One of the most delectable dishes that Bihar has to offer is the masoor dal khichdi. It isn’t the usual bland khichdi which is served to people who are ill. Instead this is flavourful, with added vegetables and generous dollops of ghee. And it comes with delicious accompaniments, as the famous ditty goes:
“Khichdi ke chaar yaar Ghee, dahi, papad aur achaar.”
Also, not to forget my most favourite aalu chokha, which is essentially mashed potatoes with a dash of pungent raw mustard oil. (Recipes here).But that’s not the problem.
The problem is that most Biharis will tell you that khichdi is to be consumed only on Saturday at dinner. Why indeed? When something tastes so yummilicious, why not everyday? Why wait till the weekend? I tried asking people why this tradition of eating khichdi only on Shanichar came about. One version says that some distant relative stepped out of home never to return back and apparently, the last meal he had had was khichdi. So apparently, the tradition goes that you must not step out of home after eating khichdi! My own version is that you always tend to overeat when something is so delicious. And it is best thereafter to rest and sleep until late on Sunday. Therefore the diktat. But then that’s my interpretation.
I remember the time just after I got married. Some elaborate feast was on and I was serving hot poories to the guests. Suddenly I was aware of whispers behind my back from the ladies groups. I was too new to ask what transpired there. Until one lady grabbed my elbow and pulled me back. “Didn’t anyone teach you never to serve in threes?”, she whispers. I stared blankly. Apparently three is inauspicious. “Teen tigada kaam bigada”, remember? In my logical mind, two poories would have been gobbled up too soon. Three gave enough time for the guest to eat, for the person in the kitchen to fry out some more, and me to fetch them. But no! Three was out!
There are so many superstitions, and as long as they are harmless, all is well. I want to argue logically about scientific temper. But then does it matter to anyone if Mohinder Amarnath tucks a red handkerchief in his pocket before batting?
Subodh tells me he stopped using a black pen to write patient notes after he observed that his patients died when he did so. Now, if you work in a pediatric ICU you are going to encounter some deaths. But if it makes you feel better, so be it. But then I stopped using black pens to sign reports for no reason! Not that it stops me from signing out malignancy reports every day. It is my job. But then, who can argue with irrational notions of the human mind!
I’m sitting here typing this and Subodh grins at me, “So it is your favourite Friday the thirteenth today!”. Scientific temper flies out of the window. My face falls and my forehead develops creases faster than a billowing poori in hot oil.
Isn’t this the portent of doom? Will I have a nasty argument with the boss today? Will one of those rabid engineering students on a bike spit in the air while I drive past? Will the sky fall on my head? Wait until sunset!