Saturday, July 22, 2006

attica-ruth magazine 9

scribendi cacoethes

Sitting in the sun
On an afternoon in May
Under the trees
In whose boughs the breeze
Wakens the surge and murmur of the seas.

Watching the sky
Pale, changeful as clear pools where
Sun, shadows and the waving seaweed play.
Clouds flow, formless and light. Far away
Tall tree-tops rise, dip and sway
Graceful as galleons on the Main.

Music and slow movement ease
With sleep the twisting brain,
Lapped by the salt waves in the vein,
Slow-welling peace
Flows from the life in sky and seas.
©1985 by Ruth Heredia

Journal Jottings
~ "Federer will find a way to praise himself and still seem saintly...(Rohit Brijnath, writing in the Hindu of 19 July)"
Aha! Wondered when someone would notice - & speak up!
Amusing cartoon in the Deccan Herald of 20 July commenting on the blog-blundering of the Government has uniformed goons casting “” as they chant “Block! Block!” which inevitably turns into “Blog! Blog!” Elementary but enjoyable.

The White Knight’s Marmalade“It’s my own invention” [Lewis Carroll: Through the Looking Glass]
Very Important Preliminary Notes:
I have only used Kino fruit. This curious orange coloured fruit is called Kino when grown in Himachal Pradesh and sold by an unpretentious fruiterer. That may even be its correct name. But the fancy fruiterer, who makes his profits from snobs, will call it a Malta and inflate its price. What matters to you is only that the skin of the Kino/Malta should be blemish-free and clearly indicate freshness. The skin of fresh fruit gleams with moisture and with its essential oil – the much-prized, distinctive, aromatic citrus oil. Old fruit has less pectin. Less pectin will seriously compromise your marmalade.

Whatever its true name, or its place of origin, this is an exasperating fruit. Until you cut each one there is no knowing what you will find; and what that is has consequences for which you must be prepared. I have made three batches within a month, each different. The middle batch had to be converted – rather successfully – into orange chutney…..

Here goes.
* Some fruit has thick rind. This is excellent. Thick rind = more pectin and more water absorbed; thin rind = the undesirable opposite. Some fruit is very sweet, some very sour, some between sweet and sour, at calibrated distances from the one or t’other. Now, sweet fruit will not ask for more sugar than my recipe indicates; sour fruit will require it. But fruit with less pectin can ‘hold’ less sugar; more pectin can absorb a lot of sugar. What practical difference does this make? When there is a lot of pectin and less liquid remains after boiling, the jam sets so fast the sugar has no time/excuse to caramelize, or even to turn to brown the natural golden colour of the fruit. If there is less pectin and a lot of liquid, and the fruit is sour so you’ve added more sugar, you must be careful, and not be too ambitious. Why? Because in order to thicken the mixture and make it set, you will have to cook it longer, thereby risking caramelization. As with whipped cream which, on the single whisk too many, suddenly turns to butter, so the jam kept a second too long, in an ambitious quest for the perfect set, will suddenly turn to orange toffee.

** Seeds! Some fruit, bless it, has none at all. Some has anything from 1 to 5 or 6 large seeds, easily removed. The nasty ones have peculiar bunches of minuscule seeds, dozens of them, very tedious to remove. Luckily, none of this affects the marmalade.

*** If you use ginger, only available nowadays as “chips”, use the best quality. I never measured it so can give you no quantity.

**** Use a thick-walled, heavy-based pan. The old enamelled jam-making pans are probably only available as antiques. I use a ‘Vinod’ stainless steel vessel, which has a base of double thickness.

***** Buttering the pan, as you would a mould for a cake, makes a huge difference. Nothing has stuck, so nothing has been wasted every time I’ve made this marmalade.

****** Cover the pan while simmering the fruit at stage one. This helps retain the aroma. But leave a slight, a very slender gap for some steam to escape, else the liquid will rise up frothing, and overflow, flinging off the cover.

******* This is a very well-behaved preserve. While cooking at the second stage, - that is after adding the sugar - it doesn’t follow the norm and spit or make rude noises. It thickens soundlessly, occasionally wrinkling into wide-spreading sunny [given its golden colour] smiles, glistening with oil from the fresh rind, and with melted butter.

