My Relationship With Dal

Dal and I have a love-hate relationship.

Dal doesn’t like it when I am busy, aloof. There’s a lot going on under the surface, or shall I say, the cooker-whistle, and it doesn’t become clear until I open it.

Dal burns, and tells me, “You should start paying more attention.”

On a stressful work-day there isn’t anything better than plain Dal-Chawal, with a dollop of achar, and ghee on top.

But for that, first, you have to soak the dal. Cook the dal. Wait for the dal to be of the perfect consistency. Not so thick, that it gathers the rice in its embrace, turning into a thick, almost dough-like mess. Not so thin, that it feels like I am eating rice with yellow, turmeric water.

Dal has to perfect. Much of the day depends on it.

Arhar doesn’t demand much of me. Arhar is pliable, and it understands. I wash it and soak it for fifteen minutes, then cook it slowly in the pressure cooker, with salt, cut tomatoes, and turmeric, maybe some red chilli powder. After three whistles, the deed is done.

Arhar is the best. Arhar cares.

Masoor, too, is simple, and sits in a corner, waiting for her turn. Waiting to be picked up. She doesn’t quite see Arhar eye-to-eye, and I choose it only when I have no other choice. Masoor hates me for it but doesn’t show it. Maybe someday it will.

Chana Dal is robust, versatile, and demands time. Chana Dal also doesn’t give a lot in return, except the gift of its versatility. But now I realise, in simpler times, even that is a lot.

Moong, in health and in sickness, holds my hand. And in joy, it partners with besan and oil, to become the best of its parts.

Urad demands a longer ode than a short, snappy sentence. If Chana dal roams around hanging the badge of versatility on its sleeves, Urad was born with it, revels in it. Urad feels I should spend more time with it, as I sit and dream of Arhar.

Dal says, “There’s more of me in you than you give me credit for.”

I agree. I love Dal. And Dal loves me back, even on my worst days.

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