Text and Photographs by Poyani Mehta, Story Teller, Mumbai
1st Runner Up Prize Winner of the Memories in a Dabba Contest sponsored by Ektra Superware Fine Dining. To purchase one of these gorgeous kitchenware from Ektra Superware Fine Dining, contact Area Manager, Siddhi Padgaonkar using this link.
The role that the ‘Blue Dabba’, played in my life one weekend late January 2019 will be forever etched in my mind. It was medium-sized, circular in shape, sturdy with a blue lid and part of the household for many years, of good quality plastic.
I love to bake and that particular Friday evening, 18th January 2019 to be precise, I had baked two eggless cakes, a whole wheat banana dry fruit cake and a coconut cake. Both were hot favourites at home. The tantalizing aroma of the cakes spread all over the kitchen, they were beautiful in texture, soft and spongy, healthy and not too sweet. Their destination was Anand in Gujarat and I was taking them by train in my blue dabba where my daughter Kavya and I were going to pre celebrate my parents’ 50th Wedding Anniversary which was on falling on Wednesday the 23rd of January.
My parents were very happy to receive us and the weekend passed by quickly with precious moments spent in their company with a long photo session in the inner courtyard and the cakes were brought out from the box. A candle was lit and blown with gusto with Kavya and me singing in high spirits. Delighted they were, in particular, my dad whose happy smile shone up his face with eyes sparkling with emotion. My affable father was always proud of me when I did something new be it baking or acting in plays for children or of any of my achievements old and new. Emotional fatherly love was in the air.
The box had one more important role to play, it’s return journey back home to Mumbai, it was not going back empty, rather it was going to be filled to the tilt with the fragrant scrumptious ‘Undhiyu’ a traditional one-pot food speciality of Gujarat and Gujaratis in particular. It is mainly made with root vegetables and other fresh winter vegetables like purple yam, regular yam, potatoes, sweet potatoes, small brinjals, raw bananas, surti papdi, tuvar lilva and garlic greens in which methi muthayas are added.
The Undhiyu is cooked in two different ways, one on the gas mixed in with many spices and the other in an earthy smoky rustic way where the aromatic flavours merge with well- seasoned spices like ajwain, garlic, cumin-coriander powder, salt and oil and slow-cooked in a clay pot (matlu/matla) in the fire pit dug into the ground. It is then had hot with sev sprinkled on the top and with different kind of chutneys. And it needs to be eaten soon otherwise it can spoil easily. This Undhiyu which would be made in the clay pot was the one that my father wanted to send home with me.
He had found the perfect restaurant in Anand that sold this kind of ‘Matla Undhiyu’ and there was pulsing excitement in the air when we went to place the order. He had ordered 3 clay pots of ‘Matla Undhiyu’ most which would go with me to Mumbai and the other distributed to family and friends. The next day when we brought the hot and heavy pots home, the entire kitchen had an enticing delectable scent, which soon spread all around the house, our taste buds opening up for a bite and slowly we separated the smoky cooked vegetable layer by layer and put them in various containers and my special blue dabba filled to the tilt. A sense of wholesome satisfaction pervaded the air. I knew that all at home would devour the Undhiyu with much craving and love.
Monday, the day of our departure arrived too soon and my parents bade us goodbye with the promise of meeting soon, since they were planning to visit me in Mumbai in February. But it was not to be, God had other plans in store for us. My father sadly passed away on 26th January 2019. The pain too raw and memory so lucid I go back again and again to those precious three days I spent with him and the bittersweet memories of the blue box live on within me.
Dedicated to my late father Shri. Gopalkrishna J. Pandya.
Please Note: All views and opinions are purely of the participant.
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