Monday, June 05, 2017

The spice girls

So Xena starts primary school in about six months and even though I have promised myself that I will not stress her about/towards academic excellence, I'm sure the desi parent in me might kick in at some point and I might go all ballistic with the 'follow-in-my-footsteps-carry-the-legacy-forward' attempts. (Though come to think of it, no one stressed me when I was a kid; I was just inherently into studies). Anyway, whether I go 'Y U no centum' on her about studies or not, I am aware that there are many other ways in which she can make me proud and carry my legacy forward.

Pani puri worship, for example.

Well, to be honest, my stomach isn't what it used to be when I used to live in India some two decades ago, and even now when I travel there, it is with much trepidation that I order roadside pani puri. And yet, during Xena's first trip to India, I offered her some. I believe it was one of those moments I could milk in a future interview.

"Tell us about a big risk you took."

"I offered my Singaporean 5-year-old roadside pani puri during her first visit to India."

"You're hired. When can you start?"

To be honest, I was a little relieved when she rejected the pani puri, just like she did all other food. But I knew that this girl was not made so much of sugar as she was of spice. In fact, long before she started on solids proper, she used to eat Haldiram's spicy aloo bhujia. It's another matter that she used to literally eat them piece by microscopic piece, and if heaven forbid she got a 'double', she'd shake it with all her might until she had successfully performed a Bheema-on-Jarasandha action.

Lately, I've been sneaking in a little spice into her food (chilli powder in paratha stuffing, tabasco sauce in pasta, pepper in fried rice, etc.) and she doesn't seem to mind. So I'm hopeful that one day she would be chomping on pani puris. If not the roadside kind, at least the made-by-mommy kind.

When my mom visited me last month, she brought for me a pack of ready-to-fry puris, half of which I used at our recent PP party. I wanted to consume the other half before it was ruined by Singapore's humidity, or a "very reliable" WhatsApp forward claiming that an HIV-positive factory worker in Ambala has injected these puris with his contaminated blood, or that Dr Ashok from AIIMS or Dr Richard from America (did you notice that these docs are SO famous they don't have or need last names?) has said that eating these will turn your hair purple.

So I invited a friend over one evening, and we decided to get high on pani puri. On the dinner menu was literally pani puri and nothing else. I'd made the pani just the way I like it ("Bhaiya, zara mirchi maarke banao" types), with green chillis blended into it.

I had, of course, made Xena a legit dinner and by the time she was done with it, we were done too, with nothing but a bowl of the pani remaining. I intended to slurp it up, of course. (What? You don't drink up every last drop of the pani in your bowl? Get out of my bar now!) But just then, the risk-taking interviewee in me woke up and I offered it to Xena instead.

Bear in mind that it was very, very spicy and I only offered it to her as a joke. In fact, she realised that. She laughed. I laughed too, and then told her that she just needed to try a little and if she didn't like it, she didn't have to have any more.

She took a few drops in her spoon, and placed her tongue on them. Fire! She coughed and immediately gulped down some water. She thought she was done. I thought she was done. However, within seconds, she wanted more. Soon, she was slurping it up. Keeping her water bottle very very close, but not yet willing to let go of the spicy pani.

I sat there and stared at her. To say that I was thrilled or proud would be an understatement.

I took a deep breath. All was well with the world.

The pani puri legacy SHALL be carried forward.





6 comments:

Arun said...

Phew! I remain qualified to stay at the bar. ((What? You don't drink up every last drop of the pani in your bowl? Get out of my bar now!) )

Other comments:
1. Great photo!
2. Xena, the spice girl?!
3. Isn't it early to be thinking about legacy?

Arun said...

I mean, Xena the spice girl is a comedown from Xena the warrior princess. Some combo title is needed, no?

Charan Deep Singh said...

Well in Mumbai there is concept of sukha puri at the end of all Pani Puris

The Gardener said...

No chilli please!

The Gardener said...

And not more than 5 pani puris.

And not the street pani puris!

Sayesha said...

Arun,
Thanks. It's never too early when it comes to the pani puri legacy! :D
PS: She can be chilli padi. It means raw chillies but can also be used to mean 'firebrand'. :)

Charan,
Only Mumbai? I thought it was everywhere, no?

The Gardener,
Hahaha too late! :D