A mother sings a lullaby to a child / Sometime in the future the boy goes wild… No, it wasn’t a welcome being strummed for me, but Porcupine Tree’s Blackest Eyes playing on an iPod perched high in the guest washroom. This is the home of Subir (38) and Nitin Malik (36), band members of Parikrama, India’s original rock-group. You had to have a unique experience here, I tell myself. This is the home of rock stars, after all.
Grandparent Maliks are from Peshawar, Pakistan. “They took the last train out to India after the Partition,” Subir says. “I particularly remember grandma’s special parantha — it was like a thick papad with jeera inside,” recalls Subir. She had learnt it in Pakistan and the dough was kneaded with desi ghee, no water! He never found it on any Indian restaurant menu and they didn’t have a name for it, so his school friends nicknamed it cat-cheez! “Those were the break-dance days and the word ‘cat’ was being used as a superlative…” he clarifies. Grandma Malik was also known for her Punjabi pickles — with ambis ordered from Azadpur in northwest Delhi — made painstakingly over days. But now she likes the ready-made stuff.
Their mother, however, experimented with more ‘modern’ dishes — apple pies, cakes, puddings, vegetable burgers. Mother’s banjaare baingan, a Hyderabadi recipe, is Subir’s favourite. But it’s her shahi paneer that the family swears by. “It’s the proverbial mother’s touch that made it special for us,” says Anu, Subir’s wife. But these days, it’s their versatile cook — they are perennially scared that someone will steal him — who lords over the kitchen; the ladies of the house rarely put a foot in. “Fried rice and chilli chicken appeared on the dinner table with him,” says Subir.
It’s 9.30 p.m. and dinner is about to be served. What’s on the table? There are pretty-looking dahi bhallas, made-at-home makhni dal (“It’s better than Moti Mahal’s!” avers Anu) and a macaroni dish (“made the Chinese-Indian style,” says Subir smilingly.) And his favourite — ‘heavy metal’ — batter-fried bhindi sprinkled liberally with chaat masala. “All our best dishes at home are simply called Heavy Metal!” reports Anu. Every meal has at least one favourite dish of everyone in the family. While Anu — more health-conscious of them all — over the years cut down on the oil and spice, her father-in-law is allowed his extra spicy tadka to his dal.
“Our exercise begins and ends with our owning a treadmill!” says Nitin. The brothers lead hectic lives, touring with the band for a good part of the year. Anu and the kids often accompany them and she is careful about the kids’ meals. “I carry a portable pressure cooker that can make dal-chawal and boil potatoes,” she says. “I’m more conscious of what I eat after the birth of my second daughter.”
Sunday lunches are reserved for home-cooked south Indian meals — a long-standing tradition. Still, dinner-time is a time of fun for this family of seven — parents, Subir, wife Anu and their two daughters, Ria and Ira, and Nitin — who love their typical Punjabi fare.
Well, that was a rather satisfying meal, I tell myself, patting my tummy. I wouldn’t mind doing this every week.