Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Uppittu Episodes

What a hectic few weeks it has been! It started with Anna's household helper going to Ranchi, to arrange his sister's wedding. At first he said he would be gone for a month, which became two months, and now is "will not be returning, please find someone else."

Anna's former household help is from a village near Ranchi, Jharkhand

It is hard to run Anna's home without household help, so we looked for respite homes. Some where he can be taken care of for a month or so. A place where I can go visit him twice a day, so that he does not feel lonely or abandoned. And lo and behold! I found one. Yes, only one!!

Ultimately we decided to keep him at home and divide the chores among us. While the hunt for a reliable housekeeper goes on (with no luck as yet), we are becoming more and more exhausted by the day.

Early in this new arrangement, I made idli uppittu (upma) and oats uppittu (upma) and stored it in Anna's fridge so that breakfast was easy to cater. One evening the attendant tells me that Anna ate a whole bowl of uppittu. That's a lot. Anna's appetite has shrunk (as has his body) over the last few months.
Oats Uppittu. Photo Courtesy: Sanjiv Kapoor

Me: Anna, I heard you liked the oats upma!
Anna: Yes. Was it oats? Really?

Me: Yes, Anna. It was oats. As in Quaker oats.
Anna: It was good.

Me (fishing for a compliment): Of course! Who do you think made it?
Anna (smiling and knowing exactly what I want to hear): You must have!! Pause. You make uppittu like your mother.

Now that is a real compliment! I love compliments! Even if I have to extract them, by force, from my father.
Idli Uppittu. Photo Courtesy: Sanjiv Kapoor

Me: Anna, do you remember the story of Amma and how she made uppittu the first time?
Anna's smile becomes wider.

Me: Anna, can you tell me the story?
Anna nods. Opens his mouth to start the story. Then he closes his eyes.
Anna (whispering): You tell it.

And so I do. 

But let me give you some context.

When Amma and Anna got married, Anna knew how to cook (kindof) and Amma didn't really. She learned as much as she could after the wedding was agreed to by both families, and for some reason, didn't write the recipes, but memorized them.

One of the first things she set out to make was uppittu for breakfast. Amma was in the kitchen for half an hour, while Anna waited patiently. Finally, Anna went to the kitchen to see what was taking so long. He found Amma looking perplexed, counting ingredients off her fingers.

Anna asked Amma what was wrong. Amma told him that she remembered that uppittu had 10 ingredients but she couldn't remember the 10th. She rattled the 9 ingredients she remembered - rai, hing, urad dal, channa dal, kadipatta, green chilly, ginger, salt, curd/buttermilk.
The 9 ingredients for uppittu that Amma remembered

Anna then asked her, very quietly he claims, whether the 10th ingredient was sooji! (That's like asking if the missing ingredient in butter chicken is chicken!)

Every time my parents told us this story they would chuckle at the memory. When we were learning to cook, if we ever said that the dish was missing something, Anna would tease us by asking if it was the main ingredient, aka sooji, and we would respond with an "Uff-ho! Annnaaaa!"

Now when I retell the story, I just see a millimeter shift of his lips telling me that he is smiling. But his eyes stay closed. And soon he is breathing deeply, mouth open, fast asleep!


  1. I hope you are able to sort out the help issue soon. It can cause a lot of issues. All the best to that.
    Amazing thought...
    Amazing writing!
    All the best!

  2. Just love this one. Yes, I do hope you find house help soon.

  3. Thanks all! Still looking.....

  4. Sure. Do write to me at SangeetaSahgal@gmail.com