As many of you know, we spent the month of September in Laos. It was fascinating to see Drumstick growing everywhere. Drumstick is known as Moringa in the rest of the world. In Tamil we say “Murungai”. Interestingly, the Laotians dont eat the tender drumstick, but let it ripen fully on the tree. Apparently when the drumsticks become brown in colour and the seeds inside ripen fully, they are are roasted and eaten to manage diabetes.
Initially when we saw the Drumstick tree, we thought it was just a one off thing, but soon realised, it was all over the place.Not just drumstick, there are plenty of tamarind and coconut trees as well.
The next thing we realised was nearly 90% of the Indian restaurants anywhere in Laos, are run by South Indians and almost all of them are from Karaikal, near Pondicherry. When we figured this out, we got excited thinking we would get our staple, idli-dosa, coconut chutney and sambar. Ah well, we were in for a surprise. Not one of them served us chutney and sambar and the one place that we did eat the dosa, it was just a pancake made with rice and some lentil. The worst thing was, it was served with “Daal” :(:(.
The day we returned from Laos to Hyderabad, we asked Amma to make her favorite food – idli, coconut chutney and sambar. Interestingly, without knowing about our Drumstick story in Laos, she made sambar with drumstick. The taste was outstanding and yes we relished eating it.
This experience got me thinking about two things – one, Indian food and the other, life and the opportunities we have. I believe Indian food is under-rated. People swoon over French and Italian cuisine while Indian food is just identified with “curry”. Yeah try saying “curry” to a Rajasthani and he will give you “Kadi”, Rajasthani style and a Gujju will make it slightly sweeter and serve the same “kadi” with another flavor, and ofcourse the four southern states will make “Morkozhambu” differently. This is the “curry” made with diluted curds. “Sambar” again has several varieties with the basic ingredients remaining the same but each tasting distinctly different. If Italians have sheet pasta for lasagna made with refined flour that has no nutrient and has the sticky gluten to help hold it… we have the khandvi made of gram flour that doesn’t have gluten to hold it in place and has enough proteins by way of nutrient. So Indian food is terribly under-rated. But this blog is not about that. Its about having the same ingredients available but the resulting tastes being completely different. Coconut, tamarind, green chillies, lentils, and drumsticks were all available in Laos, but we still didn’t get coconut chutney and sambar with the dosa.
Extending the same point to life – we all start out with the same opportunities. Yeah, some of us start with more money and some with less, some of us get an education and some don’t, but most of us are born with two hands, two legs, two eyes, one mouth and a functioning brain, heart and stomach… so the same possibilities of growth. What we do with these resources is so varied and so different. Some of us turn them into a tasty, interesting human being while some of us just waste all these and turn ourselves into a vile, demonic personality. The family, society, school and the environment changes the same ingredients into such a varied set of human beings !! So maybe we all should focus on the recipes that make the most tasty human beings… human beings that are loving, intelligent, socially well-adjusted, and with some empathy. Also anytime you feel you are down in the dumps, well, start using your arms, legs and that amazing brain. The guy staring down at you in the dump from the edge also has the same kind of brain supported by arms and legs. So no reason for you to stay down there, unless you choose to.
Mull over that for today 🙂