Sansar Padwe che parbe Jovan OR The typical festive lunch on Gudi Padwa/yugadi.

In those days, when questioning traditions was the norm for me, I questioned the wisdom of cooking innumerable dishes in the name of the parab (Festival). What was the point, I thought? These days, all the way in the US of A, with the freedom to cook what I want, when I want and nobody to even fault me or object for not going through the trouble of cooking the traditional feast (Well, they would object, but you know, rules of “what they don’t know won’t hurt them”, ignorance is bliss”, etc. apply), I am standing outside of my tiny kitchen, bleary-eyed, wondering why the heck am I up, at an ungodly hour, to cook up traditional parbe jovan (Festival Meal) ? I mean, seriously, why? Even in my half asleep, feet dragging mode, I can smell the beginnings of a post a mile away. What I wouldn’t give for the smell of fresh coffee to go with it…

Ah, but see, nothing is that simple in tradition-land. It never is. You see, on parab-day, you are not even supposed to step into the kitchen without having a bath –well, a shower– but it’s hair wash day, too. Yes, I said outside the kitchen earlier. After,you have purified yourself, you go ahead and give the kitchen the same treatment. What is it I hear you say? Cooking ?? Oh no, you don’t start cooking until you have cleaned the kitchen and then after you have done cooking, you clean it again. Oh yeah!

Ok, the rules are not that strident in every household. Growing up with my Bapama (read the about page, people), they were that strident in my house. She was a stickler for tradition and made sure we followed it strictly. Everything had to be done just the way it is supposed to be done, every rule followed to the T and every ritual performed. I remember times, when we visited mangalore (the heartland of everything Konkani). Our cousins, aunts and uncles would express surprise at how much us bombay-bred-teenage-brats knew about all-things konkani and I would see my Bapama beeming with pride at having brought us up right. And I remember us feeling very warm and fuzzy at having made her proud. That didn’t stop us from complaining about all her strict rules and stickler-ness (is that a word?) for traditions when not in front of everyone else, of course. See, we grew up in a multi-cultural city and the multi-cultural cuisine was what we preferred to the daily dose of Daalitoy/Saar,the Koddels and the Ghashi-s and the upkari-s etc. Nope, we wanted what the neighbors were eating and what was dished out at the restaurants and all of the so-called (in-our-view) cool food. A holiday was the only day Mom would make them for us. Now, if that holiday turned to be a parab, we were in for a Aamchi that transcended all levels of aamchi-ness((Short for Aamchigele, which is what Konkani’s call themselves, loosely means ‘our people’). And then, the no onion-garlic rule. No wonder, my brother would call it Martial Law. He still does. We still do.

So, why am I doing it? Why am I up, this early in the morning and not stepping into the kitchen to get my coffee, but taking a bath and cleaning the kitchen before I get the caffeine dose that would finally wake me up? I don’t know. I.dont.know.

And yet, I go through the steps and make the age old meal that we have had on every Sansar Padwa/Gudi Padwa/Ugadi. Conciously and subconciously, I follow the steps I have seen my mom and bapama take year after year. Steam the idlis and make the chatni for breakfast. Chop the vegetables, apply masala to the veggies for phodis (a cousin of Bhajjiyas), then make the ghashi (legumes in coconut gravy), the madgane (Roasted Chana Daal in Coconut Milk sweetened with jaggery), the upkari (a vegetable stir-fry) , then Daalitoy (the mother daal, no parab meal is complete without this),and then I deep fry the phodis as I make rice on the other burner. In that order. As I think about it, it all makes sense. The things that are to be served hot are made last, so that they remain hot as the food is being served. Even the kitchen-cleaning business makes sense, Why wouldn’t starting in a clean kitchen make sense? There is a method to the madness.

As familiar aromas waft through the suddenly active house, I see the look on my husband’s face. The same look that is echoed on mine. It is the look of comfort, of being home in a strange land, of the childhood gone by and the reluctant adult-hood that has been thrust upon us. Suddenly, I know.

It is not to uphold traditions and to keep our culture alive which was the driving force for my bapama, I think. It is not even visions of her floating down from the heavens to give me an earful for not walking on the footsteps, she went to so much trouble to make sure were there for us. Though, believe me, that is reason enough. Uffff…
I do it, to re-create and re-live those smells and memories of days gone by. I do it to create new memories for Aayush and Anoushka. Creating New ‘Old’ memories. I look at my toddlers wrinkling their nose at the food and I whisper, ‘You will know’…


12 thoughts on “Sansar Padwe che parbe Jovan OR The typical festive lunch on Gudi Padwa/yugadi.

  1. Happy Gudi Padwa ! Wonderful post Vee, and I bet every one of us act in the same way that you did. We will go to any length to re-live those moments…to bring back those smells that waft through the house…and only then will the festival be complete.

