Picking up from my previous post, the third house I lived in will always have a special place in my heart. For this was our very first home, the place the husband and I lived in for the first three months of our married life together. A small apartment in a sleepy little Connecticut town, the house seemed the dearest little place to me for the short time we lived there.
It does not seem like much compared to the bright and beautiful home we live in now, and it did have the tiniest kitchen I have ever seen, but I loved our cozy first home just the same. The best part of the house for me were the lovely French doors in the living room that opened onto a small patio and a nice green patch of lawn with a beautiful maple tree right outside. Oh, what fun I had, marking the transition from summer to fall and then to winter sitting on my cozy ‘baithak’ (Indian-style low settee) beside the window and watching my favorite maple tree!
I was on a three month long leave to spend some time with the husband who was working in the US those days. After the uninterrupted grind of school, college and for the past one year, work, the prospect of a three month long vacation seemed tempting – suddenly all my time was my own! (I was always jealous of my mother in my school days, envying her her freedom to do as she pleased all day, or so I imagined at that time!)
So this vacation was a refreshing break for me and I’m glad I made the most of it. Lazy weekday afternoons were mostly spent curled up on the baithak next to the patio, poring over a good book, relaxing to some great music or simply looking outside, evenings were all about my great cooking experiments and there were a few ‘social’ afternoons in between, spent masquerading as a ‘kitty party aunty’ with my newfound Indian friends in the neighborhood.
Our first Diwali post-marriage was spent in this home. So while my parents and in-laws celebrated our ‘Diwal-san’ back home in Bombay (the first Diwali after marriage is a pretty big deal for Maharashtrian families), I made my first ‘independent’ rangoli on our patio with curious gawking neighbors for company and the husband and I collaborated to make a Diwali ‘kandil’ from scratch out of the motley Christmas decorations we found at the local stores.
We celebrated Diwali with pav bhaji and gajar halwa and ‘phooljadis’ along with the husband’s bachelor friends, and got screamed at for our rowdiness by the rude neighbor next door. This neighbor was quite a character actually – the day we moved in she waddled up to our door with her little dog and introduced herself with a cheery ‘Hi, I am Kat and this is my dog!’ The husband and I could barely hold back our laughter and we nicknamed the pair ‘Kutta aur Billi’ from that day onwards.
Incidentally, this is where I (self-)learnt all my cooking, occasionally referring to the Sanjeev Kapoor cook book gifted by my mother for the more elaborate items and relying on the hastily scrawled notes from my mausi for most simple but essential items like upma and poha and dal – items so basic that their recipes were not to be found in any cookbook, which is why I had badgered my mausi into writing them down for me!
(I pored over these scraps of paper while cooking simple stuff like rice and dal for the first few months of married life, and as you can imagine, the husband does not tire of teasing me about it to this day!)
The fourth home I lived in was for a short but lonely spell (a couple of months perhaps) in my maternal grandmother’s empty flat in Pune, while waiting for the husband to join me from the US. My special memory from this sojourn is of the ‘assal’ (authentic) Maharashtrian, or rather Puneri, food and culture that I enjoyed to the fullest while living here.
My grandmother’s flat was in one of Pune’s famous ‘peths’ (one of the oldest districts of Pune) and I’d have a grand time exploring the place by myself in the evenings. I did this by choosing a different company bus that took me to a different (but nearby) part of the district each evening. (And if I named the software company I worked in, you wouldn’t be surprised to know that there were more than five or six buses I could choose from!)
I’d then explore the place – the little shops, the quiet bylanes and the amazing street food – before heading back home, stopping to ask for directions every few minutes, or taking a rickshaw whenever I was hopelessly lost, as I most often was! (The ‘peths’ are full of densely packed narrow streets that look all the same to a stranger, and it is very easy to get lost here, believe me.)
The restaurants in this district have some wonderful Maharashtrian food on the menu, but the famous Puneri ‘khadoos’ nature is on display too. The boards in one of the restaurants I visited actually proclaimed, ‘Hi khanyachi jaga ahe. Ithe gappa marat basu naye‘ or something to that effect! (This is a place to eat and leave, don’t sit and chit-chat!) I wish I had thought to take photographs at that time. But if you can understand Marathi , do try googling up ‘Puneri patya’ for some good laughs to cheer up your day.
(So we are halfway down, four more homes and many more beautiful memories coming up. Do keep visiting if you would like to read about them!)