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009 Keri ka Achaar in School (Pickle Series # 2)

Updated: Nov 9, 2021

Out of the various snacks that my mother packed for my school tiffin dabba at Vidya Niketan, the only one I consistently remember is roti and keri ka achaar. Unlike the convenience of the dabbawalas in Bombay who would deliver piping hot food in tiffin carriers from home to school, in Bangalore my poor mother would have to get up at the crack of dawn to pack tiffin boxes for my brother and me.

We would complain about the monotony - roti and achaar everyday!! I did not see the home-made, freshly prepared bread, lathered with ghee. I did not appreciate that my mother went to the miller and got her atta grains milled from scratch. I did not see that she went to Russel Market to buy raw mangoes, and Ibrahim Sahib street to buy the masalas, and then made the mango pickle at home. All I saw was two insipid folded roti-triangles next to a steel box with ‘boring’ yellowish-red achaar.

My friends on the other hand loved my mother’s raw mango pickle. They relished the distinct taste of sauf and crushed yellow mustard seeds that would make up the bulk of the salty-spicy Marwari keri ka masala. They loved the faki - the fibrous-y, small triangular pieces of raw mango with a hardcover on one side. The pickle soon became a ‘bargaining card’ and I could trade it for some precious cargo from another’s tiffin box.

Now that I have two kids, I understand why my mother chose achaar and roti. This menu was fresh, home-made, nutritious and dependable. There was always aata in the house, and a big bottle of achaar. She did not have to plan an elaborate menu. She did not have to rummage through the fridge on an already rushed morning. She did not have to make multiple trips to the grocery store, only to be told that a particular ingredient would ‘definitely’ come in stock tomorrow. She did not have to second-guess whether her children would like it or not. There is something to be treasured about consistency and repetition. As a busy, exhausted mother, it is one less thing to think about.

Photo Credit: Anita Agrawal

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