  2. hey i had tears in my eyes reading this post..bapi ki yaad diladi…
    bapi will be really proud to hear that u did follow the traditions in phirang land too..

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  5. Vee-
    that was really beautiful, one of the best pieces of writing I’ve read anywhere…and it’s kind of like a mantra for every food blogger out there: memories and food walk hand in hand and bring people together across space and time.
    I wish you and all whom you love a wonderful Gudhi Padwa, may it be the beginning of a year of great beginnings for you!

  6. Lovely, lovely post.
    Since you rarely post these days and since Blogrolling doesn’t show wordpress updated blogs, I landed here only today and yeah I am thankful for that.

    Truly lovely writing, I will come back just to read this again & again. Even now I don’t get up early morning to cook & clean for a Pooja, I am lazy but your post inspires me so much to do so.

  7. Vee,
    Your essay article is good description with emotional attachment.Descriptive atmosphere you created is truely traditional when we had visited native place during our growing up age.I remember even our Mamama will not allow her to touch (I think the word is ‘Unwalpana’, otherwise she has to take bath again! ) until Neivedya is offered to deity. It is true that their only hope is that traditions are carried out generations to generations.But many things in those traditions are lost because our parents moved from native place to Bombay for better economic life like your family and we were swept in fast changing envionment of Bombay life.Same thing happened here is because we moved from Bombay life to US life again for economic reasons so that our childen can have better life (in your words “future”). So my point is that now that they have grown up and started their life because of same reasons I mentioned above, lost lots of cultural traditions. For them Sansaar Padwo means just once in a while parents used to celebrate or get-together at the Local Konkani Function because again their generation is swept by US environment. So I doubt whether our children will have any idea what our Bapamas and Mamamas sacrificed to keep up the traditions.During their (Bapama/Mamama) time keeping up traditions and passing on to generations was possible because Konkanis after they settled in Goa in may be 700-800 years ago, there was minimum migrations.
    After I saw Mira Nair’s movie “Namesake”, my belief is confirmed that our children and grand children will be part of the mainstreet USA people like what happened with different European ethnic communities or what happenned in west indies Indians(Carribean)after several generations.

    Hi KB, Welcome!
    My Bapama lived with us in Bombay and tried to make sure we knew everything Konkani. We just did what she told us and never tried to understand or remember it. Many years later, raising two toddlers, I surprise myself with how much I remember and how much I follow it. I never considered myself a traditionalist and still don’t. But, it is hard to let go of some guidelines you have followed since childhood. My kids are still young ,I don’t really expect them to do things a certain way and I am not sure I ever will.However, I like the possibility that they might pick things up from what I and S do. So Aayush (2.5 yrs old), if he ever sits on the floor to eat, already knows that you have to sit cross legged and he follows it everytime!

    Yes, many things are ‘lost in transit’ due to migration. When people ask me which part of India I am from, I tell them Bombay. That’s because that’s what I am, a B’bayite having grown there. My outlook, my attitude is Bombay, but my ideals are Konkani. My husband and I can speak fluent Konkani but we prefer to converse in Hindi with each other (Konkani with the kids). Similarly, if my kids grow up in USA, they are going to say they are American because that’s what they will be. I expect and have no illusions regarding the fact that their outlook, attitude, language will be American, I hope and pray in my heart that their ideals will be Indian with a konkani flavor to it. They are young and I am an optimist. 🙂

  8. Thanks for your feedback and keep it up and wish all the best luck as you are just beginning your family life and our both the boys have finished their careers and soon embark on their family journey(atleast one of them.
    By the way you mentioned Madgane somewhere,if you happen to have tried let me know the recipe. I got to know your site thru Shilpa’s site where you are frequent visitor.

  9. Hi Vee..
    I just happened to read comment 8 & 9 abv! I strongly felt there is so much of similarity hence writing this ..firstly..our bapama-mamama conserving our tradition..every little date on calendar (amchigele date) has signifacance and decides our if v r 2 hv kando losun or not etc..parents coming to Mumbai..our being born and brought up values are lost..(me and my bro speaking hindi throughout and getting strong criticism[or say threat] frm amma -‘tummi amchigele ullayati, kasaney hindi tumgeli!’–our response..’v r strong wt amchigele so v r eligible to converse in national language..hahaha)..v in turn coming abroad for better life and future of our kids…while bringing them up..memories of what was taught to us suddenly comes back to us and imparting the same to them..not taking enough interest in cooking prior to marriage and intl calls for for authentic ones..till v get something that matches the flavour that our amma made! hmmmmmm…i alws felt guilty abt it..but now i m a pretty decent cook..wt gud practical sessions wt mil and amma…thats how it is..
    Vee..thanks for posting this..made me very nostalgic and cd find similarities wt u guys!
    Take care..keep posting lovely recipes…v(readers) r here to experiment and keep it going! Hahaaa…
    Felt great reading ur post….
    Best Regards,

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