AND NOW, AT LAST, THE RECIPE:1 kg kino, washed, and sliced right through, as fine or as coarse as you choose
1 litre water
Set on to boil in buttered pan with heavy base. Reduce to simmer as soon as it boils, and cover. Between 20 and 30 minutes later test a shred of peel for softness. When satisfied, add:
1.5 kg sugar [for sour fruit, more sugar – to taste]
optional: slivers of ginger chips, ad lib

Stir well to dissolve, bring to boil, then reduce to simmer and leave it alone. Give the occasional stir, especially after 1 hour. With lots of pectin it should reach setting point in 2 hours, maybe less. With less pectin you have to be very alert, and even so be prepared to learn, by mistakes, how to judge the exact moment to end the cooking. The general idea is that when you lift your spoon out of the marmalade sideways [as if it were a knife], the stuff should fall off sluggishly, in large separate drops side by side, rather than a single thin stream. But remember that the mixture will continue to cook with its own acquired heat, even after the fire is out, and allow for that.

Bottle in clean dry jars while hot, but cover only when stone cold. I don’t guarantee it will keep outside the fridge – that is if such delicious stuff lasts long enough for preservation to matter!

quirks & quarks
NOTICES outside the Cathedral:

No Parking on Thar Road [presumably it’s all right to park on the Kutch Road?]
Beware of Thieves
Vehicles parts and
Valuable lifters.
[trying to visualise a crane – surely a “valuable” piece of machinery? – menacing churchgoers about to enter the Cathedral]

Ruth Heredia is the originator and holds the copyright to all material on this blog unless credited to some source. Please do not use it or pass it off as your own work. That is theft. If you wish to link it, quote it, or reprint in whole or in part, please be courteous enough to seek my permission.

Friday, July 14, 2006

attica-ruth magazine 8

scribendi cacoethes

Melancholy Musings

Crawling along Ashram Road, lost in the dense traffic, shopping malls & triple-decker cinemas looming on either side. One tries to accept that this is Ahmedabad, the city one grew up in. But it isn’t. Not the shabby, sometimes exasperating old city one always felt safe in; that was left for one of less extreme clime, & is always fondly remembered as it used to be.
Over Nehru bridge now. Plenty of time to look at Sabarmati below, wearing her ugliest face as usual for summer.Once, a German friend was taken sight-seeing. He asked to be allowed to photograph brilliant red & black bandhani sarees

stretched over Sabarmati bed to dry in the sun. A camel hove into view. “Camille!” cried the visitor, “a camille!” It sneered at him, vastly bored, but paused long enough for a snapshot.
On to the orderly disorder of the walled city. Those shops! Dark narrow corridors running perpendicularly into old buildings, shelves lining either wall.
The merchant sat in the entrance, cross-legged on his white gadhla, with wooden desk before him.
Such fun to peer into the depths of shelves at the family’s favoured grocer. More fun when he magicked out of them a jar of olives, perhaps, & most fun when he handed around glasses of lemonade at the end of the visit. It isn’t greed but the vagaries of childhood memory that recall so vividly frosted tumblers of falooda
at the saree shop, or plates of kulfi at the jeweller’s. (It was always just the one shop; faithful customers; traders deserving of the patronage.)

Kulfi came from vendors in the chowk below, Manek Chowk, the jewellers’ square. Vendors & makers of the delicacy, masters of an art handed down the centuries, since Shah Jahan came to Ahmedabad & thought that something could be made of this hot dusty city, built by a Muslim sultan & settled by him with Jain merchant-banker families, one of which earned pre-eminence as “nagar-sheth”.
After shutters were lowered at the busy day’s end, the kulfi-sellers set out their wares on the door-steps around Manek-Chowk (with the shuttered shops at their backs). Food-vendors’ carts drew up.
The hissings of Primus Stove & Petromax lamp mingled with the spitting of hot oil. Ahmedabadis of every class gathered there in democratic unity of purpose: “to enjoy”, as the Gujarati idiom has it.
Back through medieval pols & nakas,

into the bustle of Teen Darwaza. Way back, in 1958, an incredulous citizenry found tear-gas ‘cannon’ poking out of the battlements atop the gateway, placed there by the Collector to forestall an imminent riot. “Not even Aurangzeb threatened us with cannon!” rose the outraged cry, but there was peace nonetheless.
And peace, too, between Hindu & Muslim, Ahmedabadis all. Some of the tazias at Muharrum, notably one from Khamasa Gate, came from Hindus. The rakhis for Raksha Bandhan were made & sold by indigent Muslim families.

