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April 2008

Zhunka Bhakar and the House of Your Dreams


My car has a mind of its own. It takes turns whenever it pleases. Suddenly I find myself somewhere...and its not over the rainbow. Its in some strange place. I slow down and readjust the wheels of my mind...they are in a different gear obviously and my clutch is screeching blue murder. I dont blame myself. I dont blame the car. Look, everyday the landscape changes. We have a glass mall with a food court reaching up into the sky where  a jhopad patti (slum) used to be.We have a Barista where  a Cafe Good Luck greeted you, at the corner, with a bun maska and a masala chai. We have a McDonalds in the hinterland of Hinjewadi- bang on the spot , as I recall, where a buffalo shed hung lazily out, its inmates chewing the cud contentedly.
Then we have buildings in all shapes, sizes and colours sprouting up everywhere. On every bit of land, garbage pit, gutter, and soon on every bit of river I'm sure.
Apartment blocks, residential societies, bungalows,villas .
Are the names given to these eruptions indicative of the aspirations of our people or their builders?

Corinthian, Palladium,Coliseum, and other nouns descriptive of a style so quintessentially Maharashtrian wouldn't you say? Or have our builders travelled to Vicenza or Corinth and picked up on the lifestyle of the rich and famous many centuries ago.
Then we have Wellington Mews, Marble Arch,Victoria Garden, Castlemaine,Windsor Avenue, Kensington Court,.....  just short of having amche swathache Buckingham Palace up for sale.
Other wonderfully titled flats are Daffodil Avenue,Tulips, Iris, Magnolia, all, oddly enough, flowers that do not grow in India, let alone Pune.

Grandiose appellations reign: Spacia, Gracia, Eternia,Sophronia, Sicilia,Palacia.
Luminous gems glitter on the horizon; Emerald City, Sun City, Diamond Park, Pearl Towers, City Crown.

Now we are Going Green in a city shorn of its trees. We have Springfield Park ,The Woods, The Meadows, Oakwood Hills, Laburnam Lane, Yellow Blossoms, Ozone Villas, Orchard, Hill Mist and Timberland, to make up for  lack of the real thing.

Last but not least, my favourite of all time, Posh Ville. Kind of says it all. Keeping up with the Jones's or should I say Joshi's, is the developers idea of a major selling point in towns today.

No doubt builders imagine that residents of these elevated homes with marbonite floors, Italian kitchens, and French furniture eat off gold plate and feast on stuffed quail. Closer to reality, however, the average Joeshi  would be happy with a plateful of Zhunka Bhakar to be found, thankfully, in little stalls all over the state. Delicious stuff and so easy to make.



400 gm carrots, peeled and chopped medium fine
4 tsp oil.
1/2 tsp hing (asafatoeda)
1/2 tsp rai (mustard seed)
1/2 tsp haldi (turmeric)
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tbsp gur (jaggery)
Salt to taste.
4 tbsp besan (gram flour)
1 tbsp chopped hara dhania (green coriander)

(For variety add drumstick pieces, or a cupful of methi (fenugreek) chopped fine or even methi (fenugreek) seeds)

Heat oil in kadhai. Add mustard seed and let them pop. Add hing now. Add carrots and lower heat.
Add haldi and chilli powder. If carrots are sweet, no gur is needed, otherwise add 1/2 tbsp gur .
Stir a couple of times then add salt. Cover till carrots are cooked...on low heat. Do not add any water. Carrots should have a bit of bite and must not  be mushy when done.
Now take 4 tbsp besan, or a little more, sprinkle on to carrots as you stir gently, till carrots are coated with besan. Cover immediately and cook for 5 minutes or until besan 'smells' cooked. Stir once or twice gently. Remove and add dhania.

You could add a mixture of large chunks of tomato, onion and green chilli instead of carrots, for a change.

Link to Bhakri/ Jowar Roti.

Amtis and Uncles


We had a family get-together some time ago. Actually, our clan is so large now, we were able to connect with just a fraction of them, those who live in Pune. A couple of aunts and uncles, one lot of first cousins, two lots of second cousins - children of the sons of our grand uncles, and already we were  spilling out of the living room into the large patio outside. Many of them I had not seen for years and yet they looked so familiar. We all shared some facial characteristics, such as the nose, or teeth, or smile, but most prominently - the wrinkles. It was exciting to exchange memories with each other, jokes which ran in the family about our not-too-distant ancestors, legendary tales of bravery, high spirits and misdemeanours. One favourite story which had made its way down each branch of our family tree was the one about an uncle (who was not known for his brilliance at studies) and who, with immense faith, arranged his books under the pillow before settling down to sleep, in the hope that the wisdom contained in those tomes would transfer itself to his brain in the course of a couple of nights. Suffice it to say this did not happen. But he was a man of such great good humour that he remained a favourite with all of his nieces and nephews.

It was pot luck for lunch and we had all brought a dish or two for the table, which, considering our number, was fairly groaning with food. We had decided to keep it simple, and so it was. And then we also discovered that we shared yet another thing - a cuisine. Our masalas were so similiar that while swapping  information on ingredients we found we used the same amounts  in the preparation of the godha masala, a standard  used to produce the amti we all ate regularly, and which is famously delicious... I have been sworn to secrecy about its ingredients by the family, so for the following typically Maharashtrian dish I suggest you add a godha masala of your choice. They are available ready made.Of course they taste nothing like our family's......



1 cup toor (yellow split lentils) or masoor dal (red split lentils).
2 tbsp oil
Imli (tamarind), a walnut-sized piece. Soak in water for 10 minutes and then remove the pulp.
A sprig of kari patta (curry leaves)
1/2 onion chopped finely
* Optional: Add 1 medium chopped brinjal (aubergine),or a handful of methi (fenugreek leaves), or  1 chopped mooli (white radish). Note that if you add the methi, then you must add garlic and dry red chilli, crushed to counteract the bitter taste of the methi.
1/2 tsp rai (mustard seed)
1/2 tsp haldi (turmeric)
A pinch of hing (asafoetida)
1 1/2 tsp godha masala
Gur (Jaggery), 2 walnut-sized pieces
1 tbsp chopped dhania (fresh coriander leaves)


Cook the dal (lentils) first. When cooked add the imli (tamarind) pulp to the dal and mix well.  Heat the oil in a kadhai.


Now add the mustard  seeds, curry leaves and onion pieces. Stir well. If you would like to add vegetables like brinjal, etc, add them now too. Let onions get slightly pinkish. Now add the haldi, red chilli powder, and godha masala. Stir well. When the onions are soft, add the dal, thick or thin, as you like it, and bring to a boil. Cut dhania (coriander) while the dal is boiling.


Add salt, gur (jaggery) and dhania. Boil for at least 10 minutes to bring out the best of the flavours.

(Recipe and Cooking by my lovely cousin Mohini )

P.S Mohini makes goda masala to order. You can now contact her to place your order on 26850230.