My Shravan-ka-mahina fasting tamasha…

SALADS GALORE: Go green fasting with Sharavn!

SHRAVAN-ka-mahina I’m always in an introspective mood because I try to do some fasting and occasional feasting if I find an agreeable local Saraswat Brahmin thali meal, or even a Gujarati thali meal for lunch only. Funny, one is so used to popping things into the mouth that on a one meal a day fast one keeps feeling lost and I suddenly realize how much habit rather than hunger drives me emotionally as the mind waxes and wanes with its angers, dilemmas and depressions.

I’m a congenitally impossible foodie so food is never far from my mind. Come Shravan life takes a turn for the worse and I find myself struggling to win the battle of habit rather than hunger. Hunger too but in appreciative ways! Suddenly I start taking a new interest in good, bad and ugly — as in what body beautiful seeks and what an emotionally spoilt double-feeling, double-thinking, double-speaking (everything on the double) mind is (then there is the heart and soul with undercurrents of approval, disapproval and guilt).

Don’t go away, stay with me! Even when it comes to a simple or not so simple matter of what shall I eat becomes a matter of shall I just go and eat a proper thali meal for lunch somewhere (and control foodie desires for the rest of the day till sweet sleep) or shall I cook an exotic dahi-bhat or rice-sambar or roti-sabzi and be happy? But that won’t fill my real and unreal hunger pangs.

Besides I’ve lost the inclination to cook proper thali meals at home of rotli, rice and everything in between like sabzi, dal, dahi, kachumbar and sweet if need be. That’s supposed to be a nutritionally wholesome lunch. For a home of two seniors suffering from various health problems it’s neither practical nor economical and I end up in a situation of half-making and half-buying from the marketing place…oftentimes cooking or buying more than needed and then chucking leftovers.

I am learning to chuck rather than finish up the last few days refrigerated leftovers…both consuming leftovers for the sake of not chucking them and now indifferent chucking annoys me because than it becomes an issue of to eat or not to eat, to chuck or not to chuck! One of these days I will learn how to cook just for one or two I vow…till then indulge me.

This fasting month I keep telling myself if I can find just one happy meal at noon I may rest in peace till the next noon. But nothing satisfies. I know I can go patronize Bhojan at the Fidalgo enclave of restaurants, or Vijaybhai’s Navrang (where the dal is really a Guju dal on a good day without too much oil, salt, chili) where I love the lightweight ghee-laced rotli/fulka. He charges me `100 or `150 although his latest price hike is `190 which he says he charges others who come to hog. I’m not a hogger! Also I skip papad, pickle, sweet and appreciate only three to four of the delicate Gujarati rotli with sabzi, dal, half katori rice, buttermilk.

I think Vijaybhai makes me cough up less cash because he thinks I’m a starving aging journalist and likes exchanging notes with me about the hardships of survival in a business like his!

ACTUALLY, I tell him in the food business you can never fail if you provide quality, quantity and aam aadmi pricing with a smile. Everybody has to eat to live depending on individual mindset of need, want or greed. Eating to live from the point of staying alive and kicking, fit and fine — and happiness too —  comes at a high cost. Because then someone like me dreams of being a raw foodie (minimally cooked food, no or very minimal refined oil/salt/sugar/industrial ingredients) or a vegan (veggie meals without dairy/eggs/honey. Nothing rooted in cruelty to other little and big animal residents of Mother Earth.

Needless to say such dilemmas and resolutions are of far reaching consequences on a palate habituated to a zillion cooked vegetarian and non-vegetarian delights! Say I’m  only stretching a point for a larger cause…haven’t we  compromised the good earth’s primary resources so greedily and that’s why we’re in the mess we are today both environmentally and consequently health wise,  vis-à-vis whether we are fit for life or not fit for life. We no longer know the difference between good, bad and ugly,  selfish, self-centred and insensitive, perennially in chase of the god or goddess of money. Greed always makes for insensitivity and the insensitive live with their dark glasses on all the time if I may say so!

I RETURN to my fasting foodie adventures here. Since I’m constantly on the lookout for a decent, aam aadmi tiffin service, a friend of mine directed me to an enterprising lady who wishes to remain anonymous. I was thrilled to discover Mrs ABC who is supplies a tiffin service to office-goers in the vicinity of Tonca — four large chapatti (excellent chapatti, the best I’ve come across), sabzi, dal, rice, bit pickle. Cost: `85. She was heaven sent for me for a few days.

(Sigh) I was the only one in my home of two eating her tiffin food. To my own mixed annoyances I confided to Mrs ABC that “we don’t eat so much salt, chili, oil and there’s too much of all that in the food she cooks!” Doctor (never mind which doctor!) says less salt/oil/sugar for heart patients, no dairy products for those suffering from respiratory problems. My motherly,  patient, catering lady, replied,  “But mine is normal cooking! In fact, the rest of my customers say I’m stingy with oil, salt, chili…. they want more!” Not joking.

So what is normal? Normal is what we grow up eating and what we are used to.  Normal is also how educated we are on issues of contemporary foodie matters and its linkages with good, bad and ugly health situations. Do we treat our body beautiful like a VVIP/VIP/dear friend in good times or bad…or like a bonded slave, garbage bin for disposal of digested/undigested food?

Today’s good lifestyle messages going out loud and clear are to eat organic, eat local, farm to kitchen to table, eat more fibre-rich veggies and fruit. Eat less cooked, less processed, less industrialized and genetically modified not at all. Basically, eat simple, eat qualitatively better, eat little and as close to Mother Earth as possible.

My dilemma of the moment is Shravan-ka-mahina fasting for reasons sane and insane! The more I am able to fast the more I love the idea and myself. It’s all about finding out how much control I have over something as primeval as hunger! I’m back with Mrs ABC’s lunch tiffin good, bad and ugly. It’s not like cooking at home from scratch but then what’s from scratch nowadays? Not even our bloody morals.

This is my Shravan-ka-mahina regular moon mooning! Staying alive and kicking on a solo meal a day make me feel lighter, happier and I acquire all kinds of new perspectives on the subject of entertaining or not entertaining hunger, and all the damage control which is possible when we differentiate asli and nakli hungers of the mind and body. May be one of these days the hunger to eat alone will vanish, or I will eat only salads.

WHICH reminds me to note here that when eating out at various places the salads on the menu are terrible.

Least amount of imagination and common sense is used when fixing a salad menu. The Navtara house salad for `100 is fine — it has everything from onion to cucumber, tomato, radish, paneer…only the dressing turns it  somewhat limp by the time I get home and open the packet! Seriously, aam aadmi eateries in Panaji and Goa should get their act together and offer choice salads which folk feel like ordering to start with their meal of the day.

A friend of mine who ate salad for breakfast, lunch and dinner, is now down to 60kg. She is okay with the occasional indulgence but 75% of the time she is what we call a salads freak and a vegan person. Can’t stand her  piousness at times but she’s got a point or two — you want to live happy don’t you and she’s as happy as a lark!

This is to say health woes have a lot to do with happiness, my friends. And I’m not talking drag salads here but fresh, crunchy, salads alive with lettuce, sprouts, veggies, fresh fruit, nuts, seeds…even boiled potato/groundnuts/eggs/olives black and green/relishes of all kind like kimchi/sauerkraut/piccalilli/Goan chepnim mango/etc… we just don’t take salads seriously in our day-to-day life.

There’s no demand for qualitatively better salads. Not at home. Definitely not while eating out. Hey, help me create a demand for salads all around and… er… happy Shravan-ka-mahina fasting!

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