Thursday 26 June 2014

Book Review- The Slim Punjabi- Harmeet Kaur

Title- The Slim Punjabi
Author- Harmeet Kaur
ISBN- 978-93-81506-21-1
Genre- Food and culture
Publisher- Amaryllis
Price- Rs 350
Pages- 283

This review is a part of the book review program by The Readers' Cosmos

If Madhya Pradesh is Hindustan ka dil (heart), Punjab is its dhadkan (heartbeat). The land of the five rivers finds mention in almost all of the films, documentaries, books made on India. It is stereotyped, celebrated, discussed but never neglected and there's a reason for that. Not every Indian understands what Punjab really stands for and this book in my hand, is an honest attempt toward that.

About the cover
The front cover is brightly coloured and no words in English language can describe the mood or vivaciousness of the cover art; mostly because it is purely Indian, purely Punjabi. Painting of a bride with elaborate floral artwork around it on a pink background announce the essentially Punjabi flamboyance. Back cover again displays the 'truck' art with large Horn Please signs in bright yellow background. The introduction quickly establishes the importance of food in the Punjabi way of life. Kudos to Seema Sethi for the beautiful work with the cover.

About the author

Harmeet Kaur is a marketing professional based out of Bangalore. Born and brought up in Delhi, she is a DU product and has done graduation with honours in Physics and then MBA. Her interests include arts, culture, painting, cooking, music, reading and of course, writing. Her picture on the backside of the front cover tells us that she is extremely pretty too. Punjab is beautiful, case closed!

About the book
The book is an honest attempt towards introducing Punjab to the curious mind. Amaryllis has done a great job with the design. The pages are crisp and the colour scheme reminds me of my NCERT textbooks, ah! nostalgia galore! The book is strewn with Punjabi cuisine, folklore, poetry and philosophy and the artwork before every chapter sets the mood with its Rangoli-esque styling.

The book begins with Bulle Shah's poetry and the stage is set for all the spices, colors, music to come together and dance as this Patiala-peg sized celebration of a book begins. The introduction begins with a personal-journal like monologue by the author taking us through the DU campus and I think DU student or not, your mouth is bound to start watering and the heart to start aching as you turn these pages drenched with dollops of desi ghee. The Slim Punjabi piece draws attention to a few true and not so true Punjabi stereotypes. They're all funny nonetheless.

The book is divided in five parts- Jhelum, Chenab, Beas, Sutlej and Ravi. What follows next is a treat. The author has touched briskly on topics like folk music and dance, love stories, festivals, fashion and dressing and Sikh traditions. And of course recipes of everything from Rajma Chawal to Butter Chicken to Kadhi are given. The personal touch to the recipes make them what they're always intended to be- More than food. They're a way of life. How can you think of Gajar Halwa without going back to your childhood? How can you think of Pakore without thinking of monsoon and the festivities it brings? How can you think of Sarson da saag te Makki di roti and not find yourself lying on a charpoy near a tubewell in a village in Punjab? So, yes, go ahead, pick this deliciously Punjabi book and indulge yourself.

My favourite part in the book (Chenab) is the love stories and the author has even shared with us the myths around the stories and their popular versions. It gives us an insight and also warms our heart looking at those souls who became immortal and guiding lights for all those in love.

So, by all means, pick it up if you're a proud Indian and take pride in this cultural joyride. Also, do not forget to try all those recipes! For the love of food!

My rating- ****1/2 (Four and half stars out of five)

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