I used to like October a lot, a humongous size of a lot, more than 2.5 acres of a lot. I would count the days leading up to Shoshthi, the days of missing school, the days until the magazine guy would drop off the anandomela on the front porch and the days until we would pack up or suitcases and metal trunks to wait at the small station early in the morning with sleep in our eyes.
I still like it a lot though none of the above happens but today I will not tell you about Durga Pujo or its aftermath.It is anyway over and I have written enough posts about it in the last 4-5 years.And honestly some of them even read like pure sentimental crap if I go back and read them all over and I don't want to repeat that.
I mean come on it is just one more festival man ? So yes, it is like the Bengali Chirstmas if there is ever such a thing and if I have to explain to my non-Inidan colleagues who I am sure worry why I leave work obscenely early on certain 4 days in October. And we do not have a tree but we have a whole family of idols dressed in the finest jewellery that would give any Christmas tree bauble a run for its money. And everyone gives gifts mostly clothes instead of toasters, and since there is no brilliant tradition of gift receipt in India you end up with a whole lot of unnecessary madras silks and ikkats in colors like parrot green which you wouldn't be seen wearing even in your nightmare. Also if you are married there is enough tension running about who spends the Pujo at whose home and whose Mom gave the more expensive sari and who actually would rather spend Pujo vacation in Mauritius than in the by-lanes of Maniktala.
So if you look at it detached with a global angle it is really just one more festival. It took me a whole awful lot of years to understand that and I thought it is best I tell you that early.
Instead I will tell you about Ballerina today. Not a Ballerina but The Ballerina as in the ballerina by Bata, the shoe company who cried themselves hoarse months before Durga Pujo, declaring "Pujoy Chai Notun Juto"(You need new shoes for Durga Pujo). Their marketing tactics must have been well researched because my Baba took this to heart and waited all year until September, a month before Pujo, to buy me a new pair of school shoes.
It really seems odd now that though the school year started those days in January and later in May or June, we always bought new school shoes just before Pujo in October. Along with the Ballerina, I would also get a fancy pair of Marie Claire open toed sandals with straps that went firmly around one's ankles. But it wasn't the Marie Claire that would be the high point of our shoe shopping, it was always the Ballerina.
Baba believed in value for money and a shoe that was to be worn for every single school day needed utmost care and scrutiny in selection. It had to be that perfect elusive size which would fit a growing feet all year round. This needed trial, lots of them. Even after my feet size was measured on that inclined plane which Bata offered by an all knowing Bata gentleman, the probabilities were still wide ranged.
As boxes of Ballerina were brought down and piled high, I would wear each pair and then walk around the store in them, very reluctantly if I may say so. Baba would then ask me to jump in those shoes and do short runs. Sometimes a stamp or two in preparation of days when I might need to show my anger. And also marches, left-right-left because the republic day parade was only 3 months away. Walk-Jump-Run-Stamp-March.
This routine was followed for at least 5-6 boxes, each followed by vague questions like, Did the shoes hurt ? Did I have to scrunch my toes as I walked around ? Did they tend to slip off when I jumped ? Did I think they slowed me down when I ran ? All this when I was the least athletic kid a school could produce and hadn't won a single race beyond the second grade.
This question-answer part of the process made me very nervous. A wrong answer on my part could lead me to be doomed with the wrong pair of shoes for the entire school year. And no one wants to be in wrong shoes, ask Cinderella. I would ho-hum and complain a bit about each pair, nothing significant but how none was perfect and thus try to remain my diplomatic self.
Finally after hours a pair of spit polished black ballerinas were decided on and instructed to be packed. The Bata gentleman strangely did not show any annoyance during the process and actually supported the whole ordeal by making serious weighted comments just like my Baba did.
The day after the Pujo vacation was over, I would go to school in my new Ballerina and that evening there would be a band-aid on my ankle where the much researched pair hurt the most.
Now to the salty, crunchy, Nimki a staple Bijoya snack along with Narkel Naru and Ghugni. This time three generations of women in our home, sat down together to make nimki. While my Mother made the dough the others pitched in with their own version. I took pictures. Suits me.
AP Flour or Maida -- 1&1/2 Cup
Whole Wheat -- 1/2 cup
Salt -- 1/2 tsp (adjust to taste)
Sugar -- 1/4 tsp
Kalonji -- 1/2 tsp
Baking Powder -- 1/4 tsp
Oil -- 4 tbsp
Water -- 1/2 cup added gradually.(I am not totally sure about this, may have needed a little more)
White Oil -- 1 cup for frying
In a wide mouthed bowl add
All Purpose Flour/Maida -- 1+1/2 Cup
Whole wheat Flour -- 1/2 cup
Salt -- 1/2 tsp
Sugar -- 1/4 tsp
Kalonji -- 1/2 tsp
Baking Powder -- 1/4 tsp
Mix with your fingers
Now add about 4 tbsp of White oil. With your thumb and forefinger, rub the oil into the flour mixture so that the flour looks all crumbled.
Add the water gradually and work the flour to make a tight dough. Knead the dough well for about 5 mins till it is smooth. Cover with a damp cloth and let it rest for 30 minutes or so.
Divide the dough into 4-5 large round balls. Roll out each ball into thin circle. With a fork or sharp tip of the knife prick the rolled out dough to avoid the nimki fluffing up.
Now cut the circle in small diamond shapes.
Heat enough white oil for deep frying the diamond shaped pieces of dough (about 1 cup). Fry the pieces until they are uniformly browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel. Once it cools down, store in air tight container.