Intangible Bond Across Generations ~ Rajasthani Great Granny Mangikawar

by on September 5, 2012

Having led a full life, she is an embodiment of grace and love. She finds it easy to connect with people, be it her contemporaries or her great grandchildren. She has created frameworks which induce a sense of well being and care among the family. “I believe that whatever be the issue, we will solve it with a collective decision,” her 25-year-old grandson Abhay says. The statement reflects a certain faith in the JOINT family structure which is echoed by the daughters-in-law. In these days when joint families are disintegrating at a fast pace, Mangi Kawar’s family seems a happy and comfortable unit; bound together by an intangible BOND and UNCONDITIONAL LOVE that works across generations.


Born in Pipliya village in Rajasthan, a village whose claim to fame is the crashing of the meteorite in 1996, Mangi Kawar Bai, w/o Late Shri Lalchandji Marlecha, does not have a true record of her birthday. Her son Narendra informs me that she has just completed 86 years.


Intangible Bond Across Generations-Mangi Kawar Marlecha

I met up with her on a warm summer afternoon in her 100-year old house in Chennai. The house reflects the same characteristics – it is comfortable, spacious and unintimidating. We discuss the changing times, traditional recipes and the magic of the Rajasthani manuhaar, which means hospitality. She insists on feeding a mouthful of kasaar to each one of us, including the photographer, with her own hands. Having attended to our snacks and tea, she settles down to enjoy the conversation, speaking in her sweet Marwari dialect.


Which is your native place in Rajasthan?
I was born in Pipliya on the day of Samvatsari, an important Jaina festival. Actually, this is what I tell people about my birthday. Since I don’t know when I was born, I decided to choose an auspicious day (she adds with a twinkle in her eyes). My parents-in-law are from Sojat village in Pali District.


When did you come to Chennai?
My father-in-law, Bridichandji Marclecha, migrated to Chennai. So I came here after my marriage. I have visited Rajasthan and stayed there for months on end, but my longest stay has been in this house.


Is it true that you enjoyed dressing up and always wore the borla (head jewel)?
Yes, completely true. I never rushed myself while getting ready. I enjoyed wearing finery and was much appreciated for it.


Compared to the norms today, were your elders very strict?
They were strict but very loving. My father-in-law was quite short-tempered with his son but never with me. If I ever made papads in large quantities, he would immediately ask my mother-in-law to give me a gift. I enjoyed speaking with visitors and they always encouraged me, thus making me more and more hospitable.


Are things very different now from earlier times?
Yes, poles apart. Things have changed a lot from earlier times, but mark my words; they are going to change at a greater pace. The greatest change is in communication. We used to live in the purdah system and adhered to the dictates of the family. Unlike the present times, we could not argue or even question any decision. But now, the youngsters talk to us, insist on their view-point and do things their way.


Don’t you consider that an ideal thing? Is it not important to have one’s own will?
When you find happiness with others, this question becomes meaningless. You just learn to live in harmony and peace.


What was the attitude towards money then and now?
Nowadays, saving is secondary and spending is primary. But earlier, savings would be planned meticulously. Purchase of provisions, vegetables and fruits was planned in detail so as to avoid any wastage. That is how our elders managed to build such a large and sturdy house. We are enjoying the fruits of their hard work now. We easily hosted our family marriages here.


What is the secret for peaceful living as one grows older?
Never ever say No. Do not interfere in your children’s lives. Accept them and the choices they are making. Enjoy your own religious practices. That really keeps me happy.


What did you teach your daughters when they got married?
I always believed that if we worked with our hands, it would build our stamina. I always told them to cultivate tolerance. I believe that we managed our lives so easily only because we were taught to be tolerant. And finally, I taught them to enjoy cooking because it is an easy way to win hearts.


Intangible Bond Across Generations - Mangi Kawar Bai Marlecha

What is the secret of tasty cooking?
Patience. It makes all the difference. I feel that even though my daughters and bahus cook really well, they do not roast the flour for laddus and halwas as patiently as I did. Though I know the difference, I do not point it out to them. The taste can say a lot about the patience and perfection with which one has prepared the dish.


What is the highlight among your cooking episodes?
My daughter’s father-in-law came home once along with some guests. Those days we did not get readymade sweets. So I quickly made halwa using semolina and wheat flour. The guests thought it was almond halwa since its texture was so perfect.


What are your best recipes which are popular among your family members?
(The family chimes in to reply to this question): Among sweets, it is falodi, besan ki chakki, kasaar and lapsi. Among savouries, the besan sev of my house is much liked and we make it for every special occasion. Apart from these, I used to make large quantities of papad, khhichiya and rabodi.


No wonder then that everyone speaks of you as a store-house of our traditional Rajasthani recipes. Tell me, which recipe would you like to share as a legacy?
If you ask me for just one recipe, then it is kasaar. It is easy to make and can be mastered if you have the patience. Do not allow the flour to turn deep brown, it must be perfect golden.


First published in Sep 2012 in Harmony – Celebrate Age Magazine for the column – The Great Granny Diaries. Part-2 of this post is Kasaar, the authentic Rajasthani Mithai from the kitchen of Mangikawar Marlecha. She is the first grandma featured in this column.


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