That I exposed my soul
You cling to that and
Insist moment is lifetime
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
In these conversations about affectionate grandmom's that shove grandchildren's favourite foods down their throat, often choking with affection, Iam lost. Speak of having a list of favourite food of kids, Iam sure Kanakka Patti knew none. None! Not even her favourite grandchild's (did she have any!!!).
Now, I don't blame her for the nonchalance. When we landed up like a battalion after two days of travel in dirty train, Kanaka's first priority was scooping simple meals into the dozing mouths. This battalion landed up every summer at odd hours. Our native town had trains landing only after one in the night. So, when we came home, Kanaka had to get up from mid sleep and first usher us to bathroom. When we were cleaned (just enough to get off the stink), smell of rasam would waft from kitchen. It was always tomato rasam with tomatoes plucked from her kitchen garden. This was accompanied with a roasted appalam and no veggies. But at those odd hours, after two days of pre cooked chappatis, curd or mixed rice this was heaven. I would be relieved more, when the ubiquitous Kool Keg (those were days before Bisleri invaded the market) was cleaned and thrown for time being in the loft. Our presence and stay was now registered for the next one month.
I don't know what I enjoyed about these escapades to native town. I remember my mother and aunts would be hassled for a week atleast deciding on the menu for train travel. List of children, adults, the appetite of each child, number of chappattis and amount of mixed rice, there seemed to be a lot of calculation for just two days. These were days when either railways didn't have the luxury of meals or the adults were simply not inclined to eat meals from those big rectangle plates, which might have sat in platform for hours. But I soaked in these tensions of food and the huge VIP suitcase retrieved from loft. Amma would have all our clothes stuffed for next one month and when the suitcase cried for space, one of the kids would sit on the suitcase to compress it more. When both ends of the otherwise adamant suitcase met under our pressure, Amma would click the sides and front. Now, the bag wont open! After sealing the suitcase, we weren't allowed to thrust any dress in that. Once sealed, the suitcase was forever closed to amendments till we landed in our native town.
I don't want to get into the reactions of co passengers when this riot of cousins stampeded the train. Usually elders bore the brunt of irate passengers. After few hours of howling, even elders gave up. The afternoon sun in the train drowsed everyone and none had energy to discipline us. By evening when sun soaked like golden blob in the skies, the various colours settled down in the train and grills like a cosmic blessing. Or that's how I thought of it.
Now, that I have digressed enough, lets get back to Kanaka P. Kanaka P never had any written checklist of things to do, but during these vacations when so many people had to be fed, she would have hierarchy of hunger appeasement. Thatha stood on top of the hierarchy, with generous servings of ghee, rice, sambar. Her son in laws came next and that also was generous. Next came, the next generation. Pestering ones, who were never happy and yet always starved. Her beautifully cooked meals, went down in hunger without a sense of taste. It was usually her son in laws who gave her the ego boost when they asked for extra helpings. When extra helpings went little more extra, the women folk had to compromise. Kanaka never made second servings. So what was left was theirs. Don't ask me the logic of this hierarchy, but this was the rule and none questioned.
These days, when I sit down in front of TV, gulping self cooked food with no thought, I think of the tomato rasam floating in a small plate with Kanaka P watching over to ensure we didn't waste the food. No, she never knew my favourite food.
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
S Thatha enjoyed a hearty meal, really enjoyed. After a good meal, you would usually hear him say bhesh bhesh, a complete affirmation of how much he enjoyed the meal. This almost absent minded bhesh bhesh, immediately bought smiles to the person cooking the meal.
As much as he enjoyed his food, he was also fastidious about certain ways of eating. Ways of eating. Did I just say that? Well, it was ways. I never saw him eating mor kozhumbu without a generous helping of coconut oil. Breaking that combination was blasphemy for him. If it was mendhiya kozhumbu, it had to be gingelly oil. Tch tch, he smirked when we substituted the lesser refined oils in cooking. Andha taste varuma!!! Taste dominated cooking and combinations were never to be broken.
