Then the winds blow.
Then the lightning falls.
Then the flora sprouts and grows.
Then the space overflows ...
- Rigveda 8.53
They come in from the Southwest and leave the same way, on their way back from the Northeast.
On both journeys, the swashbuckling trade winds sow a trail of monsoon showers in their wake.
It’s the first leg that’s extra special. The first flush of the first monsoon that’s upon us as I write. Breathe in the petrichor, splash around and play truant for a few days, but stay wayward any longer and the sniffles or something worse are bound to catch up. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be happy enough enjoying the rain from behind the double panes. Try watching the landscape take a liquid lashing, while snuggled between cushions, with a bowl of soup and snacks. A perfect time to ruminate on prakruti and vikruti – our constitution and potential imbalances to stand guard against. If that’s too much trouble, perhaps ponder on ritucharya (Ayurveda’s recommendations for the season).
So what does the monsoon call for? All those foods your folks ever told you were nutritious and great for immunity. Why? In this season, it’s said that all three basic body types, and combinations thereof, are thrown merrily off keel. Bring out the amlas, lemons, oranges and the honey tea. Factor in spoonfuls of life-enhancing ghee. Just this once, leafy greens can be given a wide berth, unless you’re absolutely sure they’re going to be cleaned up meticulously. Don’t forget other healthy routines like going in for water that's been boiled and getting an oil bath.
With truckloads of dietary precautions, one could wonder if there was anything at all one could indulge in. Enter the clever cook, who can square health with satisfaction. Regular readers of this blog, will know that royal kitchens across India attracted the best cooking talents who worked in tandem with hakims to ensure the right food for the right season and condition. The royal kitchens served as labs of invention and the cooks were stewards of ancient wisdom; we can thank them for handing to us priceless recipes that would otherwise be lost in the miasma of sundry distractions.
Kunwar Rani Kulsum Begum, born into Hyderabad’s illustrious Salar Jung family and married into Awadhi royalty, is the keeper of culinary secrets that only a few are privy to. Famously, her own family recipes were withheld from her until after her betrothal, and a few plaintive telephone calls. Even then, she had to fill in the blanks where ingredients were left out with or without intent. But all’s well that end’s well – today Kunwar Rani Kulsum Begum oversees exquisite food festivals at ITC Hotels.
Keeping with the season, she’s curating a Salarjung Monsoon Cuisine Feast that shows exactly how to feast with élan in the thick of the monsoon. Head over to K&K at Mumbai’s ITC Grand Central – the monsoon may stretch further, but the feast is only on till the end of the month.