Where am I from? Searching, my DNA says I am Kitchari

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I realize I am kitchari…what is kitchari? An Indian rice dish that is a blend of flavours. So how does kitchari represent me? It was only by searching for my identity did I stumble upon this. In the past, it was not uncommon for people to ask me, “what part of India are you from”, and I would struggle to answer it. Physically, I might look like I am from the region but I was born in England, raised in Canada, my parents are from Fiji and my grandfathers both came from the Punjab in India. Oh, and for 11 years I played in an Irish military pipe band. So what does that make me? Likely confused. Some say that I am not Indian and others say I am not Canadian. Other have asked me why an Indian like me was wearing a kilt? As I was writing my book ‘Lost and Found: Seeking the Past and Finding Myself’, the journey to find my ancestral roots on my paternal grandfather’s side became a dual search. Not only was I searching to find our family’s past generations, but it turned out that I was also searching for my own identity and who I am. Am I Indian, Canadian or something else?

As I started to write my book and looked deeper into my own identity, I found that one of the most significant realizations for me was that we are all a blend rather than segmentation. I found that I ‘created’ my background as either British, Canadian, Fijian and Indian. I decided it was time to also do a DNA test for my book. Really find out what was my background. Not religious background but where my ancestry comes from. The results were pretty amazing. 54% of my DNA was as expected. It came from norther India, Nepal through to central India. 41% of my DNA is found in Pakistan and Afghanistan and 5% is from more the lower part of India and Sri Lanka. So while it comes from the Indus valley, there are streams of my DNA along the Silk Road. I never saw myself as confined to any religious ideology, but rather a human who has had travellers in my ancestry and they all had different backgrounds that make up who I am today. Reality, which may be difficult for some to accept, is that we all have had travellers in our past and they have carried different parts of the world with them. I think if we can accept this fact, and it is difficult for many to do that, then we would maybe reduce the racist rants or conflicts or wars. We are human first!

People identify themselves with a region, religion, culture etc. They build up who they are based on false constructs and at times, might challenge others that are not like us. We are threatened by others who might not be like us. We forget that regions, religion or cultures are just imaginary boundaries that we have created and built. Instead of walls, lets talk. Let us learn from each other and appreciate what each person brings. I have had people tell me that they never trust someone from a faith that is not like theirs or they will never travel to a particular country because of their values and beliefs. Unfortunately, all you are doing is denying yourself an amazing cultural and human experience due to your own limitations and beliefs. Stop looking at the world through your own eyes and try and look at the world through a more open lens. My life was an Indian dish called a thali which is a dish where you put things into segmented bowls so the food does not mix. By going to India and doing my DNA test, I realized that instead of a thali, my life is actually a lovely rice dish called kitchari which is a blend of flavours. So grab some kitchari, sit with others and learn about them. You will not regret it. Now when someone asks me where I am from, I reply with, I am kitchari.

If you need to know how to make kitchari, here is a recipe my wife made just for you!
Kitchari – here is an easy and simple Indian rice dish and can be enjoyed with raita (yogurt). It is the signature dish that represent my blended background. Enjoy!

1 Cup rice (brown* or white)
½ Cup Masoor Dal (orange Lentils)
3 Tbsp Butter or Ghee
¼ Tsp Cumin Seeds
¼ Tsp Mustard Seeds
4 Curry Leaves
½ Yellow Onion Chopped
2 Garlic Cloves Minced
1 Green Chilli
1 Tsp Tumeric
1 Carrot Grated
1 Cup Chopped Spinach
3 Cups of Water – *If using brown rice, add an extra cup of water.
Salt to taste
Cilantro to garnish

Preparing the rice and masoor dal – Rinse rice and masoor dal in several changes of cold water until water is clear and drain the rice and masoor dal. Once it has been rinsed and cleaned, soak and leave the rice and masoor dal in a big container of water while you are preparing the other ingredients.

Preparing the ingredients – Heat 3 tablespoons of butter or ghee in a large sauce pan on medium heat, add cumin and mustard seeds, once they start to pop, add the curry leaves and the onions. Cook till the onions turn golden brown and then add the minced garlic, chili and turmeric. Cook the onion mixture for a minute and add grated carrot and spinach. Cook for a few minutes until everything is mixed.

Drain the rice and masoor dal and add it to the sauce pan, add salt and stir well so that all the ingredients are mixed well together. Add water, cover the pot and cook till the rice is done (rice is done when you can squeeze a grain between your fingers and it is soft). Garnish with Cilantro. Enjoy with Raita (Yogurt)

Raita (Yogurt) Recipe
1 Cup All Natural Yogurt
2 Tablespoons Sour Cream
1 Tbsp Cumin (Toasted)
2 Tablespoons Chopped Cilantro Leaves
¼ Cup grated Cucumber
¼ Cup Grated Carrots
Salt to taste
Chopped Green chilli to taste

Mix Yogurt and Sour Cream together.

(Toasting cumin seeds) Heat a small frying pan on medium heat, once the pan is hot, add cumin seeds all at once, no oil. Keep shaking the pan till the seeds darken slightly and there is a lovely earthy aroma. Transfer the seeds to a mortar and pestle and crush the seeds. You can grind the cooled seeds in a coffee grinder as well. Add the cucumber, carrots, cilantro leaves, chili and ground up cumin. Add salt to taste. Enjoy!!

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