That was how it used to be. Once, a proud city lived from dawn to dusk, through the cycle of seasons & festivals, a pattern of life founded on hard work, enjoyment of simple pleasures honestly earned, a realistic & good-natured tolerance, a strong sense of justice & of community.
The face of Ahmedabad has altered. What of her soul?
secret hoard
Adenanthera pavonina, the coral wood tree bears pods which twist & burst open as they ripen & dry. Within are very hard, bright scarlet seeds.
They attract children irresistibly, & craftsmen, too. Once occasionally used by jewellers as weights, the seeds were also turned into trinkets & prayer beads. But best of all is their use as hidey holes for elephants. Yes, ivory elephants – as few as five or as many as a hundred. The cost of this secret hoard depended on how many elephants lay concealed within the seed.

This one is 40 years old. The scarlet has darkened to crimson, & one of the elephants is missing. But something of the old charm remains.

ANON:"To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded."

Ruth Heredia is the originator and holds the copyright to all material on this blog unless credited to some source. Please do not use it or pass it off as your own work. That is theft. If you wish to link it, quote it, or reprint in whole or in part, please be courteous enough to seek my permission.

Friday, July 07, 2006

attica-ruth magazine 7

scribendi cacoethes

INCOGNITO or a Prince and a Pauper

It was during the Divali vacation of 1967 that the family travelled to Delhi, the three children on their first visit. Treats were treats in that bygone time; each child had saved up pocket money earned by doing household chores. The money was for souvenirs of those wondrous cities, Delhi & Agra, laden with so much history.
The elder girl, just turned sixteen, was by nature poised between the practical & the romantic. Not long since, a veritable Aladdin’s cave of a shop had opened in Delhi: the Central Cottage Industries Emporium, down a shabby lane leading off Janpath. The father, a civil servant working for what was then a miserly wage, had once or twice ventured in & come home with small but memorable treasures such as he could afford. All three children knew what they wanted to spend their tiny fortunes on, & at the Emporium the eldest carefully laid out her thirty rupees on things both useful & pleasing.

Next day the family went on a tour of historic Delhi. On their way into the Red Fort they entered Chatta Chowk or Meena Bazaar, a covered alley lined with rather shabby little curio shops, most containing fairly crude souvenirs for a tourist trade then only just beginning. There were reproductions of Moghul miniatures & Kishangarh paintings, of a clumsy execution & garish colouring that were apparent even to the relatively uneducated eye of the 16-year-old.
Only one shop had pieces that seemed nearer the real thing, & into it the father led the way, but without displaying any noticeable enthusiasm. He directed his family’s attention to this & that, then casually asked the shopkeeper if he had any old paintings on ivory. (This was before the ivory trade had become a forbidden activity.) The man seemed to consider before, with a movement equally casual, he leaned down to a drawer & brought out a small ramshackle cardboard box. From it he extracted an object wrapped in a roughly torn scrap of brown paper. It was a portrait of a man, in profile, apparently painted on a rectangle of ivory.

