12 January 2010
The summers of 90s
I wrote yesterday
Smell of hot coffee in the kitchen,dad pouring himself into the newspaper,mom's never ending attempts to wake me up,gush of palaaru water from the tap,the cries of the vegetable seller, the bright silver lamp in the pujai room and the sleepy me hoping for 5 more minutes in the bed..my childhood memories can never be cured ..
Those days seem like a dream that I lived.I feel it wasnt me who was in the past. I was watching Malgudi Days-Swami & Friends in youtube.Such bliss it is to watch those kids playing and yapping around in lovely town of Malgudi.I wish I could fly away to Malgudi & sit on the banks of the Sarayu river and enjoy the beauty of my motherland.Malgudi Days was telecasted as a serial in 1980s I have heard.That was 6 straight years before I was born :-). Wish I had watched it then.
I can still visualise the summers of the 90s. The day after my exams got over I was sent to my grandparents place.Most of the summers holidays were with cousins - sometimes paternal,at times maternal :-)
The day used to start at 7 AM. Grandpa would drag us out of the bed. Vishnu Sahasranamam would be played and he would ask us to look at Lord Venkatesh before seeing anything else. I remember using the Pal podi (tooth powder) most of the times that granny herself made. I liked the taste & would swallow it at times.
We would then be given hot coffee,the coffee session would end in smuggling the coffee tumblers into the kitchen sink without grandma noticing it.It is unorthodox to keep used tumblers in the sink for long and that too in the kitchen...God! highly unethical granny would say ;)Then helping grandpa pluck flowers for daily pooja,my cousins Meera,Balaji & Aditya used to join me in accomplishing this feat. The task was to climb the parapet wall and pluck the 'unreachable' hibiscus & nithyammalli flowers. (Nithyammalli - jasmine that blooms daily.Punier cousin of the usual Gundu Malli :)).All this is usually followed by a second round of coffee with some murukku,thattai or mixture savouries from the netted almirah in the kitchen.
The peculiar me would eat raw Maggi noodles,unfried papads and raw rice.Till this day I do that.
Grandma would be intimidated a lot now - we,the dirty fellas who haven't had a bath would threaten to touch her.She had her daily poojas to do and if we touched her, she would again have to bath.
Then a walk to nearby Ardhanareeshwarar (Shiva & Parvathi in one form) temple,then to the 32 feet Aanjaneyar temple,wait in the big queue for the hot,yummy sambhar sadham (now that finishes the breakfast part of the day's meal). I simply cannot forget the Melagu Vadai (vada made of flour and pepper) prasadam in Aanjaneyar temple.
This much wandering would churn the stomach for more food. The march would begin to No.3, 41st street,Nanganallur - my grandparents' house.
I would always pick up the steel plate with a small dent and scratch in the middle. That was my father's plate. The smallest one was Latha athais (Bua aka Dad's younger sister).The round one was Chitappa's (Chacha aka Dad's younger brother).The 4th plate was Lakshmi athais. We picked up the plates in accordance with this :-)
Now comes The moment of absolute bliss! Granny is the reigning queen when it comes to cooking south indian food.Daily lunch menu is usually steamed rice,some vegetable curry,sambhar or kozhambu occassionally accompanied by kootu or payasam (kheer) depending on the auspiciousness of the day and rasam. Aditya adored ghee.When we would get 2 spoons of it, he would manage to get half a cup by pleading granny ;-).
Now the most yuckiest chore of the day - we the girls must wash all the plates! There always used to be heated argument over this,but you know who would win.It is custom again to wash the plates of the 'men' of the house.No matter, the men can be 7 years old..huh!
After getting fully stuffed, it would be time for the afternoon games.Could be anything - hide n seek,hand cricket (using our hand for a bat, we did have one old,torn,ragged looking tennis ball) or sometimes wrestling.
Balaji would pretend to be the Undertaker or Hulk Hogan, because he was the eldest and supposedly the strongest of all.So it was our mission to fight and win over him.
For a very long time, some building construction was going on near our grandparents' home. The big hill of sand on the road used to be inviting.The boys who considered this 'sand game' unworthy of any consideration would choose to watch cricket.Afternoon crickets proved to be a headache for thatha (grandpa) and paati (grandma).It clashed with their afternoon power-naps.
Early evenings around 3.30 PM - coffee again,but this time not very strong because paati would use the second decoction i.e. she would dilute the left over decoction made in the morning.Needless to say, the coffee was amritam for us.
Mangoes are the hottest selling things in the summers.Paati would choose the ripest and sweetest mango from her almirah fruit basket.She always knew how to pick the sweetest.I would get the first piece-the yummiest part of a mango according to me. It is called kathuppu-the fleshy hemispherical part of it. The other three would fight for the seed! I wonder why!! Just because it is big in size, may be. But it would be alot more sourer than the flesh. I never cared to ask them - I had received my prize and it wouldnt be wise to risk it by discussing more on it!
Game time again. This time boys and girls would go seperate ways. Meera & I would play with choppu saman - hmm this is playing 'Kitchen-Kitchen' or 'House-House'. We would have small pots & pans,I would be the guest and she the host. I would go to her house, she would welcome me,would make coffee & tiffin..and what not.
This reminds me of one incident.Thatha was prescribed a ton of medicines after he had a second attack.The medicines were all colourful-red,blue,green.yellow,orange. While thatha & paati were busy attending to some guests that evening, we (me & my accomplices-Meera & Aditya) stealthily carried the medicine box to the terrace. We mixed water with the medicines to make sambar,rasam etc out of it. When thatha had to take his daily dosage-he found the box missing. He almost had another attack when he found what had happened to his 5000 Rs worth medicines!
Getting back to the actual narration-Dinner time was nearing and it was a herculean task for paati to locate us. Each one in a different corner of the street. We would either be loitering around on the streets or riding the hired bicycle or would have resumed wrestling.
Dinner was dosai or upma with a serving of rice. Thatha would advise us to keep quiet during the news hour on T.V. But paati would make it a point yo test his patience by standing right in the front of the T.V. and not realising it at all.
We werent allowed to do late night TV watching.That meant going to bed at 9 PM. Both Meera & I would hug paati so tight that she would suffocate & scream. She would tell us the same story every night and everytime we would listen to it as if it was the 1st time anyone was mentioning of it. Our favourite bed time stories were about Adhi Sankara and how the house fly got its name ;-)
A beautiful day was coming to a beautiful end.It was time to travel to dream land only to wake up to an another sweet day in the summer of 90s.