Thursday 5 February 2015

Love, and the art of setting curd

My maternal grandmother, my Biji, was the only grandparent I grew up knowing. But she was enough, and more. When I lost her a couple of years back, I did not understand the enormity of what I felt, that came later. Not known as being someone who shows emotion, there were no theatrics or mourning. Just a deep rooted sadness, and a sense of irreplaceable loss.

But this is not a sad post. She's gone and unfortunately so has her lovely house that we grew up discovering. It's been hacked up and sold, usually what happens to ancestral property. She exists only in my memory now...as do the times we spent in that iconic house, filled to the brim with cousins before everyone went overseas.

What I have left of her are two things. The gold bangles in my wrist that once adorned hers. They're one of my most prized possessions and rarely do I wear anything else on my arms. And her legacy of setting curd. Yes, you heard that right.

You see, in Punjab, and I'm sure in many parts of the country, setting curd is an art form. It would be a ritual for her, getting the exact temperature for the milk, frothing it by transferring from one vessel to another and keeping it safely away in a mesh cupboard which she believed had the correct setting conditions. Even after she lost her eyesight, she would somehow manage this entire process, only by her sense of touch and instinct. The yogurt in her house was legendary. It would be thick and perfectly set, each spoonful holding form like jelly.

Even though I never learnt it from her and was taught by my mother, some part of her skill got passed on to me. And I am arguably the best yogurt-setter in the family. Even my dad, who would never say anything my mom did came second, insists that after Biji, it only is my dahi that passes muster.

In Troy, Achilles mother says, "You will find a wonderful woman. You will have sons and daughters and they will have children. And they will love you. When you are gone, they will remember you. But when your children are dead and their children after them...your name will be lost".

That is the truth of life. But in my own lil' way, I made sure her legacy lives on. On my wrist, in my heart and on my dining table, my grandmother remains loved and remembered. And this, besides her bangles, are something I hope to pass on to my daughter one day so that when she grows up, she may remember someone she unfortunately never knew....

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