Some of the paint was already rubbed off, & the shopkeeper – oh, the monster – rubbed his thumb reflectively over what remained saying, “Is this the kind of painting you want, Sahib?”
Indifferently, the father took it & carried it over to what little light came in at the door. “Yes, something like this. But this is not in very good condition. Have you any others?”
“No, Sahib. Only this one. But there are others” – pointing to the reproductions – “which are nice & new.”
“How much is this old one?”
“Thirty rupees, Sahib.”
“Do you want it?” The father had turned to the girl.
“Thirty rupees”, exclaimed the mother, “that’s far too much.” And looking doubtfully at her daughter, “Anyway why do you want it? You’ve already spent all your money.”
The father continued to look at the slightly bewildered girl. He seemed intent on conveying something more than his words indicated, but what it was she could not guess.
“You wanted a souvenir of Delhi. This looks like a suitable one. If you want it, I’ll lend you the money. You can pay it back when you’ve earned some more”, he said, quelling his wife’s protest with a glance.
The girl never quite knew why she did it. To please her father? Perhaps. Or because it was an adventure; such a grown-up thing to spend a small fortune on an object which she partly recognized as ‘art’ & as ‘history’, but partly doubted the value of, seeing how shabby it was. “Yes,” she replied, and “Thank you.”
Her father counted out the money while the miniature disappeared once more into its unworthy casings. “Here, take your souvenir & keep it safe. It must be the most valuable thing you’ve ever bought.” He was pleased.
The mother continued to protest: “At least you could have bargained.”
But the father told his daughter, in the manner of a Polonius dispensing advice, “Bargaining only cheapens a thing, lessens its value in your own mind.”
Months passed. One day the father said: “Mr N will be dropping in this evening. We have some work.” (Mr N was a government official.) “Give him a nice hot cup of tea & some biscuits. After that you can show him your miniature. I told him about it. He is a numismatist but he knows quite a lot about antiques in general.”
So the little painting was brought out, now housed less unworthily in a jeweller’s box. Mr N examined it closely, asking for a magnifying glass & holding the ivory rectangle up to the light.
“I don’t know much about these things – you should show it to an expert. But to me this appears to be a genuine miniature, probably dating to the reign of Aurangzeb. See the flat turban jutting out behind the head: that was the style in Aurangzeb’s time. Quite different from fashions in Shah Jahan’s court. This is a prince.”

“Why do you say, ‘a prince’?”
“There were strict rules about dress at the court. A man could wear jewels only according to his status. A mansabdari was only allowed to wear jewels according to the size of his mansab; maybe pearls with rubies or pearls with emeralds, but not all three such costly gems together. Only princes could wear all these.”
“Ah, a sumptuary law. And what about the genuineness---?”
Mr N smiled & picked up the magnifying glass. “Look at the beard” he said. “Each hair is a separate stroke. It was made with a brush having a single hair in it. And look at the henna on his hands & the reddish colour in the corner of his eye. A modern painter who makes copies does not have the patience to do such work.” He was quite carried away.
“See the line running through the ivory – you must look at the reverse of the painting. This proves it is a piece of real ivory; not a piece of bone. That mark in black paint is a letter. It is the painter’s initial.”

He paused, & repeated his earlier caution: “Still, you should show it to an expert.”
The father ignored this. “How much would you say it was worth?”
Again Mr N smiled. “If it was gold or gems I could tell you the worth. But something like this is worth only as much as anyone thinks it is worth. There is no intrinsic value. If you want it, it has value. If you are not interested, it is valueless. How much did you pay for it, may I ask?”
He was still studying the miniature as he spoke & did not notice that the father had silenced the girl with a look.
“Three hundred rupees” said the father. “She paid three hundred for it.”
“Really?” Mr N looked up, impressed. “Well, young lady, I would say you got a bargain in that case.”
Then the men resumed their discussion while the girl, having returned thanks somewhat mechanically, gathered up her belongings & went off to reflect on all she had heard.
Later, the father came away from ushering his visitor out. He was jubilant.
“Didn’t I tell you? Let this be a lesson to you. When you see a thing that is worthwhile, don’t bargain. If you can’t afford it, walk away without regrets, happy that you saw it. It is clearly not meant for you. But if you can afford it, even by sacrificing something else you could have, buy it without bargaining. It is worth the value you set on it.
“But, that apart, I think you are very lucky to have got this miniature – a genuine antique – so cheap”, said he, forgetting that it was his discerning eye & educated taste which had brought about the translation of a prince’s portrait into the pocket of a pauper.
Journal Jottings

~ "Dhoon-Dhoon, a stump-tailed macaque, celebrates her first birthday at Assam State Zoo in Guwahati. The macaque, raised by zoo-keepers after she lost her mother in infancy, belongs to an endangered species."
She can’t eat the cake, but what satisfaction on her face, & what a look of affectionate absorption on the man’s, not to mention her embrace of his softly curved hand! Delightful & rare treat in the morning papers otherwise full of dreary stuff.

