Thursday, 18 August 2016

Chicken Curry, Pulao and Sevaiyan

-Brian Mendonça

During my years in Delhi, Id was always very special for me. I used to be invited on Bakri Id for lunch with the Zafar family. Two thousand kilometres away from Goa, their place at Sheikh Sarai, Phase II was second home for me. Their two young children Salman and Simi would share their day’s exploits with me. Often aunty and uncle used to give me wise counsel if I was experiencing a problem at work.

So, putting on a ceremonial kurta befitting the occasion, I used to go round to the Zafar household where everyone would be dressed in their finest. With their gracious hospitality they would ask me to sit at one end of the table while Mr. Zafar sat at the other end. Then aunty would serve her delicious meat curry, but not before a succulent plate of mutton shami kebabs was proferred. The aroma of the rice dish was most tantalizing. After the repast thick sevaiyan (kheer of vermicelli) would be carefully ladled in bowls.  

Dinner on Id would be at my friend Anis Ahmad’s place. We would arrive after negotiating the warren of lanes at Govindpuri. Anis would then spread thedastarkhana  (ceremonial carpet) and serve the mutton biryani with the gladness of his heart. Anisbhai painstakingly did the maps for my book A Peace of India: Poems in Transit (2011). He spent several Sundays taking the trouble to come across to mybarsaati (roof top residence) to do the work. Since at that time I was between jobs he did it for free.

I met Professor Mohammad Aslam during my days working for Cambridge University Press at Daryaganj, Delhi in 1998. He took me to see the Hazratbal mosque at Srinagar. I felt like an honoured guest when I was waited upon with a samovar(copper kettle). This was at a traditional Kashmiri lunch at his place with the customary mutton Rogan Josh. I called him to wish him on Ramzan Id this year. He said he had already celebrated it the previous day as the Id ka chand (the moon) had been sighted in Srinagar by then.

When we returned to Goa, the kitchen cabinets at our new home were made by Bashir Ahmed. Last Id he called us over to his place and served us his delectable dinner with his family. This year on Id-ul-Fitr (Ramzan Id) he came across on his motorbike, his son, sitting pillion. They had brought for us his wife’s preparation of mint-laced pulao, delicious chicken curry and sevaiyan. The tradition could not be broken.

I pressed into Bashir’s hand a box of fresh ladoos we had specially bought fromPunjab and Sindh sweetmeat shop, Vasco. They had been flown in from Goregaon, Mumbai for Id.  ‘Aur teen ghar ko dena heh,’ Bashir said as he rode off. Out of his modest means he gave in abundance. ‘Bakri Id pe phir ayega’  he said later when I called to thank him for the food.
Published in Gomantak Times Weekender, St. Inez, Goa on Sunday, 31 July 2016. Pix of chicken pulao, courtesy lthforum(dot)com

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