Bhindi in Hindi or bhendi in Konkani is okra. We also call it lady finger but I really don’t like that name so I call it one of the first three I mentioned. Dahi is the word for yogurt or curds, as we say with ease. Tadka means tempering (of spices) and the versions of it are as myriad as the diaspora.…
On May 27, I was a no longer a cluster of cells in my mother’s uterus. I was a fully-functioning (for all new-born purposes) human. Today, that term means many different, sometimes unbelievable things. Unbelievable because sometimes I can’t fathom how much I’ve changed just by throwing myself into this unfamiliar world a few short years ago.
I am 28 years old. As time moves on, I have become a more passionate admirer of time. Yes, the pace still scares me but I need that slight fear. I need to know I’m doing all that I can to make the most of the fragility of being. A few months ago, I took a selfie – in front of a mirror. No big deal except for me, it was huge. I was looking right into my reflection and making peace with this body. This is the same body that lets me have endless energy to do the things I love. I saw it and I called it what it was – a miracle.
It was never always like this. I too had awkward teenage years. Mine involved being lanky, taller than the other kids, and incredibly ashamed at this person I would glance at as I walked by a mirror. I never looked into one for longer than a second. There was a reflection I had little to be proud of. My short hair stuck up no matter how much water I used to calm it, my clothes were always confusing to me (what do I do with these things?!), my legs looked like sticks and I just generally had no reason to look at myself. I channelled all that insecurity into a dislike for what is termed (negatively) as “being girly”. What does it even mean? I don’t like to comb my hair? Even the “girliest of women” don’t. I didn’t know that then. There are many photographs to remind me of that time and I wish I knew then that it wasn’t permanent.
I would eventually be able to grow my hair out, right ma? I don’t harbour any ill feelings toward my mother for only letting us have short hair as kids. It’s all I want to do with my hair now. Being able to have long hair didn’t change my world. Being me did. I remember vividly when “It will grow back,” became my go-to line for women who complained about haircuts they thought went wrong. Now it’s more like: “You’re an awesome person. It will grow back. Let’s get ice-cream!”
These are the things I’ve somehow taught myself. You might consider me the worst woman to give you advice on body image-type things, but know that we all have our demons. We all have things that eat at us, telling us we’re not worthy. I don’t like it when all you see is my shape and I’m sorry some stupid magazine has you conditioned to think I have it all figured out. I’m not even close.
What I am closer to is a better relationship with myself, a greater understanding of this thing called gender and the infallible ability to encourage (always) the women I encounter or exist with in my diverse circle. I can’t stress how important that last part is to me. I am so damn excited for every chance.
So I took a picture of myself. When I look at it, I won’t see 27 or 28. I’ll see contentment. I’ll see strength and a time of becoming, through me and the miracles around me. I’m doing so much better in my skin now.
Notes: Though it’s far from the traditional raita recipe (cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, cilantro), the flavours and textures are all present. You can eat this as a side with your other curry-based dishes or on its own, as a dip. It’s cooling and it’s something my family in Goa makes a lots once the temperature starts to rise. You can make it a day ahead but it tastes best when made fresh.
You can find chaat masala at your local Indian grocery store or online. I use the Shaan brand here in the American land. You can also make your own at home if you have the long list of spices it requires.
Red spinach is a name I’m giving this type of spinach because it has a stem and ribs that look very similar to what beet greens would have. It’s not the same as red amaranth (tambdi bhaji), in case you were wondering. I used red spinach in this recipe because I loved the pinkish colour it gave the yogurt. Feel free to use regular spinach or any other green you think would go well with this whole deal.
- 1 bunch red spinach or regular spinach
- 10 radishes, cut into 1/4 inch rounds and then diced
- 1/3 cup red onions, finely diced
- 1/2 cup fresh mint, coarsely chopped
- 2 cups full-fat Greek or regular yogurt
- 1 tsp chaat masala powder
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp chilli powder
- Salt and pepper to taste
Place a colander over the sink. Fill a medium-sized saucepan with water, salt it and bring to a boil over high heat. Once the water boils, add the spinach to the saucepan and let it wilt. This should take close to a minute. Once it’s ready, drain the spinach into the colander and run cold water over it until it stops steaming. Drain the wilted spinach well and place it on a chopping board. Coarsley chop the spinach into bite-sized bits and add to a large bowl.
In the same bowl, add the cut radishes, red onion and mint.
In another bowl, mix together the yogurt, chaat masala, chilli powder and garlic powder. Pour this yogurt mixture over the cut vegetables. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately or chill before serving. It keeps well in the fridge for a day.