Ekadashi experiments

The Vaikunta Ekadashi that was observed last week reminded me of an incident that occurred many years ago. I was a 15-year-old newly married girl then. I had come to live in my in-law’s place in Bangalore and was continuing my college education.

My mother-in-law used to do all the cooking herself and would not allow me even to help her, as she wanted me to do well in my studies. I had never cooked at my mother’s place, too, but through sheer observation, I had a faint idea of how everything could be done. However, observation is different from hands-on experimentation, and I had little chance to do even that.

But one day, the opportunity finally presented itself. My mother-in-law wanted to go to Mysore to attend her niece’s marriage. I volunteered to stay back and look after the house and the kitchen in her absence. I told her not to worry and that it was a chance for me to try out some new dishes on my own.

The next day, two elderly guests — who were friends of my father-in-law — arrived without notice. It was an Ekadashi day when some people fast but eat frugal food such as soji upma instead of rice to sustain themselves for the day. The two gentlemen told me that they observed Ekadashi. I immediately swung into action and prepared vegetable upma with half a kilo of soji. With no former experience, the end product was a slightly watery upma.

I felt sad to cater this to the guests. So I prepared another half a kilo of upma with rava and vegetables, but I was careful this time to use less water. This second batch turned out well. I wanted to earn a good name from the guests and, therefore, kept the watery upma out of sight to ourselves. I served the good upma to the guests when they were ready. They two men finished it all and wanted more. What could I do but serve them the watery upma?

But the guests were all praise for me and downed my entire preparation with curd and sweets. They burped, too — an Indian way of showing satisfaction over food! I was relieved. Suppose I had not prepared the upma the second time, what would I have done when they asked for more? There would have been a shortage, and that was unacceptable. 

After lunch, as the guests took a siesta, I cleaned the table and sat down remin­iscing what I had done. I laughed to myself. I was really amazed at their observance of Ekadashi which had turned out to be not a fasting day but a feasting day!

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