Pakora-holicWhen I was young and overweight, ammi-jaan (trans: mum who probably wanted to take my life if I did not stop nagging) used to cook all sorts of deep-fried stuff for my sehri (urdu for “massive feast designed to make you burp until iftar time”).
You’d think that with all this food and fruit (who needs paani (water) when you can eat paani-melon!), our chances of getting thirsty that day would be minimised. Nonense. William Dalrymple may admire Delhi for its tolerate sufism. But there is nothing tolerant about my Dilli-wali (“from Delhi”) mum feeding her poor son deep-fried foods that raised thirst and heartburn of daytime fasting to new heights!
An essential feature of this thirst-generator was the humble pakora. In case you have no idea what a pakora is, go google it yourself! I’ve just gotten over my addiction to pakoras and the very mention of these thirst-beasts is enough to make me want to stuff my mouth with a square metre of ice.
Pakoras can contain potato or other healthier and less-fattening vegetables. Anyone who has met me will know I ate lots of potato-filled pakoras as a child. But pakoras were useless without fruit chaat.
Drive along Cleveland Street in Surry Hills (Sydney, Australia, that huge piece of real estate somewhere south of Indonesia) and you will find numerous Indian “Chat Houses”. The first time I saw them, I thought it must be a Banglore-IT thing. You know, young hip Indians going to special internet cafes were all they do is chat to people. How wrong I was.
“Chat” is actually a mispronunciation of the famous sour fruit salad called “chaat”. And my mum must have been the chaat queen of the 20th century. The woman who got me almost addicted to that disgusting awful-tasting “paan” was going to have no problem convincing her “kaleje ka tukra” (piece of liver. Or was that kidney?) to put my kaleje at risk by eating this over-curried spicy fruit salad virtually fermented in lemon juice.
In fact, I developed a habit of using a pakora to scoop up the fruit chaat. The potatoes added some sweetness to the banana and mango and grape of the chaat. Potatoes making mangoes seem sweeter. Go figure.
After years of this Delhi delight, I have become a true pakora-holic. So if I am at the house of an Indian during Ramadan, I will insist on pakoras. And if you are Indian and still don’t know what pakoras are, forget about inviting me. And if you are standing next to me during tarawih and cannot understand what that stench is that accompanies my stomach movements, find another row (or preferably, another mosque!).
My next contribution is about the phenomenon of burping during tarawih whilst performing 20 rakaats at a snail’s pace behind a sub-continental imam.