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010 Marwari Mattri and Neembu ka Achaar (Pickle Series # 3)

Updated: Nov 9, 2021




Shaadi ki Mattri. Large as a small steel plate, thick as a stack of five parathas. Lovingly made with pure ghee and atta to celebrate a nuptial. She had been pinched into shape by the practiced hands of a professional halwai. Deep fried for hours in a bubbling hot cauldron of ghee to give her innumerable flaky layers. The top of her circular body, and her high moat like walls, bear tiny hand-made peaks. This queen ‘shaadi ki mattri’ truly resembles a flattened regal crown.


She hardly makes an appearance at court. Only when someone gets married. And only when the groom’s side deems worthy. It is an honour to receive a whole mattri in her entirety. Most wedding guests on the groom’s side get only a quarter piece if they are lucky, or none at all. The mattri count depends on how close the guest is to the groom’s family.


This mattri is treasured. She is kept secure in a steel box, where she can easily survive for three weeks. Uncharacteristic of Marwari hospitality, she is not offered to guests who come home. She is relished in secrecy. She is eaten in bits.


She becomes complete, whole and radiant, only when slathered with neembu ka achaar. Her gleaming body is covered with the thick, dark brown, sweet and sour, viscous lemon pickle. Together they ignite. Together they explode. Moist, crunchy, sweet, sour and salty all at once.

(Pause)


Once the stubby, humble triangular piece of lemon has offered all he can at the queen’s altar, I slowly bite into his thick walls. My face involuntarily puckers, but I soldier on. Bit by bit, the piece of pickled lemon disappears along with the last flaky remnants shed by the queen. My empty steel plate stares back at me. The hot, steaming cup of chai keeps me company. Outside, the rain does not cease.


Photo Credit: Anita Agrawal

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