The tea shop with no neon lights

A man walks into the only tea shop that doesn’t sport animated neon signs in this part of town. He hands over a thermos flask to the owner at the counter stirring the large vessel of boiling milk. He doesn’t utter a word but walks straight in and alights on the cranky red stool against the tea-stained wall.
It’s a line of adjacent shops on this side of the main road – on the other side you have the hospital buildings – the scanning center, casualty, the subsidized medicine store BPL cardholders queue up at.

On this side, the neon lightboards are turned on at least an hour before darkness sets in with dusk –  English Medicines in red cursive letters, Hot tea & Biryani in a thick blue font, Vegetarian Restaurant in another. Many announce Tourist Homes – funny they’d call the residents tourists considering none would voluntarily be here.

The signs vie for your attention like a new breed of daily Instagram feed. They would probably have been irrelevant in another part of town but here, in the din surrounding the government hospital, with a hundred people scampering around any time of day and night, it sells.
Attempting to charm when every shop offers the exact same set of items – buckets and mugs, coarse threaded towels and thorth, jugs and steel plates, essential crockery – spoons, knives for families that came away from home in emergency, magazines to lighten your mood, and of course neon lights because every shop has it on this side.

Except this one.
Amidst the cacophony outside, this tea shop slows time down. Maybe because it lacks the urgency of those flashing lights.
The owner takes the flask and fills it with tea, looking for signs of objection from his customer before proceeding – he sees and nods in approval. The man knows his customers well. The ones that want to engage in a bit of chitchat, complain about hospital facilities (or lack thereof), others that want to know if there’s black tea available, some offhandedly commenting on the propensity to rain.

But some just sit on one of his cranky plastic stools, quiet. They’re the ones he wishes God would bless. Though technically he doesn’t believe in God.

He lives with his wife in a one bedroomed apartment in a lane near Medical college junction, big enough for the two of them to keep their few possessions and their TV. Business is good, especially during monsoons when all the dengue kicks up.

Before this, he and his wife sold tea with vadas in a road near the temple at Guruvayur. Business was podipooram there. He woke up at 4 and was at his shop by 4.30 after an ice cold bath and a glass of black tea his wife prepared. Men and women from all walks with their little kids, occasionally older fathers and mothers with their newly wed children and in-laws would arrive in Venad Express in the wee hours, stop for a quick tea at his counter before checking into hotels nearby.
You could see the sleepy-eyed family, kids rubbing their eyes, some threatening to fall off their chairs (there were very few in his shop) before his tea jolted them back to wakefulness. They’d want to know when the queues at the temple were shorter and on what trains they could leave by evening. As day proceeded, his shop would get crowded with people thronging at its steps.

Back then his shop was neater. Life lent his sturdy Communist spine a 12degree bend but he never acceded to his wife’s suggestion of selling Guruvayur appan souvenirs like every other shop nearby – car fixities, chain lockets, rings, pictures for the pooja room, miniatures for the study table, some Guruvayur pappadams.

It was big business – all of it – he could be heard saying often. The sheer number of sweaty weddings with couples and their tiny cohort of relatives that stood in queues, devotees lining up from 5 am until 12, all that money clinking in purses and pockets to make way into the temple chests.
It also made his living.

His wife’s idea would definitely make some extra cash, but he was a non-conformist and didn’t conform. What’s a tea shop got to do with the deity that feeds on all this money? Sell some knickknacks eda, it’s not against our leaders’ ethics, his wife-appointed Communist maaman assured him. Neither is stashing money away in lockers and hitting their wives, he had retorted.
He was not one of them and he was proud of it.

So he had never sold any trinkets at Guruvayur, and when his wife’s arthritis drove them to Trivandrum, he had no neon light adorning the entrance to his shop.
It was practically useless, there were tall yellow lamps at the wide junction that lit up all 7 roads and the vehicles entering. And who keeps boards for Tea? People poured in anyway. This was a reference hospital and people came in without anyone’s invitation. Away from home, the poor needed hot tea for families, for patients in bed, for those in recovery and those awaiting surgery.

He could make small talk – it was part of his job, more so part of his curious mind, but it was the quiet customers he really liked having. Who trusted him to do his work and handed over their apprehensions along with their flasks, at least for the few moments it took him to fill them. It’s a solemn entrustment, for someone else to take charge.

He liked reading too much into things.

