Despite settling in a metro city like Mumbai, the rituals were followed religiously at my paternal ancestral home, and they still continue to do so. While my mother's side were put up in a more rustic village home, where the village temple offered live tableau, cultural activities, traditional Poojas during Navratri time. During the time when the village went out of power, the light from mashaals and aarati brightened up the streets and the bhajans sung by devotees rang music to our ears. It was a common sight to watch tattiraayas (humans dressed in 7ft. puppets) and huLivesha (men dressed in tiger costumes) dance to the rhythms of dhols that brought life to the otherwise silent streets. When the lights from the aarati lit up the far end of the streets and faint hearing of dhols and bhajans pecked our ears we would run out on streets to be a part of that ceremony and dance along till it reached our home. By then the elders and ladies wait outside their house, holding a thali, often decorated with flowers, coconut, kumkum and diya for the Pooja. The poojari would patiently collect each thali, offer to the Goddess, break the coconuts and return them back to the ladies. Everyone on street flocked around the returned thali to take their quota of blessings. We never felt the need of any other form of entertainment as the vibrant culture and the simple pomp of village life kept us occupied.
Both the sides of my family were different in many ways. Never the less, the joy of celebrating the festival was the same in both my maternal and paternal ancestral homes and I surely miss them now.
One thing that almost seemed similar on both the sides of my family was this Kashaya, a herbal drink usually served instead of tea or coffee. Kashaya is a very popular drink in the South and considered a coolant in summer heat. I remember clearly the only time we had Kashaya was when we visited our relatives in villages or grandparent's home. Because it was healthy, soothing and loved by all. It had characteristic sweet and spicy flavors from jaggery and pepper. At times when we had bouts of cold or cough, my ammamma would spice it up with loads of ginger that could soothe the scratching throat. Not that kids liked it much, but yet we gulped it down with less choice as elders relished it. When we visited our relatives or they flocked home, Kashaya made it's warm presence felt. In between talks and summer heat, minus the fans or electricity, Kashaya gave a warm soothing relief which most elders enjoyed.
I do hope you will try the recipe I share and enjoy at home. Bring back your old memories and live them.
Kashaaya: Indian Herbal Brew
For the powder:
2 cups coriander seeds
1 cup cumin seeds
1/2 cup fennel seeds
2 tbsp. black pepper
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk
1 tbsp. jaggery
1 tsp. fresh grated ginger or ginger powder (optional)
1 tsp kashaya powder
Dry roast all the ingredients in low flame till mildly fragrant. Allow it to cool completely. Grind it into a fine powder. Store in an airtight container.
To prepare Kashaya, heat water along with the Kashaya powder, jaggery and ginger (optional) till it comes to a rolling boil. Allow it to boil for 2 minutes. Turn off the flame and add hot milk. Stir well. Strain through a muslin cloth and serve hot.