Some six or seven years ago.
We are moseying around in the colony, we meaning, I , Tejas and Sriya.
In an open plot on my left I see some children looking at some thing. Some are throwing stones at it. May be one of the harmless green snakes the area abounds in. Suddenly Sriya says in Telugu, “There is a big palli, there.” I try to correct his Telugu, ” Not palli, say balli.’ .
“O k. Palli, palli” , he corrects himself. I shrug and give up.
I am reminded of an episode from the movie,directed by Bapu, “Mr. Pellam” featuring Rajendra Prasad as a father who keeps home while his wife goes to work. The dialogues were by Mullapudi. (Some of you must have seen him in the hilarious Wild West English movie, “Quick Gun Murugan.”)
In the movie, Rajendra Prasad is trying to feed his children. The boy says, “I don’t want any curry. I want puppa.”. His dad says, ” No way, you have to eat curry first. And only then, pappu. Mind you it is ‘ pappu’, not ‘ puppa’ Do say it properly. Pappu, pappu,” . The boy insists, ” Puppa, puppa, I will eat puppa only.”
What punishment the dad gives the child with what effect, is a different matter that doesn’t concern us for now.. I will revert to it in some other post.
Now coming back to our story, I turn my attention to what is happening on the plot of land on our left .I say to the children ” It is a Gecko. Not a Palli, I mean, Balli.”
The children roll the new word around, a few times on their tongues. ‘Gecko, Gecko, Gecko.”
We have been roaming around the plants, trees, and the streets and alleyways since about two hours and are famished. We go back home.
” Nannamma, we are hungry.” the children say. Nannamma, of course is Grandma, Dad’s ma.
“You’re late. The lunch is ready for quite some time.” Nannamma says, and adds, ” Eat this Bobbattu first while I set the table.”.
” Bobbattu.”, is a two-layered-cake of super-refined wheat flour (maida) containing a filler in between the layers. It is cooked in oil. The filler is powdered and wetted jaggery mixed with cooked and mashed yellow-gram lentil. She gets us a bobbattu each, as a starter.
“Mmmm, it’s delicious. Get me another.” I demand.
“No more for now. Now, go, freshen up and come back to the table. There is much more for you guys than Bobbatlu. “. We meekly follow the instructions.
At the table, I begin to contemplate on the etymology of Bobbattu. it must have started as Pappattu or maybe, Poppattu, attu being cake and pappu (or its variant poppu as it is called colloquially like the child in the movie, by some), is lentils. Bobbattu is called ‘Pooran Poori’ in Marathi, meaning, a poori with a filling.
There is another variant of this dish. It is a spherical one, with an identical filling but with an envelope of a thin milky batter of black gram flour, again cooked in oil.. Interestingly, it is called Poornam Boore, which word reminds one of the Pooran poori of Marathi, the flatter cousin. What if it is flat or spherical and what if the envelope is maida or blackgram. It is nice for me if the earth is flat when I stand firmly on it and look at all the beautiful things on it.When I go into outer space, may be I would take a liking for a spherical earth. Sufficient if it is delectable, Bobbattu or Poornam Boore, What’s in a name, as they say.
Tattwams are simple folk songs in Telugu, which expound profound philosophical concepts in common place lyrics and tunes and are very popular among simple and illiterate rural folk.Intellectuals too resort to them and quote them frequently, when they wish to score a point.
And there are satirical and corrupted versions of Tattwams, often quoted by conceited people, again to get their way.
One such tattwam, goes, ” What if it is fine cooked rice, or fine powdered lime, Having known the profound truth that they are one and the same, let us feed this wretched belly, with fine cooked rice only. (” Annamaitenemi ra mari sunnamaitenemi ra Anduke yee padu pottaku anname vedamura.”)
If you enquire, why not powdered lime, you would be admonished, ” You ignoramus. When there is no difference, why not fine rice, why hanker after lime.”
As Lord Krishna says, food is divine not to be trifled with. in fact it is the Brahmam incarnate, having been derived from Him and like Him sustains all living things who are after all, little replicas of the Brahmam and form part of Him. And, those who ingest such a divine thing ought to be the Brahmam too.
‘” Sir, are you contemplating on the Brahmam or the Parabrahmam or the recipe of Bobbattu. First eat it and then lie on your cozy bed and meditate until evening, on the essence of the Brahmam or the etymology of Bobbatlu.”, the missus says. She knows my growing propensity towards metaphysics and etymology, these days. I take her advice.
The missus is cajoling the children to eat, the Peanut Podum, peanuts powdered with roasted lentils, red chilles, salt and tamarind, mixed with cooked rice and ghee.After initial reluctance, the children take to it. ‘ Nice Nanamma ‘, they say. I do not know whether they are referring to the Podum or their Nanamma.
‘ Pass on the Palli powder to me, will you?”, I say. . Palli or Momphalli means peanut in these places. The kids promptly, throw up.