Ghee, malai and makkhan essentials of  growing up in Simla of the Sixties

Ghee, malai and makkhan essentials of
growing up in Simla of the Sixties

I follow some rituals mechanically which I have seen, during my childhood, my Amma performing religiously. And preparing Khichdi with all the accompanying religious fervour on Makar Sakranti is one of them. That is the only day when I prepare religiously and relish sumptuously khichdi in the entire year.

This year my daughter was with us and when I put a big lump of desi ghee on the steaming hot Khichdi …..her eyes bulged out of their socket to see the amount of ghee in my plate.
When I was lovingly watching the lump of ghee melting in poodles of clear liquid form and finding a way to reach the bottom of my plate running down the hot steaming khichdi, my daughter cried in disbelief, “Would you take so much of ghee…..” And when I conveniently ignored her bewildered exclamation she cried even louder, “at YOUR age!” I pretended not to listen to her as I didn’t want to spoil my day and my khichdi drowned in ghee. Looking at me in an accusing manner, she lectured hard on “OUR” eating habits. My husband, ignorant of all this hot discussion, brought from the kitchen smoking hot ghee, that he preferred in his khichadi, and added a liberal amount to my plate as well. The sputtering sound of smoking hot ghee touching the khichadi angered my little one still more and she yelled at her Papa….”Eu too Papa….”

I am really surprised how the present day generation, especially girls decry ghee, malai a makhhan and look down upon these as the obnoxious items to be kept at miles distance.

But for us, the simple creatures, raised in Simla of the Sixties, these very items were part of our life…The more the better. Dalda was decried and unheard of till early seventies. Refined oil was not a word in our dictionary and that on the shelf of Amma’s kitchen. It was pure Desi ghee that ruled the roast.
Amma would get her Desi ghee from some relatives who would visit Simla from back home. But as it would not be very often so she would scour a few shops down the Gunj market towards Ripon hospital. Whenever someone in the neighbourhood would share that some desi ghee is available, Amma would go straight to some non descriept shop beyond the Gunj Bazaar. I would always wonder what these shops dealt in as apparently they would be empty all the time. But when I accompanied Amma to these shops I learnt about commission agents, the arhitiyas as Amma called them, who would get saleable items from local villagers and would sell at some commission. Amma would open the tin box, brought by someone, look at the ghee inside, apply a little on the backhand side and sniff it long. Only if satisfied about the purity and freshness of the Ghee she would buy it.

But it was not like a regular shop where you could walkin anyday and buy ghee. For rest of the time it was Minocha Ghee store in the Lower Bazaar, very near to our home. It was so near that we could fetch in ghee by the time Amma would put Dal chawal in our plates. The shop was nothing less than a miracle to me….a large number of tinboxes of desi ghee and loose desi ghee brought out from the open tinbox for customers who wanted less. Though we bought from this shop but Amma was not completely satisfied of its purity. But we got ladlefuls of desi ghee in our daal, sabzi or even on plain chapati and not o forget the daily tadka in desi ghee ONLY.

Malai would be savoured by us, the kids, on alternate day turn basis and so would be the turn to enjoy the malai attached to the steel patila. But sometimes we would get milk from Nathu Hawai and I would wait for the late evenings when I thought the milk was thickened enough and as the person at the milk Kerrai knew me he would put extra large amount of malai to the milk. It would be like getting the best of the treasures that everyone sought after. What a disgruntled feeling it was for me to learn one day that bloating papers are added to thicken the malai by the shopkeeper. I still don’t know the truth but feel cheated for numerous visits to the shop greedy for more and more malai.

Makhhan was what we thought the Double Roti Walah brought in his tin box. These were neatly packed small packets which would be bought very rarely and that, too, to be taken with bread, a la saab logs.
Amma would churn out makhhan from the milk if somehow she would save malai from us and this tasted heavenly. Massi ji, mother of Kaku, would put a little of home-made makhhan on his head sometimes as she believed it increased memory by cooling down effect it had. I would wish Amma to put a little on my scalp as well but then my tongue would get better of the brain and I would prefer it on my bread.

Bauji believed that girls had to be strong and was very careful about giving us the best. Amma believed girls had to be strong from inside…which I could never understand at that time but looking back it was the strength to bear kids and raise them what she meant it to be. But for Bauji girls had to be brave, strong and courageous and therefore needed Ghee, malai and makhhan.

Despite what my daughter may tell me to….I love my ghee, malai and makhhan and relish it without bothering for cholesotrol or whatnot.

The sturdy legs that I got, courtsy, desi ghee and running up and down the Simla stairs are faithfully serving me even today…..So when I plan for arduous trekking trips I thank my parents for preparing us for life both physically and mentally…

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