I grew up surrounded by Ganeshes. They adorned shelves, cabinet tops and the puja room of my family home. They were made of silver, white metal, and brass, of wood, stone, and bronze. There was even one of papier mache. And then there were the two grand ones, of the noblest countenance – the festive idol of Ganpati and my cousin from Alberta, Canada. They paid us a visit once a year, festive Ganesh in September, cousin Ganesh in June.
We welcomed them with zeal, cooked them their favourite vegetarian meals. But while the latter was served his no-fuss daali toi, vegetable pulao, and batata sukke, Ganpati Bappa had my mother, my grandmothers, and my paternal aunts up at four am to prepare a meal in his honour.
Chitrapur Saraswats, the small Konkani-speaking community my family belongs to, celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi with a fervour greater than they do any other festival. The puja meal is a well-rehearsed production and it is exclusive. The hours of preparation foster an uncommon sense of community that makes serious cooking fun. Oh, what fun we had – unadulterated, madcap majja. Laughter, back-slapping jokes and a rented DVD to end the evening. Those were the days….
These are the days. My grandmothers have passed on, so has my father, Ganesh idol no longer visits, Ganesh from Canada has three children; his trips to India are few. My mother no longer cooks the festive meal, she rarely cooks at all.
The show, however, must and has gone on. The actors are fewer, the décor dropped, the flavours different but the joy of celebration lives on. Isn’t that all that matters?!?!
And gluten-free Ganpati fare abounds!
I walk into Seva Sadan, my beloved NGO for underprivileged girls. They run a food outlet called Aahar. I make a mental list of what I can eat. I am surprised. The deep-fried modaks are made from rice flour; the kheer has milk and rice. The vegetables are all g-free of course. Ganpati Bappa Morya!
I ring my mother. We’ll order the modaks, the chana daal ladoos and the rice-kheer from Aahar. We’ll make the coconut mixed veggie, the madgane, patrodo and khotte.
Done. Dunnnadunndunn. I dance to the beat of a tenth-day-immersion drum. Names and recipes run them through my mind.
Modaks: jaggery and coconut dipped in rice-flour and deep fried. Madgane daalpayasam – cook chickpeas, add jaggery and coconut milk. Patrodo: a daal-rice based dish made with colocasia leaves. Oh, that’s arbi.Bhaji Gulli must have them. Khotte: Ferment rice-daal batter and steam it in jackfruit leaf molds.
I have a jackfruit tree outside my window!!! I’ll pluck the leaves to make the molds!!! Yay!!!
We chose our cutest, eco-friendliest silver Ganpati. We’d polish our brass bucket, fill it with water and celebrate a Tenth Day Immersion.
A long-submerged family tradition shall be resurrected.