So, what’s this year going to be like?

Today’s Ugadi, see? So the question. In spite of living alone (or maybe because of it?) I tend to do all the traditionally right things to do on festival days. Wake up early, have a “head bath”, make pachchadi and prasadam, the works.

So, Ugadi pachchadi. For those of you who don’t know, it’s made of tamarind, jaggery, putnala pappu, raw mangoes, neem flowers and little pieces of chillies. There’s no fixed proportion of these things, so it’s always worth betting on how it turns out. You see, the six things are supposed to represent the six flavours of life, and like life, the pachchadi is always unpredictable.

The tamarind is sour, of course, for those things I really wanted but couldn’t have – from movies I wish I’d seen to weddings I wish I could’ve attended. The jaggery is sweet, for things like family and friends and discovering conversation where I didn’t look for it. The putnala pappu is bland – comforting like contentment, I like to think. Like humming a song, like riding the Little Yellow Van to work. The raw mangoes must be really raw – not fully formed, because they must be vagaru; the sour-bitter that leaves a sweet aftertaste, like a quarrel that’s made up with flowers, with kisses. The neem flowers are bitter through and through, tiny things that float all over the pachchadi and that you can’t avoid. A breakup, a rejection, a disappointment. Not easy to forget, but the taste does fade in time. And finally, the little chillies. Spicing up the pachchadi, burning up your tongue if you happen to bite on one – they’re romance and lust, they’re the secret crush.

Last year had all of these, and my pachchadi this year has turned out rather well: a sweet-sour tang that hits first, followed by a bitterness softened by biting into bland putnalu, and by the time you realise you’ve bitten into a chilli piece, the sweet aftertaste of the mango is already settling in. Looks like an interesting year ahead!


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