His shop was an entry ticket away from the commotion, from blinking neon lights and hurrying hordes. From the suffocation that built up when they had spent a few days at this place and longed to pack up their few belongings, the mat and the newly bought buckets and mugs but mostly the mended patient, and leave.

Of course he couldn’t help them with their son’s raging fever, the mother’s acute pneumonia or the longing for heading back home. But for a few moments, life was back to normal – the two glasses of tea everyday, the only permanent bits in an unpredictable life. It’s why they longed to move out of hospitals onto this side – they could talk about vadas and cricket here and nobody would judge.

Soon enough they’d leave with a word of thanks to the doctor, another word to the person in white and white that nursed them, injecting every dose of prescribed medicine into their vein asking with a smile if it hurt too much.
The guy on the other side in the tea shop who filled their flasks with hot chaya and gave a reassuring nod every morning and evening remains forgotten. The stranger who asked you about your mother’s illness and your hometown. You’ll remember the taste of his tea on the first evening back home and casually mention him as a token. And then you’re allowed to forget all about the shop with no neon lights.

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Monsoon Diaries : Poochakuttikalude veedu (Home to the Cats?)

My mother is vehemently promoting mud vessels in the kitchen, disapproving all things aluminum. I have reason to believe she would’ve done away with steel as well were it practical. Hence it is that I’m ladling simmering moru curry in a mud-vessel (one of three we have at home) with a steel spoon at 6:55am.

I’m not usually up at 6:55am. You would think I’m a spoilt brat but truth is, my brain is wired to be in dazed mode for the rest of the day when I wake up even 60 seconds before seven. I only survived JK’s 5am Physics tuition because I loved him. 

But I’m early today. Up because I was never down.  Last night was mostly fretting over our pregnant cat who disappeared day before yesterday and hasn’t returned. She had been lying on a cushioned settee since evening, decided to leave by 11 and hasn’t visited all of yesterday.

When I say ‘Our Cat’, if you’re Malayali you’d know she’s not really Our Cat. Poocha’s here are like the jackfruit/mango/coconut trees in our compounds (famously called “chakka-manga-thenga” trio. Some call it a distasteful usage – Where did you get that from they ask, unimpressed. Why, everywhere. And everyone. 😀 Now shut it.)

So yes, cats are like them – you have at least one by default if you live in a house, as opposed to living in a flat/apartment. You cannot keep your own cat or grow your own mango tree if you live in a flat.

We’ve always had cats because we’ve always lived in a house, and we’ve always been an especially cat/animal-friendly family. I’m not sure but I think central to Malayali cats hanging around kitchens is the fact that they expect all our fish. Cat-human relationships must be sad in non-fishy states?

They start by walking in and out the kitchen door to make sure the Mother spots them. The key is to remember – Humans love to say No the first time around – it’s their privilege. The rejection and almost outright denial of entry to the kitchen/house must ALWAYS emanate from the mother. This has to be followed by gradual cozying up – to the kids first, later to mother herself who holds key to fish and everything else cats want.

Meanwhile, your dog has already welcomed this other tiny(ier) being. Sometimes, the canine even starts aping the tinier one because they exude such mettle and spunk. And a You can pet me but nobody owns me vibe.

With nobody to stop them now (fathers are quite irrelevant in the cat world), this is followed by an invasion of the settee and sofa – one by one until humans have acquiesced to the claims of the new member on family furniture and acceded to the revised norms around the house.

Then the cat would relax, have kids and more kids until you can draw out their family tree in your head to explain who is whose who to bored relatives.

Our own poochakutti – not really kutti and not really ours – has given birth at least thrice, this must be his fourth. (we refer to him as avan/eda *masculine). Yesterday, Amma had saved up three fat fish heads for him but he never showed up. It was a sad day.

So I was wondering last night if he would be holed up somewhere warm, how many kittens there would be and so on.

The moru curry is almost done when my mother announces “Well look who’s back finally” and I only want to know “Are the kittens still inside”.

They are out yay. 😀


 

I forgot to mention the final step after House Invasion – the lap. Which was also the last/best scene from Poochakkutikalude Veedu by T. Padmanabhan (Nalinakanthi). When it was taught in class X I remember smiling broadly – it’s a scene from home, of course –

My mother doesn’t pet cats or kittens, she disapproves of excessive PDA to them.
Some days when we got back in the evenings from school, Amma would be reading the daily, seated unusually steady. With only her glasses and forehead visible, the paper would block the rest of her from view. When you got close enough you’d see the four-pawed little thing seated on her lap with its limbs under its body, eyes engrossed in meditation and the human striving to let it stay unperturbed. 😀

 

Monsoon Diaries : Steel tumblers and tea in steel tumblers

I can drink tea directly from the steel tumbler at home – the smaller one with the steel handle – only when I have prepared it. Because with Amma’s tea there’s enough only for 4 modest-sized glasses (or 5 or 6, based on how many of us are missing from home), no more. And why would you drink from a tumbler if your glass had as much (tea) to offer? Unless you didn’t want to bother washing that extra glass.

