Today I'm going to talk about laughter and tears. Happiness and sadness. Of gain and loss. And about life and death.
She entered our lives like a whiff of fresh air. Like a beautiful flower in full bloom in spring time. And withered out of our lives as fast as a fragile flower would too.
I'm talking about our friend Jasma. Cut back to many years ago, my sister and I were intrigued by the girl who came to live next door. Shy and coy that she was, we were the first ones to extend our hands and did not realize when mere acquaintance turned into a friendship so deep, leaving behind a trail of unforgettable memories.
With beautiful eyes and a face as exotic as her name what was most endearing about Jasma was her innate goodness that added more charm and grace to her persona.
Out came all the secrets, dreams and aspirations as we walked through the evenings admiring the may skies dotted with bright tones of the may flower or the most beautiful and magnificent hues and patterns of the October sky. Our friendship gained from strength to strength as the laughter and humour became intense and as deeper revelations were made.
An unassuming girl with modest needs and wants in life, her dreams were simple as well and all she wanted from life was the well being of her near and dear ones.
One day, in return for the many lunches and dinners that she had at our place, Jasma invited me, my sister and my mother over for lunch.
And it was a lunch to remember! The best pulao I had ever tasted with a fiery red cauliflower curry cooked by our dear friend. On that day I discovered another hidden trait of this gem of a friend, that she was an excellent cook and at 17, she could whip up a meal for a number of people and put experienced home cooks to shame with her tasteful cooking.
At that time little did I know that I would be a food writer later in life. But the recipe jotted down and registered in the deepest vein of my memory serves me in good stead as I write this now, 16 years after the incident.
There are many things to share with Jasma, just as I did then, about my wedding, my husband (a friend then whom she had predicted would be my husband), the birth of my child, the travails and tribulations and unsurpassed bliss of motherhood, the joys and highlights and at times frustrations of my work and many more incidents that have dotted my life. But, she is not around to hear me any more.
I still remember that phone call from her after her family left abruptly, asking me not to hang up and that feeble voice saying that she is dying. And my feelings of helplessness as I tried to call her back and trace her telephone number to no avail, after the call got disconnected, not to mention the shock of her revelations.
Months after, Mayi her caretaker visited us to tell us that our beloved friend was no more.
Its been years but my sister and I find it hard to fill the void that she has left as it was one of those rare friendships that is hard to come by easily and we were fortunate to experience it for a brief period
Taking solace in the words of Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, that the spirit soul continues to live after the death of the body, I know that the spirit of Jasma continues to live.
Our cherished friend continues to live in our memories, our hearts and through this delightful creation that was made one sunny afternoon eons ago, remniscent of genuine and sincere comradeship that is hard to come by these days.
Jasma's Vegetable Pulao Recipe
500 gm (2 1/2 cups) basmati rice
2 1/2 tsp salt
4 cups water
1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas
1 cup carrot, cut into strips or juliennes
1 cup beans, cut into 1â€ pieces
1 cup potatoes, cut into cubes
To be ground into a paste:
spices to be roasted
1 tsp ghee
2 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp peppercorns (1/2 tsp you want it bland)
4 to 5 small pieces of cinnamon
1/2 cup fresh or frozen grated coconut
1/2 cup fresh corainder leaves or cilantro
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
1 tbsp ginger
2 green chili
1 tsp salt
For the seasoning:
5 to 6 tbsp ghee or vegetable oil
2 to 3 bay leaves
1 tsp asafetida
Wash and soak the rice in plenty of water for about 30 minutes. Cook the vegetables in little water or steam them in a steamer.
In a wok, put in the ghee and roast the spices, the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, peppercorns, cloves and cinnamon on medium low heat for 3 to 4 minutes until aromatic. Mix in the coconut, cilantro, mint leaves, ginger, chili and salt and grind to a fine paste using very little water.
Cook the rice and allow to cool.
In a wok, heat the oil and add the bay leaf and the asafetida. Stir in the ground paste and cook till oil separates. Stir in the vegetables with 1/2 cup cooking water. Mix well.
Mix the vegetables with the cooked rice.
Serve with tomato raita or any other raita of your choice.
Serves 6 to 8 depending on the other side dishes served.
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