walk and once she finished her business, she would ask you to carry her back. Now Patta had clear ideas about where she wanted to sit, sleep etc. If she wanted to sit on the chair you were seated in, she would simply sit before you and stare until you get up. She used to love tomatoes and cucumber and go and stand near the fridge if she wanted some. Coming back from work and finding her sleeping inside my wardrobe is one of my sweetest memories of this totally fearless white pomeranian. And I wasn't allowed to raise a hand (in jest) at my son - she would jump between me and Siddharth shielding him and barking at me - all this when she was just a foot in height and my son was well over 5 feet!

Then there was Sabha 1. He had been rescued by a French student who left him with me when it was time for her to go back. He was with me until I found a home for him. This guy would sing himself to sleep. And he thought Patta was a joke. He could not believe that such a furry, fluffy, fussy character was really a dog. So he would go and pull her tail and Patta would be neurotic. He was too small to climb on to chairs so Patta used to jump from sofa to sofa just to avoid being caught by this fellow. When we sat outside the house Patta would be tied and Sabha, being small was free to roam. The rascal would sneak behind Patta, bite a clump of her fluffy hair and when Patta would start screaming, he would quietly run away behind the plants. He was quite a rascal who went to guard a farm a few weeks after being with me. I do not think Patta ever forgave me for bringing him into HER house.

Munni 1 was actually a wolf in dog's clothing we think. We picked her up from Cartman Animal Shelter. She had been in a street accident and Cartman people had rescued her and put her up for adoption. The accident had damaged her spine but that did not deter her from running at lightning speed. She was capable of squeezing through window bars and getting out of the house when she wanted. She did not bark much but she would BITE. She would bite first and then wag her tail. she had bitten me, the plumber, electrician, painter - just about anyone who came to the house. She would look adoringly at you and just when you bend down to pet her, she would bite and run. When her spine got worse and when she began to need constant hospital treatment, X-rays etc, the doctor advised us to send her to CUPA. I can't forget the surprised look in her eyes when I left her there and walked away. I cried for days after that.

Sabha 2 walked into our house on his own. He would sneak from under the gate to look for milk in Munni's bowl and would linger within the compound. If Munni bothered him too much he would quietly sneak back the way he came in and this would make Munni hysterical as she could not catch him. He would return when he thought Munni had calmed down. So it was more a case of him adopting us than the other way around.
He was the sweetest dog I have had so far. His tail just didn't stop wagging. He was happy with everything in the world. He had no grand plans of guarding the house and he acted like a polite receptionist welcoming everyone into the house. But they had to be older than 10. To him, humans below the age of 10 or less than about 3 feet in height were the worst menace to the world.
He got a bit ill-tempered after he started getting epileptic attacks when he was about 4. We could not believe that our sweet dog could break the jaw bones of a Rajapalayam dog when they got involved in a street fight. He used to love riding in the car and truly believed the car was his. This is the guy you see here. He was with us for about 6 years.

Munni2 : we thought this one would win the world's worst dog pageant considering that she was a one-dog demolition squad in the house. As a pup, she could not be left unsupervised for one minute - running, breaking, digging and stealing food. I wrote a detailed post on this terror here.But surprisingly she has turned out alright. She actually understands commands and even obeys them when she feels like it. Today at the ripe age of three and half she leads a totally retired life eating three square meals a day. She thinks her job description is to follow me around everywhere and to make sure that she gets her share out of anything I eat. She can be found sitting forlornly in my porch whenever I am away. Rest of the time she is never more than 10 feet away from me. She protests vociferously if she asked to stay outdoors. Generally she can be found stretched in the most comfortable spot in the house depending on the season. Considering how possessive she used to be about me and everything in the house, it is a great surprise that she has accepted Zoozoo into the house so gracefully.
She seems to have outsourced all barking and guarding duties to the able junior - Zoozoo, who barks and jumps for two dogs anyway.

Zoozoo; is the latest and possibly the last dog I will own, simply because I am not sure that I am going to survive bringing her up. Within the span of 5 minutes she can be found digging a huge pit in the garden, running after Munni, peeping into the dustbin for anything she may find to drag to her bed. I have already changed her bed 3 times as her favorite pastime is to tear the cover cloth and spread the cotton all over the porch. And whenever she is excited she tears up some cloth, any cloth that she can find. There is hardly a towel or a bed spread that is not torn in the house. Other casualties to her sharp teeth include my Reebok shoes, power cord of the laptop, Akila's (D-I-L) branded handbag and my spectacles. For her speed and destructive capabilities, I should have named her Tsunami.
She might have a great career in politics because she can flatter anyone with by bestowing her adoring looks, licks and furious tail-wagging as long as she can get what she wants.
Some people don't approve of Bonsai culture. Zoozoo doesn't like growing plants in pots. She systematically pulls out plants from pots and leaves them on the ground. Perhaps this is part of some environmental movement that I am yet to understand completely. But she is a dog with civic sense - she will do her potty only in our garden. She jumps up and down until she is taken for her walk in the morning but will always hold and come back to our garden and do it inside the compound! With proper training I think she can be trained to be a goal keeper in one of the ball games - such is her obsession with balls. She runs after them and catches them with the kind of passion I have seen only among players of these games.

Each of these dogs had/has a distinct personality but despite being so different their modus operandi is the same: They all know how to manipulate their way into our hearts.They take one look at me and they know 'here's the loser I want to adopt". Then they go about charming me with an overload of cuteness and slowly move into my house. Once this is accomplished, they go about doing exactly what they want to do. And whenever they hear me say "I am the owner of these dogs" they smirk inwardly and think: 'Ya,right.'
I am sure that's the story of every dog owner's life!
It was a discussion on safeguarding of individual rights among married couples.
A lady complained that her husband wants her to vote for the candidate of his choice. She feels that he has no right to interfere in her right to vote - a right given to her by the constitution as a citizen of this country.
Husband retorts that the wife does not know the P O L of politics. She doesn't even read the newspapers. So he is only trying to be a responsible citizen by ensuring that her vote is not wasted on the wrong candidate. It is his duty as a responsible citizen to guide her.
This elicited a lot of disapproval from the others present.

In as much as we enjoy rights in a democracy, do we not have a responsibility too - to be aware of the political system, the parties and their policies or at least know about the candidates in order to understand if they are the right candidates to represent us? I hear many youngsters say that they only read the sports page or the entertainment pages and do not want to know about politics. " I am not interested in politics' is a refrain heard among a lot of youngsters. Is this even a choice in a democracy? And they have the right to vote by the time they turn 18. Who do they go and vote for? what criteria do they use?

If this is the case, is it even a case of interference in their rights if a more informed person tries to advise members of their family on the best candidate to vote for? Of course the ideal situation would be to enlighten the ignorant about the parties and their programs and then leave the choice to the voter. But if the person says that he/ she doesn't want to know about politics, why is it wrong if a better informed person interested in the politics of the country tells l them to vote for a certain candidate/ party?

While I am all for individual rights, I don't see this a s a case of interference in one's rights. It would be an interference if he prevented her from voting or if he punished her for voting contrary to his advice. But I think the advice per se doesn't amount to interference. I would assume that we all have such a duty in a democracy.
What do you think?