A Series of Unrelated Events

The team from The Concerned for Working Children and the Saturday morning batch of Theatre Lab began shooting The Voice Bhootha On Saturday 2nd February 2013. They all drove in together with Prudence, the canine star of the show. By the time they arrived and Om declared that he was starving and Nagamma and Shankaramma managed to rustle up their unique variety of jungle eggs (scrambled with curry leaves and chillies) and toast and all the kids had eaten, kissed Prudence, fed her Mixed Fruit Jam, got sticky, got washed and then got into costume...it was 10am. Oh well.

The first sequence involved a bunch of shots in the fruit orchard with Kaya and Sharanya doing a scene around the trees. Om and Siddhanth were armed with Handycams and got busy documenting behind the scenes stuff. 10 takes later it was blisteringly hot and Yash declared, brightly and loudly, that he was bored. So I delivered him into the able babysitting hands of Thirpal who gave him a stick and got him to start whacking the huruli that was drying in the round rehearsal space.

Sonakshi and best buddy Prudence
Then there was Siddhanth who had to be shoved up a tree (push by Santosh, pull by Kutta) for his Bag-Snatching scene. The twins, Sanjana aka Dottyamma and Shivanka aka Juttamma, messed around in their matching skirts and beads while trying to retrieve the bag. The whole while Kritya whinged and whined that she wanted to be up the tree herself. Sonaskshi entertained herself with Prudence and the teenagers...well, they're unintelligible and communicate in grunts and giggles, essentially a 4 member law unto themselves... so we just ignored them.
Resting between shots
Learning Sign from the boys from Association of People with Disability
50% of the teenagers who grunt and giggle
By the evening we were a large crowd including two guys from Association of People with Disability who were there to teach the kids Sign Language, 5 members from the CWC team, Nikhil Bharadwaj who would play the Police Constable, 10 kids, Shankaramma, Thirpal and me. In this way day turned into night and night turned into Sunday and Kavya arrived with 10 more actors from CWC and a box of brownies. Thus our numbers grew...

'Wherefore art thou Romeo...'
The PC's hat and stick

Shooting the "Waiting for a Bus" scene
Setting up for the roadside scene
Waiting for the bus...
Police Constable Nikhil Bhardwaj
Still waiting...
Kutta prepares...(just before he heads off to the Kumbh Mela)

Ashwathi directs

PC Nikhil chats with Santosh and Ashwathi...

...and rescues Ridhi 
Marching forward...
....the Child Brigade arrives
Best Friends Forever
Hanging out in costume
More hanging out...
Stick Insect
Prudence in costume
Consider this....

About 10 days ago, three elephants graced our farm. This in itself is not unusual, especially now, in the dry, dry season. But this time they had wandered right up to our cottage and there was dung besides the pond. Thirpal said there were probably two cows and a calf and that they came by at 12 midnight. I have no idea how he knows this for sure as he falls asleep by 7.30pm and is terrified of stepping out of his cottage alone, but still.
Bamboo Flowers
Photo Credit: Bakki Kudva
Photo Credit: Bakki Kudva
Elephant dung near the pond...
The day after the kids left I was walking around the farm with Viju chikki, Vidu chikki, Arun Uncle and Bakki Uncle when we came upon something unusual hanging from the bamboo. At first we thought it was a nest of some sort. Wasps or gnats perhaps. But on closer examination we found it was efflorescence - the bamboo was in flower. I had a vague memory that this was a very rare occurrence resulting in bamboo rice and meant something, but what, I had no idea. Perhaps elephants like the smell of bamboo rice the way the bears come for the sickly scent of borum and jackfruit?

Google to the rescue and sure enough. Bamboo only flowers under very rare circumstances, usually at the end of their life cycle and when there are climatic or soil changes that trigger the efflorescence. Thus both in India and China. bamboo flower is seen as a curse, an indication of bad days ahead. The logic for this is that bamboo, food of the elephant, dies on flowering, causing the subsequent starvation of elephant populations. Also, the bamboo rice attracts in droves the elephant's vahana, the rat, and this leads to the destruction of the farmer's crop.

Check out Shalini's wonderful article on Bamboo Rice and cooking with it in Coorg...


Talking about food (I've written about this before) can only only only bring to mind my three chikkis: Sowju, Viju and Vidu. Amma and her three sisters talk about food all the time and this weekend we had the truly spectacular pleasure of having all of them and their respective husbands stay with us at the farm. I told you our numbers just kept growing, much to Nags and Shanks delight. The idea of my chikkammas as well as Amma being at the farm simultaneously was causing them to spaz at regular intervals. Of course lots of food was cooked, could you possibly expect anything else?! From Amma's superb Prawn Biriyani to the unbelievably simple delights of wood roasted sweet potato and melting butter under a starry sky. But the meal that had everyone gobsmacked was cooked by Nags and Shanks for Tuesday's lunch:
  • Massaopu
  • Ragi Muddhe
  • Gongura pachdi
  • Alugadde pallya
The gongura is grown on the farm (in honour of Kuki's love of Andhra food) and Thirpal brought in a tender bunch of leaves, delicate and edible raw. Shanks cooked these down with red tamarind from the kitchen tree, but I missed the other ingredients. This much I do know, the raw chopped onion added at the end just nailed the pachdi.

I love massopu and muddhe. Nags makes it so uncomplicated, just mashing down cooked barke soppu and togri with tamarind and tomato, and seasoning it with crushed garlic, green chillies, curry leaves and mustard seed. Yum yum yum, I swear to God, and all grown locally. 

Amma's Fab Prawn Biriyani

1kg cleaned and de-veined fresh prawns
1kg Basmati rice
1/2 cup oil
4 inches of cinnamon sticks
6 cardamom pods
8 cloves
4 bay leaves
6 medium onions sliced
1/2 cup fresh, made-from-scratch ginger and garlic paste
6 chopped tomatoes
8 sliced green chillies
1 small bunch chopped coriander leaves
1 small bunch chopped mint leaves
salt to taste

Fry the cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, bay leaves and onions till the onions are cooked and fragrant. Add the ginger-garlic paste and cook till the raw smell vanishes. Add the green chillies, tomatoes, coriander and mint. Stir for a minute or so. Then add the prawns, rice and salt and cover with enough water to cook. I calculate it at approximately 1 and 1/2 cup of water per cup of rice. Put it on a low flame till just cooked and turn it off.

You can garnish it with a mixture of more fried onions/coriander/mint.

Serve it a simple grated cucumber raita.

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