It’s fascinating, unnerving and reassuring to know that our childhood habits, learned across years growing up with family, stay with us throughout our life.
Fascinating because the habits survive inspite of the exuberance and free experimentation of youth.
Unnerving because it goes to show that we know little and have littler control over our behaviour than we think we do.
Reassuring because it’s a relief that they come to our rescue when we need it the most because the habits are second nature to us, subconsciously driving us to do things that keep us safe, sane, and functional.
For instance, take a food habit that I grew up with: munching Chhola every morning. Chhola is Bengal Gram, also called Kaalaa Chanaa or Black Chickpeas. Every night, a bowl of Chhola was soaked in water. Next morning, it was nice and crunchy. After brushing our teeth and a glass of water, each of us had a handful of Chhola with one or two cloves of garlic and a pinch of salt. Every day. Once a week, we used to get sprouted Chhola (which is soaked overnight and then wrapped in wet cloth for a day). My father used to call Chhola, Horse Power, since it’s a treat for local horses. And the plight of local horses in India used to be (and still is) more or less like the lower middle class and poor people: one has to run long hours every day on limited food and water.
The Chhola habit is not a Bengali thing per se. It came into our family since my father’s family was from Kashi (Benaras or Varanasi) and they had slipped into dire straits barely above the poverty line, on account of my grandfather passing and several other historical and economic factors. My father and his siblings were still very young. Chhola was cheap then, as you can imagine since it was horse feed. And it made a super breakfast for the family.
Like many of that generation across the world, my father and all his siblings worked hard and climbed up into lower middle class struggle and later into middle class stability. But even in stability, many of the frugal habits remained with all of them, Chhola being of them.
By the time my generation came along, Chhola was also being cooked in curries and in other forms. I picked up the habit and a taste for it and in youth, it used to be my main power snack during sports and athletics events. In recent years, I have used it mainly on climbs.
I was reminded of it in the current difficult situation around the globe, mainly because its a very versatile gram. There’s a lot you can do with the Bengal Gram, a lot. Here’s a new-age, posh recipe that I toss up once in a while.
Tossed Salad with Bengal Gram Sprouts
Cucumber – 2
Tomatoes – 2
White Raddish – 1
Carrots – 1
Sprouted Gram – 1 cup or small bowl
Salt – 1-2 teaspoons
Lime – 1 big
You can make this salad with whatever fresh ingredients you have. If you have none of the vegetables listed, use chopped onion. The key is the Bengal Gram, lime and salt.
What’s the procedure? Cut everything a similar size – I have gone for the long chunky cut. The sprouted Chhola makes a pleasing visual contrast. Squeeze lime juice, sprinkle salt and toss it in the bowl. Goes well by itself, with a bowl of steamed rice or even a noodle soup.
People across the world have faced the same problems in all eras. The beauty of the human spirit is that in each region, we have overcome the problems with some similar and some different solutions.
Good Morning World. Sometimes we need to step back in time to find our resilience.