So, when he passed through the phase when his heart stopped listening to his taste buds and demanded more refrain, he was most disappointed. Those were days of strained and thin vegetables soups, wheat (aghh, how can rice be substituted), fruits and refined oil dominating his plate. Initial days, he was a party to refrain, accepting what was offered graciously. But then he couldn't survive this abstinence for a long time. After few check ups when the doctor said everything seemed normal, his mind went back to the old ways of eating. One of those days, when we were lazing around, he whisked us to Adyar grand sweets. He said he wanted to buy something for his friend. But we realized that friend was non existent and with his kids not around and grandkids coerced to silence with huge samosas of the eatery, it was his field day. With the looming medical reports thrown to loft and the afternoon soon sinking into evening, we sat in the kitchen, with packets of murukku and other oily assortments. He asked one of us to get a glass (tumbler in his language) of water. Soon, we saw him dipping pieces of muruku in water and saw the oil float away from them. There, he said, now I can eat the murukku. It does not have any oil. See the oil just floated away. After a long time, we saw him smiling and grinning at his new discovery. But this escapade was not to last long. One of teeny weeny, so elated with the grand discovery, leaked the secret outings to his freaked out kids. A mutual agreement of not to oily food and small drops of ghee in piping hot rice was agreed.
But his kids could not stop him from his social outings. Marriage invitations would usually come from his old friends and no one could question his reunion pleasures. I was once taken along for his friend's son's wedding. The marriage hall was huge and the dinning room even bigger. After the customary greetings, he whisked me immediately to the dinning room. Did I see him smelling and taking in the aromas. Well, it might just be my imagination. He sat there, luxuriously surrounded by the aromas, sounds of something he enjoyed the most, eating. He was giving me tips on eating, the combinations.Words such as calories never existed then, and I found myself eating mouthfuls of right combination of food. When we were satiated, he went to give moy (present give in the form of money) in the same invitation cover. I felt it was slightly more valuable than the previous wedding we went together. On the way back home, in between his bhesh bhesh and auto jerks, he said moy we should give after eating. Depending on how much we enjoy and how much we eat. And here I thought moy was giving as a display of affection for the bride and groom. But, thatha had his own ways for enjoying and acknowledging his bhesh bhesh meals. Amen to that...
Sunday, August 25, 2013
She was ecstatic, she overheard D telling Amma about Diwali shopping. If D was in a good mood and amma was tired they would even go to tiffen house for nice dosa. But why have pipedreams now itself. This morning amma did not face any resistance from her for going to school. She was ready and standing near the gate even before her friends started howling her name from the street. D said he would come back early and the tuitions classes would be cancelled. She was in her own world in the school, telling her friends about the evening outing. In the evening D came, and as usual freshened himself and amma was ready in a blue saree. In the dark room when amma was getting dressed she noticed the gleaming diamond ear and nose rings of amma. Her amma looked pretty when she was happy and the earrings glistened even more. She was asked to change to a green dress her father bought few months back. She never liked the colour, but amma had taken extra pains to make patterns and designs. The dull dress seemed more appealing today.
D, amma and she waited in the bus stand and amma kept mumbling that the bus should come empty. And lo, far away, she could spot a bus, with people seated and clean glass reflecting the vaccum inside. She sat next to the window and amma held her as though, the winds would pull her away from the window. The buildings far away from her house seemed tall and she wondered how the city would look from the top floor. D nudged her amma when the destination came and soon, she was lost in the busy street. It seemed flooded with people, pushing, rushing, walking in and out of stores. Amma's grip was even stronger and she could feel her wrists getting warmer. They walked into a small store, with sheets and sheets of different patterns and colours of cloth material. D went to the other side and started browsing his dull blues, whites and checks. She felt sad for D. Come Diwali or any other occasion, he always wore some dull combination of blues, dark blues, browns and dark browns. But even for selecting these dull dresses, he spent so much time, tossing the material and feeling the cloth.
Amma by now had cloth material all around her and she would keep a piece of the cloth on her and look at the mirror. Finally she selected three cloth materials, each floral pattern with different colours. She wanted her amma to select blue, but D's choice prevailed. But just to make her choice clear to amma, she took the blue cloth and kept looking at her mirror. She could see her amma smile. Amma wrapped her in her arms and whispered, eppovum blue than. Enn chamuthu poonu.
D walked into their section, this time with checked white and black cloth material. When he whispered green to amma, she smiled and said blue again. D, walked to the counter, looking the blue and again cross checked the bill with his purse. She wondered how D checked and cross checked the bill so many times. They had to now go for saree purchase and there she knew D would be fully immersed in arguments with amma about the colour and price. By the time they finished purchases and were walking into the busy street, amma mumbled about tiffen. D was reluctant, but when they agreed that between tiffen and auto, tiffen was a better option, she already felt the ghee dosa melt in her mouth