A smell can evoke strong emotional responses. It can bring a rush of joy, take you down memory lane or remind you of someone. When we three sisters were growing up, we had one constant friend – Mom. With Dad in the Army, every two or three years we would find ourselves in a new city or place where Dad’s regiment was stationed. It was Mom who would then make us feel at home and help us get used to a place. She would play and laugh with us, becoming the elder ‘fourth sister’. Sometimes, we would have a tea party and mom would make tea in tiny doll utensils with a tea light for a burner. There would be sandwiches, cakes and cookies laid down. Each one of us would excitedly participate in the preparations. The Diwali festival would bring another wave of anticipation of joy and excitement. We would wake up to the delicious aroma of besan wafting from the kitchen. We knew Mom was making ladoos. Copious amounts of ghee would be added to the ‘kadai’ and she would continuously stir the besan, not leaving its side for a minute. As we got older, we started to help Mom in the process and the three of us would get ten minutes each to stir, so that by the time our turns were over, the besan had turned from yellow to a nutty brown and Ghosh Aunty, our neighbour in Kalimpong would drop in because the fragrance was simply irresistible.
As time flew and we finally settled down in Delhi, Diwali started getting fancier. The markets were flooded with Chinese products and artefacts. The dry fruits and mithai boxes started getting replaced with chocolates, cakes and dessert hampers. At home too, the gift platters got fancier. Dad would go to Tip Top market in Karol Bagh and pick up pretty platters by the dozen. Mom would then fill these with her fresh batch of besan ladoos. “Gifts must be personal” Mom always believed that personal touches speak volume and are far more appreciated.
A few days back, I called up Mom to share her recipe for the post. “It’s a simple recipe and so easy to make,” she said. ” and the essential ingredients are effort and patience. Don’t forget to mention that, beta” she emphasized as she hung up. Super excited, I entered the kitchen to make them. Did I ignore her important tip or what? It was 11:00 pm when I started. A few minutes into stirring I got impatient and raised the burner to a high flame. The besan browned too soon, it looked terrible and tasted burnt. As a result, I had to dunk it. Not giving up so easily, I woke up the next morning to start my second innings. This time with more patience, following each step with care. As I rounded the besan into glossy round ladoos, a sense of satisfaction filled me. It’s true, isn’t it, that good food is all about effort and patience? Since then, I have made a few batches, placing them neatly on platters and sending them to close friends and family. And the messages of appreciation have been overwhelming. Especially the one that came in today from Mom. It said, ” The ladoos are delicious and honestly better than what I make. It’s just not patience. You have added another integral ingredient that I never talked to you about. You have added love, oodles of it. What’s cooked with love tastes best. Creating delicious food lies in not two but three things: patience, effort and love. Well done, beta !”