The giants have been a dismal failure, S and I discuss as we sip our morning coffee. It is the third morning of the lockdown.
It was their time to rise and shine but they have chosen to hide behind lame excuses of regulation and bureaucracy. S complains, annoyance stark in his voice.
That’s a bit too harsh, I counter, maybe they were genuinely under-prepared. And demand has skyrocketed for sure.
We are speaking of the e-commerce Goliaths that three days into the lockdown are still dysfunctional. (They still are, after a fortnight, but that’s a discussion for another day)
Exasperated with waiting over when the e-marts spring back to life, we finally decide to don our masks and gloves and venture to the local vegetable store.
I do not recollect when was the last time a visit to a modest unassuming vegetable shop had made me so delirious with joy. That I am akin to the proverbial kid in a candy shop is no hyperbole.
Of course supplies are limited, but the staples – potatoes, onions, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, green chillies, coriander and curry leaves are all available, lined neatly on the rickety iron shelves waiting in earnest anticipation to be picked.
I busy myself with stocking up supplies.
S strikes conversation with the father-son duo who run the store.
Are you taking precaution enough when you are going to the market ? S asks.
Yes, the young man replies, even showing S his cloth mask.
And do you have gloves ? S draws his attention to the disposable ones we are donning.
He shakes his head.
I’ll get them for you then, S assures.
And ideally, see if you can avoid your father visiting the markets. Elderly folks are more vulnerable.
Can you also tell him Sir ? He pleads. He doesn’t want to listen to me.
We walk back home.
S makes a mental note to drop disposable gloves when we return next.
And it is local businesses as these that have been heroes during the crisis.
When the stalwarts have struggled to cope with the crisis and get their supply chains reinstated (and I am by no means implying that it is a trivial exercise), local businesses have gone beyond their means to ensure supplies are adequate and everyone visiting their humble nondescript stores returns with a smile.
Back home, I decide to make a childhood favourite – Grandma’s simple earthy Lau diye Kacha Moong Dal. To accompany piping hot rice. And some jhurjhure aloo bhaja.
Don’t throw the lauer khosha (bottlehourd peels), Maa reminds when I speak to her later in the morning.
You told me that in the nick of time. I reply, heaving a sigh of relief that I had not yet trashed the peels.
Lau diye Kacha Moong Dal. A symphony of bottlegourd and moong dal. A throw of green peas. The fragrance of panchforon. The warmth of ginger. And that intoxicating zing of mustard oil.
This is food heaven for sure !!!
Lau diye Kacha Moong Dal (Moong Dal with Bottle Gourd)
- 1.5 cup mugdal or moongdal
- 1 small sized lau / lauki / bottlegourd peeled and cut into medium cubes
- 1/2 cup green peas blanched (optional)
- 1 tsp panchforan
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 dry red chillies
- 2-3 green chillies slit
- 1.5 tbsp mustard oil
- salt to taste
- Soak the dal for about an hour. Rinse well and drain.
- Transfer the dal to a pressure cooker, add the lau cubes and a sprinkle of turmeric powder. Pour 2 cups of water, cook till 1 whistle. Allow the steam to release on its own.
- Heat 1/2 tbsp oil in a pan. Throw in the panchforon, bay leaves and dry red chillies. Allow the spices to splutter.
- Carefully pour the cooked dal and lau into the pan. Throw in the green peas. Add a cup or so of warm water till you get the desired consistency. Sprinkle in the salt, simmer for 3-5 odd minutes.
- Adjust seasonings. Finish off with a generous drizzle of mustard oil.