COMFORT FOODS // Khichuri by Jhilam Chattaraj 


When monsoon Gods claim mid-day skies,
mortals yearn for the aromas of the celestial kitchen.
Rice and lentils boil with vegetables,
ghee and garam masala season
the warm, savoury Khichuri.
Served on the velvet of lotus leaves
with beguni and aloo bhaja,
the comfort meal ends
with the sweet drip of tomato chutney.
The palate is cleansed for payesh.
We call it bhog; pilgrim-like,
the rich, the poor, the lost, the rising,
share bounteous grains of the earth.
Turmeric-stained fingers
stir the festive soul of Khichuri.
Sumptuous prayers awaken
Durga’s third eye, flute-songs
of Krishna and the tremour of Kaali’s footsteps.
There are no master chefs, no massacres
to taste the benediction of divine bellies.
The sacred is simple.
Earthen pots of devotion —
simmer and sing —
the holy harmony of food and faith.

*Durga, Kaali, Krishna: Gods worshipped in Hinduism
*Khichuri: A savoury porridge made of rice and lentils. It is eaten across India during
festivals and otherwise.
*Ghee: Clarified Butter
*Garam masala: A spice mix commonly used in Indian food.
*Bhog: The food that is offered to the God.
*Beguni: Aubergine fritter.
*Aloo bhaja: Fried potato.
*Payesh: A sweet dessert made with rice and milk.

Jhilam Chattaraj is an academic and poet based in Hyderabad, India. Noise Cancellation is her latest collection of poems. Her works have appeared at Calyx, Ariel, Colorado Review and World Literature Today among others. Visit her website to learn more.

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