Author Archives: guptea

Hans Brinker and the Dam

Piece

One of the stories I heard, growing up as a kid, uhm… whether that be in elementary school or through my parents was the Dutch story about Hans Brinker, uhm… who is not usually named that, it is just his official title in the book. Uhm. And he’s a dutch boy that puts his finger in a damn and saves his entire village from drowning. I’m not sure what it is about this story that has been popularized so much, and I don’t know why it is taught so much in american schools. Uhm. But it is something that is stuck in my mind as the story that’s been passed on from generation to generation. Cause after looking it up I found out it originated in an 1875 book. But yeah, that’s my favorite piece of ferkl- folklore. 

Background

M is a close friend from Minnesota who studies film. He is a really serious guy with strong roots in Minnesota. He told me that he heard this story from his school and his parents and it stuck with him for whatever reason.

Context

He sent me a voice clip over Whatsapp in which he said all of this. I told him to send me a piece of folklore earlier that day. 

Thoughts

The story is an example of a martyr figure, a young boy, that saves his village through self sacrifice. It is probably indicative of values of the community. M mentioned that it was taught a lot throughout american schools and this could be an attempt to instill specific moral values in children, namely those relating to self sacrifice for the good of your community. 

Overturned Footwear

Piece

One of the  most prevalent superstitions growing up in an Indian household was the belief that if your shoes or footwear was overturned, then it was said to cause fights- give off negative energies in the house. So you’re never supposed to- you’re supposed to flip the footwear so that the underside is facing the ground. You know. It isn’t even about the superstition anymore but I, like, subconsciously flip over my footwear because it bothers me now. And I figured- I- brrrbbrr- I figure it comes from the fact that you know, overturned shoes, you know, people used to trip on them or whatever, that’s why.

Background

    N is a close friend from India who grew up in a half hindu, half muslim household. I stayed with him for a couple months and I came to realize parents are rather traditional in their habits despite being progressive thinkers. One of the habits that N seems to have picked up on from his parents is correcting the positioning of shoes.

Context

    N relayed this information to me over a facetime call. It was something that we had discussed earlier in our lives and I had asked him to look back and narrate bits of that conversation.

Thoughts

    N had an interpretation of why this custom could be in place. I agree with him although I heard another reason as well as to why this custom is followed: the dirt from the bottom of the shoe may get into the air or food.

Ram and the berries

Piece

    On one day of Ram’s exile, he was approached by a woman who was a big devotee of him. She has a beautiful- you know- pure love for him because he had this persona of a warm, loving, kind, wonderful person. 

    So… what she did is… she told Ram that she wanted to host him and give him some fruits that she collected. Seeing the warmth in her eyes, Ram said that he would love to eat in her house. At the house, she had three plates of berries, one for Ram, one for Sita, and one for Laxman. They sat down and started eating. Ram was very happy because all the berries were sweet. The berries were the berr berries you know? This- those berries are either sweet- or sour, red or white but you can’t tell from outside. So he was eating the berries and all of them were sweet. 

But in the middle, he noticed there was a small bite taken from each of the berries. He asked the woman what these bites were so- and she said that she had taken a bite from each berry to make sure that it was sweet for him. Ram laughed and happily ate all the berries. 

Background

    This story is a small sub story from the ancient epic, The Ramayana, which is one of the ancient holy stories about Ram, the 7th avatar of Vishnu. There is a complex backstory for Ram involving being exiled from his own kingdom with his wife and his brother. The story is a classic hero’s journey tale in Hindu mythology and many sub stories have emerged in the folklore of the Indian people. 

Context
    My mother told me this story over the phone after I asked her about stories she would tell my brother and I as children. 

Thoughts

This was a story that my mother would often tell me when I would be grossed out by eating the same food that my brother or my father had eaten. I honestly don’t know if this story is included in the ancient story or if it is a story that my mother’s ancestors might have made up to get naughty children to eat food that has already been touched.

This story teaches us not only to respect everyone and appreciate their gestures, but also to be free and generous with our love and devotion to a good person.

Til gul gya, goad bola on Sankrati

Piece

Original script (if applicable)

तील गूळ ग्या, गोड बोला

Phonetic (Roman) script

Til gool gya, goad bola

Transliteration

Sesame jaggery get, sweet talk.

Full translation

Eat sesame jaggery candy and talk sweetly.

Background

This is a Marathi phrase that is said on a holiday called Sankranti. It is spoken to everyone on this day while feeding each other Sesame and Jaggery candy.  

Context

My mother told me this piece of spoken folklore when I asked her about traditions specific to my people: Maharasthraians. This holiday is specifically celebrated by Hindus in honor of the Sun God, Surya. The day is also called Makar Sankrant or Makar Sankranti. It is said that you are supposed to reap benefits from your business or life if you eat the “til gul” (sesame and jaggery rolled into a ball)

Thoughts

    On asking my mother why sesame and jaggery were used specifically, she told me it is because the two ingredients help the body maintain heat in the winter. Sankranti is celebrated in January, one of the coldest months. It varies according to the lunar calendar but the point is that the people of Maharashtra consume sesame and jaggery to keep their body temperature up in  these cold months. In addition to that, this is the beginning of spring and the end of winter which foretells a new harvest. 

Recipe for Channa Masala

Piece

Channa Masala

450 gms tinned, cooked channa or 2 cups of channa soaked in water overnight. Cook in 4 cups of water and salt to ½ teaspoon Salt For approximately 3 – 3.5 cups cooked channa

1 small onion chopped

¼ teaspoon ginger 

¼ teaspoon garlic 

Grind all the above three ingredients to a paste  —-(1)

¼ teaspoon cumin seed powder

¼ teaspoon turmeric powder

¼ teaspoon chilli powder

¼ teaspoon garam masala

¼ teaspoon Aji’s masala powder

1 large tomato diced into small cubes

3 table spoons coriander leaves chopped finely

2 tablespoons oil

Heat a large heavy bottom container; add oil, followed by paste 1.

Saute` till pink or light brown in color. Add tomatoes, 1 tablespoon coriander leaves, turmeric powder, chilli powder, cumin powder. Saute until the mixture starts to look rich brown and the oil starts to separate. 

Add the cooked channa and cook for 20 to 30 minutes or until flavors blend. Add coriander leaves and serve hot with rice. 

Background

This is the legendary recipe for Chana Masala  (chickpeas in spices) passed down through generations on my mother’s side. This is my favorite food and my mother’s favorite food and so on. 

Context

This recipe has been passed through the ages. It isn’t exactly something that is unique to my family as all of India has their own takes on Channa Masala. This shows multiplicity and variation in the folklore. Interestingly enough,  there is a “secret ingredient” in this Channa which my mother calls Aji’s masala powder which means “Grandmother’s spice powder”.  All this time, I thought it was my grandmother’s spice powder, but now I realize that it is just  a term for a special secret mixture of spice powder that was passed down from my grandmother. 

Thoughts

    Recipes are interesting pieces of folklore as they are so important to survival. Food permeates through tradition and generations. An interesting thing about food is the multiplicity and variation in each instance. For example, my mother’s cooking varies from day to day and every time she makes the   dish is slightly different from the previous time.