They say death is a great teacher. Maybe it is true. But what I do know is that, death changes you completely – inside out, upside down. Even when you know that it is the most inevitable thing.

I lost my (paternal) grandmother last week. It didn’t come as a shock. We were prepared. We knew she was going downhill. When she passed on we grieved but, we were also grateful she didn’t have to suffer even more than she already had. Yet, despite all this, when the void hits you like a punch in the face, you realize that you can never be prepared for losing a loved one. You want them at the oddest times, you remember them suddenly, sometimes more often than not and then that void hits you, again.

My grandmother didn’t fit into the stereotype of a grandma. Perhaps that is why her grandchildren are the way they are.  She was a lady who believed in principles and standing by them. Even though she wasn’t a graduate, she wanted her grandchildren to study further. “How will you be financially independent when you grow up,” she would ask me when I told her I’d enough of the books. It wasn’t about bagging the first rank, she was thinking more long-term. I didn’t understand why then but today I know exactly what she meant.

My grandmother was careful, not frugal, generous but not lavish. She had lived through times when money was tight and had also seen the good days. Not one to shower praises, I remember when I bought my first car, she asked me how much it was. When I told her the amount, her eyes widened in surprise, “Did you really have to spend so much,” she asked, her cautious nature coming to the fore again. For a moment I was taken aback, ‘I’m an adult. I know what I’m doing,’ I thought. A couple of minutes later, I overheard her talking to a friend on the phone, “You know, my granddaughter has bought a new car. That too all on her own.” That note of pride was unmistakable. And my grin stretched from ear to ear, literally.

These are memories I’ll hold close to my heart. I’ll look into this box of treasure when I’m down, when I’m happy and when I need some reassurance that I have another angel looking over me.

Memories of her are of the aroma of homemade hair oil, yes, she made that at home too! Memories are  made of the delicious doodh khadi (milk barfi), the warmth of her touch when I was sick, the twist she gave a simple curd rice, the lime-ginger juice that cooled us from the summer heat, her constant humming, her meticulous nature, her penchant for noticing beyond the obvious. There are loads of these that will keep me going for a lifetime. Yet, it is ironic that in the end, it is memory that failed her.

Did I also tell you my grandmother could make bread at home? Not the regular loaves or rolls, she would make the stuffed variety in a mind-boggling array of shapes. The tenacious lady that she was, even yeast didn’t frighten her! That the jams she made were far, far better than the bottled stuff we get today? That she was the one who started the concept of  ‘soup and bread’ dinners at home? That she made tomato sauce, pickle and even ice cream at home? There is a lot to be told and I soon will.

I wanted to write this post earlier but I kept writing and deleting. Yes, I’ll admit, the keyboard even got damp a couple of times. It was never enough. So I decided today that I would just let the words flow. Something like how I thought of making this Pumpkin Orange Bread.

This bread is similar to my grandmother – earthy, bold yet understated, refreshing, honest and wholesome. And I know, if I’d given her a slice of this, she’d have eaten it in a minute and then quietly told me to save her some for tomorrow!

Pumpkin Orange Bread

1 cup of whole wheat flour
1/4 cup of bajra (barley) flour
1/4 cup of rajgira (amaranth) flour
1/4 cup of jowar (pearl millet) flour
1/4 cup of ragi (red millet) flour
1 1/2 tsp of baking soda
1/2 tsp of baking powder
A pinch of salt

Mix these ingredients together. Keep aside.

In another bowl, mix the following
3/4 cup of pumpkin puree (I peeled, cut and steamed pumpkin cubes with a little water for this and then ground to a paste)
1 tsp of orange rind
1/4 tsp of cinnamon powder
2 tbsp of olive oil
1 tbsp of flax seeds, lightly roasted, powdered and mixed with 1/4 cup of water
1/2 cup of demerara sugar

Take the bowl with the flour mixture and create a well in the centre. Now add this mixture to the dry ingredients and fold everything together. In case the mixture is too dry then add some cold water or milk to get the right texture.

Pour the batter into a greased, lined loaf tin and sprinkle a mixture of flax, pumpkin and watermelon seeds on this. I also added some rajgira (amaranth) grains for texture but you can skip if you want to. Bake this for about 30-40 minutes at 180 degrees celsius. Remove from the oven when a skewer inserted in the middle of the loaf comes out clean.

When the loaf cools down, cut into slices and serve. This bread stays well in the fridge for about 4-5 days too and can be frozen for up to a week.

*If you want a non-vegan but eggless/vegetarian version then replace the flax meal with buttermilk or 1/4 cup of curds/yogurt

*You can use 2 cups of wheat flour instead of a five-grain flour too

*Add 1/4 cup of orange juice for extra flavour

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