Friday, January 27, 2012

ramkumar rice pudding

what’s going on here? me and a bunch of ladies, not shown here in pic, are working our charm on dr harikrishnan. a kind and wise man who doesn’t beat around the bush. in his own words, he says, what do you want from me? i’ll get to that in a sec. the lead up to all this is this. i really want to eat the way i eat here when i go home, at least for two to three months so that we can really make space for the panchakarma benefits to blossom. my wish is granted. kavita, the mastermind and supervisor in this arena around here, in response to our request, sets up cooking classes.

at my special pleading, here in this class, she is making congee. at first a couple of ladies roll eyeballs and say, all in good lightheartedness, suk wah, what are you thinking, it’s just rice cooked in water, what’s there to that. well, turns out there’s more to that. to begin with, this is organic broken red rice. secondly kavita ladles the washed rice into boiling water. i forgot to ask her what’s the difference between doing this way and bringing rice and water to boil together. and then she lets the mixture cook uncovered, boiling rigorously. she stirs frequently, adds liquid periodically. brings to mind cooking risotto. cannot leave risotto unattended on stovetop. in twenty minutes, voila, just like risotto, a textured congee is ready. sort of like extremely soft rice and feels to the stomach full and light all at once.

then kavita says, at this stage you can add milk. boom. epiphany. i say, this is kheer? kavita says, yes, yes, you can add jaggery, nuts, raisins. i say, to finish her thought, cardamom. kavita beams, her moon face shines and she says, yes, yes. but, being so loyal to the vaidyagrama vision, she quickly says, you have to get doctor’s permission. it is at that moment that dr harikrishnan arrives on the scene. i seize the moment and say, you know how much we love you dr harikrishnan. not missing a beat he smiles and says, what do you want from me? we all laugh. then streams of sweet words flow at him from all four corners. o please, please, dr harikrishnan. finally he says, okay, one spoon. i can hear the reluctance and resistance in his voice. this dr harikrishnan. he has only one thing on his mind. the welfare of patients. he is kind, gentle, sensitive, soft spoken. when he says no it carries authority and gravitas. i would put my life in his hand in a heartbeat although it means saying bye bye to snacks and treats and even decaf.

anyway, a spoon of rice pudding is done deal, right? not so fast. a couple of hours later i am hopping to the hall for the evening program and so looking forward to the spoon of rice pudding in the group supper to come. you see, the milk comes from karuna's mom. who's she? here, meet my new friend, karuna's mom who supplies the milk for our treatments and treaties. she's like me when she is eating. very focused. no interest in anything else. that cutesie next to her is karuna. my point is the milk couldn't be fresher and lighter. it never ceases to amaze me how she eats grass and shoots out this super-nutritious and super-duper-yummy nectar.

i somewhat digress. anyhow i see dr harikrishnan and dr ramkumar sitting in the short passageway leading to the hall. after a sweet and happy exchange i thank dr harikrishnan for his mercy on us. dr ramkumar, in his signature sunshine grin, says, you see the doctors work in consensus here, one doctor says okay can be overturned. uc-oh, i say, you can't do that, dr harikrishnan is a man of honor. that dr ramkumar just won’t budge. he’s as charming as ever. he just won’t budge. he says, there'll be rice pudding, it’s going to be a modified version. all right, something is better than nothing. after all their eyes are all on keeping the stomach work as little as possible during panchakarma.

turns out this rice pudding is a highly modified version. sure, it’s more than one spoon. a small bowl of it. but i don’t taste any jaggery at all. an assistant doctor goes around with a pot of jaggery. when he comes round to me, i say, one tiny spoon, please? he says, no. only guests who are not in treatments can put jaggery into their ‘fake’ rice pudding. no no no,  i have a better name for this. the ramkumar rice pudding.

earlier in the evening program, dr ramkumar says to the effect, they have to choose between being a good host or good doctor. guess what these guys have chosen.

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