Can anyone find a source for the following line, even with a changed word here or there?
'Proud Agamemnon trod on purple to the axe behind the door.'
Could it be by W H Auden?
Or from a translation of a Greek play by any of the immortal trio: Aeschylus, Euripides or Sophocles?
It is important to find out whether this line, found on a sheet of paper tucked into the writer's file of ideas & notes & pieces left incomplete, is just another 'idea' or if it is a quotation carelessly copied without attribution.

Ruth Heredia is the originator and holds the copyright to all material on this blog unless credited to some source. Please do not use it or pass it off as your own work. That is theft. If you wish to link it, quote it, or reprint in whole or in part, please be courteous enough to seek my permission.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

attica-ruth magazine 6

honest appreciation of the Collector & District Magistrate of Kolhapur

aspects of dividing Greater Bombay State:

& contra ...
the happy toddler at Kolhapur Residency, unaware of ghosts

'manning' the walls of the Residency!

defending the Residency
these pictures from the 
further illustrate last week's piece 'Egg-heads, snake-fish & berries'
Journal Jottings
~ "Song-stuck-in-your-head phenomenon. At one time or another nearly 99 per cent of people have had earworms, says a study."
Nice to know that one is not alone in suffering this tiresome condition. But ‘earworms’? Ugh!
There's more, but it includes pictures, & posting them is proving to be a headache, this week.

Ruth Heredia is the originator and holds the copyright to all material on this blog unless credited to some source. Please do not use it or pass it off as your own work. That is theft. If you wish to link it, quote it, or reprint in whole or in part, please be courteous enough to seek my permission.

attica-ruth magazine 5


Some readers are confused by the different sections. For them a key:
ARCHIVE: photographs from albums; scanned documents; articles by F J Heredia.
ATTIC TROVE: informative pieces, usually brief, by R; quotations; art reproductions &c.
BOOKWORM: interesting notes on books & authors.
CUISINART: kitchen lore; recipes.
JOURNAL JOTTINGS: brief reflections on/ responses to items culled from newspapers/ magazines.
ORATORY: religious verse; images; prayers; meditations.
QUIRKS & QUARKS: humour; mostly unintentional.
SCRIBENDI CACOETHES: the writer’s itch, in prose & verse; includes family lore without names.
SEEKING: identification/ sources/ &c sought; helpful replies will be appreciated.
TREE & LEAF: family lore, more or less directly narrated.
WORKBASKET: for handwork of all sorts – ideas, designs, recipes (all right, ‘patterns’) &c.


The recipes given here are, generally speaking, not meant for the faint-hearted but for the bold & adventurous, accorded the freedom of pot & pan, stove & store-room. They do not number the crystals of sugar in a teaspoon, nor measure the length of a clove. Frequently they don’t measure any ingredients at all.

If you have not turned away already, be of good cheer. Despite the long & eccentric preambles that some recipes are burdened with, the cook who shares them is at least the fourth generation of a line of cooks. No one has been known to have dropped dead & turned blue after eating what they cooked, & many have enjoyed their cooking. So, be patient; read, mark, learn & inwardly digest these recipes – then, if you will, don apron, pick up tools & set to work.


Only the tomatoes are a fixed quantity (cannot be added to after cooking begins). All the rest is to be adjusted according to taste as the cooking proceeds.

1 kg red, soft tomatoes, chopped small
40 gms garlic chopped into fine slivers
1 scant teaspoon peppercorns
100 gms raisins – in our country, yellow raisins will do for most of us (“cheap & best”!)
75 gms ginger chips, chopped into fine slivers
2 tsps chilli powder800 gms sugar
1 ½ tsps salt
vinegar according to taste

Mix all together at once. Never leave tomatoes hanging around, salted & sugared, while you prepare the rest; it ruins the chutney.

Cook on simmer till thick enough to please you. Don’t try for too much thickening of the syrupy stuff – the chutney might caramelize. Remember to taste & adjust the sugar/ salt/ chilli/ vinegar before the chutney is done.

Bottle while hot. Cover when cool. Store in refrigerator, on the lowest shelf.

Ruth Heredia is the originator and holds the copyright to all material on this blog unless credited to some source. Please do not use it or pass it off as your own work. That is theft. If you wish to link it, quote it, or reprint in whole or in part, please be courteous enough to seek my permission.