I am at a junction where it’s almost inevitable that I am facing multiple questions about my thoughts and future plans of having kids. Doesn’t matter if I say the same thing again and again, some people are unstoppable. They are very perplexed if I say “no I don’t have any plans and I might not want to have kids ever in my life”. They try to convince me by saying “oh, now it’s fine, but you’ll be very lonely when you are old”, “you might regret later”, “Oh no, why?” “you are already old, don’t be stupid, do it before it’s too late”. Really? How do they know I’ll be very lonely, how do they know I’ll regret later? Am I in a rush to keep up with the social guidelines?
Did I grow up with the sole purpose to get married in my twenties, have kids in my thirties and then be a mother forever until I die? That’s the social norm and I better abide by it. I should not deprive my parents from having the joy of being grandparents. What about me? I might not be capable of bringing up a kid to be a good human being with good values and principles. What if I decide to take that responsibility and then fail miserably? Giving birth to a child is no big deal but caring for a child is not everybody’s task. I have heard a zillion times that “it will automatically happen, don’t worry, it happens to everybody”. No, it does not happen to everybody. I have seen many, many mothers and fathers failing miserably to raise a kid. I am not saying they did it intentionally but they had no clue what they were doing. They just had a kid or many because that’s what you are supposed to do. I don’t think I am ready yet. I might not feel like I am ready ever in my life or it might be just tomorrow. Who knows?
Our society sees married women without kids as incomplete, they look down upon them. They look at them with pity and if you are lucky enough, with sympathy if they know that you tried your best but couldn’t have a kid. As if they have wasted their womanhood. I see many of my friends, colleagues, relatives and neighbors being lost in the ocean of motherhood, completely losing their identity as a person. They look like they waited all their life to be mothers and only mothers. I know I’ll be showered with criticism for not being sensible enough to understand the greatness of motherhood because I am not a mother. That’s completely wrong. We deify mothers, we see them as super humans, we demand them to be more than just a woman. We expect them to absorb pain and suffering because they are the mothers. The women also take pride in their godly role.
Don’t get me wrong, I am all for mothers, all the great mothers (and also the not so great ones) who feed us, nurture us, take care of us. To me, my mother is also my lifeline, the very basis of my existence but in the process she forgot to have a life of her own. She gave all her life to be a good mother (and also a good wife). She is still not done. It’s a lifelong exam and you have to try your best to do your best. I am not that brave and not yet ready to start that journey and I will choose to be incomplete for now.
This daal is a humble everyday daal just like my mother. Nothing extraordinary but still special. It’s simple yet delicious. This is my mother’s recipe with a little bit of my tweaking, just like I am almost my mother’s replica with a bit of tweaking.
Water: around 2-3 cups (doesn’t really matter, you can always add or reduce the water)
Turmeric: ½ tsp.
Radhuni seeds/wild celery seeds**: a little more than ½ tsp.
Dry red chili whole: 2-3 nos.
Mustard oil/olive oil: 2tsp.+ 2tsp.
Shallots (small)/small onions: 10-12 nos., peeled. (I usually use small onions)
Or, Regular red onions: half of a small onion, thinly sliced or finely chopped.
Salt to taste
- In a deep bottom medium pot bring the water to a boil.
- Wash the red lentils and add it to the boiling water. Let it come to a boil again. Once it starts boiling, bring the flame to medium (the water should still be in a rolling boil).
- Periodically remove the white scums (foamy substance).
- Once there is no more scum on the top, add the turmeric powder and mix with a spoon.
- Let the lentils get almost cooked and then whisk it with a hand whisk. Do not whisk it vigorously and you don’t need any fancy electrical whisk too.
- Add salt and let it boil for few more minutes.
- While the daal is boiling, heat up two teaspoons of oil in a frying pan. Add the shallots or the small onions and bring the flame to medium. Shallow fry them until there are multiple brown spots on them. Slow and shallow frying will make them sweet and a bit smoky in taste.
- Add the onions to the almost cooked boiling daal and gently boil it for another five minutes or until the daal is completely cooked and reaches your desired consistency. You can add more hot water here if the daal looks very thick or boil it vigorously if it looks very thin.
- In another small deep ladle or pot add the rest of the two teaspoons of oil and slowly heat it up. Don’t let it burn.
- Once the oil is hot, bring the flame to medium low and add the radhuni seeds. Let them sizzle, it will take around a minute (slowly sizzling the seeds will flavor the oil).
- Add the dry red chilies and let them come to a shade darker.
- Pour the seasoning into the daal and immediately cover the pot with a lid and turn off the gas/flame.
- Keep it covered for 5 minutes and then serve it with plain white rice and lime wedges (not lemon). You can eat it as a soup too.
*Instead of adding slow roasted onions, you can deep fry the thinly sliced onions, crumble them and add them add the end.
* You can skip the slow roasting part and add the radhuni seeds, followed by the red chilies and then finely chopped regular red onions and slowly fry them until a little brown. Make sure that the spices do not get burnt. You can skip the onions altogether but that will steal the taste.
** Radhuni is a very special spice mainly used by the Bengali community in India. It is called wild celery seeds in English but do not confuse it with celery seeds. If you do not have access (which is very likely) to radhuni, grab a Bengali friend to provide you some or use anise seeds instead. I have never used anise seeds for this soup but they are the closest in terms of taste.