Rajma Chawal translates to red kidney beans with rice and so much of the aroma seems to be lost in transit. I discovered the popular and nutritious meal while spending time at my friend’s home during school days.
My friend used to stay in the Teacher’s quarter as his mother was a social science teacher. He was not much interested in studies though – mechanically minded he wanted to escape the burden of putting his nose to the grindstone everyday. He loved the automobiles and it was his dream to own an automobile workshop.
Innocent days, full of mindless fun, was the way we lived when we were in our High School while our parents fretted themselves that we were for not taking studies seriously and being aimless with scant regard for our future. Good grades and a degree in Engineering or Medicine was the nirvana that our parents wished us to pursue. It was an intense desire with little understanding of either our proficiencies or inclinations. They wanted to re-live their dreams and ambitions through us and hard work was their panacea for all ills in life.
My friend surely felt stifled in such an environment and he found his own escape from the same. He used to stay with his mother and younger sister while is father was posted away from the home. His younger sister was a rather serious girl and who did rather well in her studies. Most importantly she always listened to her mother’s advice. My friend was footloose and fanciful and a cause of anxiety for his mother.
He was fun as a classmate though – he would regale the class with his antics. He was tall and angular with a great sense of humour. He could badger most of us into submission and so was well-regarded by the boys. But he was good-natured as well and made friends easily.
Studying in a Central school that was a popular choice for the children from a Defence background, it was holy grail to take the NDA (National Defence Academy) exam while studying your XIIth grade. Most of us had even joined the NCC (National Cadet Corps) as it was an added advantage. His mother encouraged our friendship possibly thinking that I could help him be serious about studies. Guess she knew little about her son or was driven to try one more shot in the dark hoping it would click.
I had really no influence on him and our study routine was never quite effective. To begin with we would have the home to ourselves and this was expected to help us concentrate. My friend would be restless within 15 minutes and say he will ‘Rajma Chawal’ to eat as we studied. Post the meal, he would say it would be good to go for a walk on the school campus. And with that we would be out for most of the times. My friend would take me along to visit Gurudwaras and occasionally we would roam the ‘Main Street’ shops to do some time pass.
We eventually even made a trip to Mumbai to appear for the entrance exam. It was during the monsoons and we got caught in the rains. He took me to a Gurudwara where there was a place to stay over for a day. I was a bit nervous about the exam next day – my friend sensed that and tried to divert my mind. He admitted that studies just didn’t interest him and he went along just to humor his mother. He would graduate for sure as that seemed to be least expected of him. And then he would set about establishing his business. I could only admire his confidence as I was quite unclear about my future plans.
We continued to study together – the focus now was our Board exams. Guess we were of not much help to each other with the studies but it did not matter. Instead we seemed to enjoy each other’s company and the routine was a comfort. My friend would always bring a smile to my face with his antics. Such sweet memories of the Rajma Chawal that I discovered while studying at High School …