I do not have a big appetite, but , yes , I am a gourmet in small measures, as I always love variety in food , whatever is available as a strictly vegetarian fare. Little wonder then, that I have long associated festivals with eating and enjoying food mostly reserved for the occasion. In short “pet pooja” takes precedence over other pooja, which is the exclusive domain of my wife, as far as my small nuclear family is concerned. She observes fast wherever ordained, visits nearby temple and also sits in worship of God. This Shivratri also , despite not keeping well, she was on fast and as usual worshiped Shiv. However, this time gastronomical delights took a back seat.
This made me think of good old days, when, next only to Diwali, Shivratri & Janmashtami were looked forward to. My mother would observe nirahar vrat and in the evening ate only “ phalahar ” consisting of preparations made from ogla, singhara , bathu etc. ., of course with boiled potatoes made without onion and garlic. We also partook of these special preparations and enjoyed them fully.
Shivratri demanded more elaborate arrangements and preparation, as wheat atta had to be kneaded a day in advance and was kept in warmth so as to ferment it . For sweet roti , deep fried in ghee – known as rotku, babru, pakain in various areas – dough had to be made in gur chashni . papads made with rice flour were fried , and salted fare was the stuffed roties deep fried in kadahi. The ritual would start at about five in the evening when kadahi , half filled with vegetable ghee was put on coal-fed angithi in Shimla or on the traditional chulha, in the village. After keeping aside first two –three roties for worship , my mother- naturally familiar ,as she was ,with child psychology would allow us to have these , hot and fresh. Made in large quantities, this fare would last for good two –three days I am amused to recall that a lady in the neighbourhood out of mistake, put caustic soda instead of baking soda in the dough , but wouldn’t admit to it despite the dark colour of the roties , saying it all !