About a leaf sans stalk

About a leaf sans stalk

PapadNjettilla vattayila (circular leaf with no stalk) is how they riddle it in Malayalam. The mere mention of it brightens many a foodie’s life. The main ingredient is urad dal, but you realise it when you gobble it. Papads charm everyone, young and old alike. This brother of my grandfather was a papad-lover. He would keep six of them, one on top of the other, and ‘tup’ — they would be crushed in no time. He would then look around victoriously as if he was a deadly warrior who had killed six enemies at one swish of the sword.

Every family will have such heroes and our son is ours. He would shamelessly ask for more dal and more papads even at feasts. On such occasions, I would temporarily disown him, but he would proceed merrily.

It's still his greatest weakness and his eyes light up at the mere sight of papads. Admit it or not, it’s a feast to the cook’s eye, too, to watch the papad coming up puffed up while deep-frying. But sadistic people deflate its ego by poking a hole in the middle before it descends into the heated oil. It is a boon to women as well. Papad-making is, in fact, a cottage industry for women, who roll out bundles of it effortlessly.

Regional variations add to the variety and flavour. To me, Guruvayur stands out not only for Guruvayurappan but also for its papads. We have appalam, the bigger but flat cousin of papads, a favourite with the Tamils. A store in Chennai is known for its appalams. Then we have Lijjat papads, a first-of-its-kind co-operative venture by Marathi women.

There are some special dish combinations that thrill our senses and taste buds. Majjige huli, sambhar or rasam with papads; shavige with papads; curd rice and pickle with papads — these are just a few samples. In the olden days, it had come light on the purse, making it affordable to the rich and the poor. Now the price has gone up, but the number has come down, thus making it a perfect case study for marketing mix.

Still, there is no denying the fact that papad is a universal favourite. Along with a friend, I was once attending a Gita Yagnam and the satsang was on Chapter 15. The speech was about renunciation of worldly pleasures, and the ever-smiling swamiji was showing us the path of self-realisation, exhorting us to forsake temporary physical satiation such as food, mentioning the papads in particular.

I was understandably dismayed. My friend, an insider, stayed my agitating mind and hands: “Stop fidgeting! Swamiji himself is a fan of sadhyas and puffed papads. He’s trying out auto-suggestion… you will have good fun up there in his company!”

I could hear the crackling of a thousand papads. All at one stroke.

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