Unpaved and uneven roads, patches of wild and thorny bushes, stray dogs, cows and cats, few small and simple houses in every street, very friendly and caring neighbors and ample outdoor space for children to play – that’s the picture of our neighborhood I fondly recall from my childhood.
R was my neighbor, childhood friend, and my only companion then. We went to the same school and lived next to each other. We walked to our school together and his mother watched me after school when my parents got delayed at work. We played together during weekends, evenings and school vacations. We found joy in every simple thing – collecting twigs, climbing trees or stacking stones. It was so much fun being silly, being crazy and being ourselves.
Evenings were always something to look forward to. Pretty much every kid that lived in the area came out to play in the playgrounds and vacant spaces around the houses. Milkmen carrying half a dozen milk cans on their bicycles, teenage boys playing cricket here and there, little children playing to their heart’s content without being watched or supervised, women having nice little chats (gossip?) at their doorstep, men folk returning from work in their bicycles and mopeds, fruit, flower and other vendors yelling at the top of their voice to announce their presence – these summarize the typical evenings of those cherish-able and carefree days.
On one such pleasant evening, R, and I were playing around the bushes at one end of our street. I would have been six years old then and R was a year older than me. We were playing hide and seek. I hid myself behind one of those thorny bushes and R was on his way to find me. While I was waiting to be found, I started to collect some stones for our next game. Beneath one of the stones was a familiar looking pink paper. I pulled it out carefully to find that it was a twenty rupee note/bill. Yes, a twenty rupee note!! R came running hearing me yell and scream out of excitement.
We both jumped and danced out of joy and instantly decided that we were going to spend that money mindlessly without letting our parents know. The very thought was very thrilling. Off we went to a nearby store in a jiffy. We both were literally the kids at a candy store overwhelmed with the amount of money we had. But what and how much could a six and seven year old buy in that small little store? All that we could think of buying were some candies, cookies and marbles to play with. And that’s pretty much what that store had too that could interest us.
The storekeeper perhaps thought that we stole the money from somewhere. She gave us a very strange look when we showed her the note and said that she did not have the change to give us back. We asked her to give back how much ever she could and keep the rest to herself. I don’t think I have ever been so generous in my life :). She gave back some coins and a few notes of smaller denominations. I’m sure we did not even know to count them and see how much we had. We were just happy that we still had some money left to come back again later for more candies and cookies. Sigh, those were good old days. How happy and peaceful!
Whilst my story is about a specific incident of my childhood, I’m sure many of you would be able to relate my childhood experience to yours. Our toys were not fancy yet our days were fun filled, our living was simple yet our life was thoroughly satisfying. Most importantly, our parents did not have to be concerned or anxious about sending us alone to school or play with our friends or do anything. Where did all of that go? Have we lost that peaceful and trust-able world for good? Will our kids or the generations to come after them ever get the privilege of living in a truly peaceful, trustworthy, unselfish, loving and worry free environment? As they say in tamil, “Andha Naalum Vandhidadho?”
This is one of the recipes that uses my “Multipurpose Curry Paste”. Read the recipe and you’ll know why I strongly recommend you to make the curry paste. The recipe for a curry cannot get easier than this. This Kadhai Paneer is as tasty and flavorful as it can be. No one (including you) would know that this curry came from such a multipurpose paste. Trust me!
Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 10 mins
Total Time: 15 mins
1/2 cup multipurpose curry paste
1 cup diced onion
1 cup dice green bell pepper
12-15 paneer cubes
1 tbsp oil
cilantro for garnish
Heat oil in a skillet, add paneer cubes and saute until evenly brown on all sides. Keep aside. Return to skillet, add diced onion and green pepper. Saute until the vegetables are tender crisp. Do not overcook. Set aside.
Add the curry paste to the skillet, add a cup and half of water and cook under medium heat. Whisk while cooking to dissolve lumps if any. Add the sauteed veggies and paneer and let them cook in the curry for about five minutes. Turn off heat.
Sprinkle chopped cilantro for garnish. Serve warm with roti, naan or rice.