Have a Flavorful New Year

 As a 5 year old in the grimy Mumbai suburb of Malad, I’d go outside with my grandpa, pot in hand, to wait in the early mornings for the guy who’d come with his buffalo. The man would milk the buffalo right there on the street with the milk squirting into our pot. When the pot was full, my grandpa would let me pay the man with the money he’d put in my pocket.

We’d then take the brimming pot home, boil the milk on a coal-burning stove, skim off an inch of white butter, boil it again, skim off another inch of butter, then use the milk in our chai. Even after twice skimming the fat, the milk was still thick and rich. Any remaining milk would be fermented into yoghurt, for making cooling, delicious lassi or warm, soothing kadhi (a chickpea flour soup) the next day.

And the butter, sans any flavorings, was delicious on its own or on bread, or rolled up in an overnight roti. With no refrigerator, the butter had to be all eaten the same day, and I was happy to oblige. I can taste that ambrosia in my mouth even now, a taste so comforting and sumptuous, it felt like I was savoring all that is good in the world.

It’s occurred to me that life is like buffalo milk. In its rawness, banal. But properly treated, it is rich and variously delectable, and, has to be consumed before it expires. 

May your new year be as flavorful and bounteous as buffalo milk butter. 

Gaurang Thakkar 

December, 2021.

Merry Christmas from an atheist

 As an atheist who tries to adhere to the Religion of Kindness, I adore Christmas. 

Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, who may, or may not, have existed. What matters to me is the message in The Gospels that depict his life and lessons. Christ’s life is a life of service to others, and his lessons are the lessons of kindness, tolerance, and forgiveness. These are qualities worth celebrating.

Merry Christmas.

Dec., 2021.

Light, Goodness, and Knowledge.

 The biggest festival among Hindus is called “Diwali.”

“Diwa” means “light” or “candlelight” of this sort: 🪔 that is used in prayers and meditations.

That’s why it is accurately translated as the “Festival of Lights.”

It celebrates the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance. In these perilous times, that kind of Light is needed more than ever.

In the Hindu myth, Lord Rama is exiled to the jungle due to the machinations of a duplicitous stepmother. There, his loving and faithful wife, Sita is kidnapped by the evil Ravana who tries, unsuccessfully, to bend her to his evil ways till she is rescued by Rama with the help of his faithful monkey-god, Hanuman. Ravana is defeated, and the group return home triumphantly where Rama reclaims his rightful place as king, ushering in an era of peace, plenty and joy.

Diwali is the celebration of that return.

Happy Diwali, everyone.

Nov., 2021.


 Chahe Koi Mujhe...Yahoo...  Junglee 1961)

Television wasn’t introduced in Mumbai till the ‘70s. The main visual entertainments were street performers, cinemas, and plays. Popular films ran in the same cinema for years. One such film was Junglee (Wild Man). Kids in my neighborhood were singing the title song for months on end. I was five and begged my mom to take me to see this film. She eventually scraped together the money to take me. It was my first ever foray to a cinema. My next visit to a cinema was six years later, in Hong Kong, on a Sunday when you could get in before 11 A.M. for 70 cents. For that princely sum, we could only afford one ticket so my brother and I squeezed into one seat. Fortunately, we were both undernourished, so skinny enough to be able to sit comfortably on one cinema seat at Hoover Theater in Causeway Bay. I don’t remember what we watched, but I do remember Junglee, the title song, many of the scenes, and even some of the dialogue almost six decades on.

It’s true what they say: you never forget your first.