Oct 29, 2012

The Perfect Curry

By Fatima Raza

Amma is in the kitchen. One hand is on her waist; the other holds a spoon. She gently stirs the curry to which she has to add chickpea pakoras. She imagines her granddaughter, Fatima, coming from school, and greeting her with an ‘Adaab’. She pictures her face lighting up at the look of the pakora curry. Her granddaughter, Fatima, arrives home. The fresh smell of curry leaves catch her attention. Fatima smiles. The curry is on the stove, fresh and soupy. Amma fries the pakoras as they hiss away in the oil.

Fatima imagines the curry after it would be ready. A perfectly plated dish. Soft pakoras in yellow curry. The dressing of ‘Baghaar’ or fried cumin. Fresh coriander leaves sprinkled on top. Brown curry leaves visible in some corners. On the table, Fatima finds the dish just as she expected it. 

She takes out the curry on her plate just like Amma has taught her to, carefully from one corner of the dish. Otherwise, the gravy splits. She pours the gravy on a plate of hot, boiled rice. One pakora rests on the corner of her plate. 

Fatima gently presses the pakora with her fork. It splits open to reveal its spongy and moist inside. She thinks about her aunts and uncles in their homes. They would all envy Fatima. Amma’s curry is popular amongst the whole family. There are only a few people who can make curry like her. 

Not many can ensure that the pakoras aren’t powdery. Not everyone can balance the flavors of the gravy. And very few can tell a story through it. Amma can. 

Her bowl of curry narrates the story of Hyderabad Deccan before partition. Of the Hyderabadis who love sour and bitter dishes. Who say ‘Aye Haye’ with that distinct tone of surprise. Who speak Urdu or Hindi in their own slow accent. Amma’s curry; it catches Hyderabad- her childhood home- on a plate.

Fatima pops half a pakora in her mouth. The juicy bite explodes inside her mouth. Next comes the gravy with the rice. It has the tinge of yoghurt that it is supposed to have. She feels she is in an old house in Hyderabad. Hyderabadis are talking to her in their surprised tones andistinguished accents. They say ‘Aye Haye’ at the end of each sentence. Fatima smiles. As always, the dish is perfect.


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