We also have in our kitchen the steel tumbler with the steel handle in a bigger size, it lets me pretend I’m chaya-adikaling (beating tea?) over the kitchen sink that temporarily functions as a spillover tank for the tea I send flying all over. Usually little, if any, is left by the time I’m done performing the rhythmic beating (adikal).

Image result for south indian tea shop gifA scaled-down demonstration of beating tea. When you really perform the act, it should look something like this :downloadBeating tea/Chaya adikaling (to scale) for people who haven’t witnessed the sorcery. I’m a bad witch, I guess. Also a bad translator.

I specifically mentioned the steel handle of the steel tumblers because we also have in our kitchen a steel tumbler about the same size with a black plastic handle that we take kanjivellam (rice water), and occasionally tendercoconut water in. We don’t use it for much else, it lays abandoned in an unwieldy corner of the kitchen until somebody falls sick. And then all of a sudden it is everywhere you look.
(Kanjivellam has been claimed by Malayali Achans and Ammas and Ammummas and Appoopans to have high nutritious quality. Some go as far as assigning analgesic, antiseptic and antibiotic properties to the magical drink).

Since the arrival of June, the steel tumbler for kanjivellam with the plastic handle has taken over my home.

 


Evenings are for tea.
Mornings are also for tea but morning chaya would be Amma’s monopoly.
I like to be generous with tea, both for myself and others. It helps that I’m bad at discerning proportions, unlike my mother. There is not too much difference in our processes, only in our products.

Amma’s chaya (served in glasses) :

1. Pour enough water in the vessel for 4/5/6 people
2. When it boils, add enough Kannan Devan Tea powder aka chayappodi
3. Add enough boiled milk followed by enough sugar

Define enough? Quite ambiguous yet not exactly uncertain, rather open to interpretation. Are we doing modern art?
Enough is enough!

My chaya (served in glasses and a tumbler) :

1. Pour water in the vessel. Take some out if I think it’s waay too much but otherwise I do not meddle. Like I said, I’m generous. A little too much water = a little too much tea. And that never hurt anybody. No?

2. Add tea powder when the water boils – enough chayappodi to color all the liquid, doesn’t matter what shade as long as it appears brown. (If not, you probably shoved in the wrong condiment. Throw out the water discreetly and start over).

3. Add milk – how much ever is left in the paal paathram (also did I mention I’m generous).

4. Time for more tea powder because you knew that was waay too much milk before I even added it.
Yes indeed, waay too much is Amma’s daughter’s catchword.
Define waay too much? That’s cute, you’ll know.

5. Sugar, usually followed by some more tea powder. More sugar. What? Be generous.

And there you have it. The path to attaining high BP. But that never killed anybody. No?

 

Evenings away from home

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It’s 6.30pm and it’s baking outside. Better than it was at say 10, or even 3. But still hot. The sky is a tasteless greyish blue, and you spot the tiny orange ball so elusively far from you it makes you feel lonelier than you were before. Evenings are the worst time to be when away from home. Especially if Kerala is home.

Unlike Delhi, where it’s evening till 7.30 and then it’s night, you’re used to evenings that metamorphose into dusk before they turn into nights.

In Kerala we have a (proper) slow evening whereafter, as twilight sets in, mothers hastily wake up lazy tots and grown-up kids saying “Sandhya ayi”, who then go back to sleep again. It’s the time reserved for evening prayers and, on text, study. It’s the holy hour and it really does extend for an hour. Celebrated by the scents of incense and the sight of oiled wicks and brass lamps that you so endearingly associate with your mother’s perennial “Velaku kathicho” (Did you light the lamp). On other days, an exasperated Amma does it on her own. But you always went there so you could cheat on an extra agarbati and carry it to your room. As the thin wafts of smoke rose while you held the stick, you danced it so that the grey grew patterns, you watched them against the dark. You also fancied it to be a cigarette when you were young, and held it between your teeth before the biting sweet burnt your tongue.

Evenings at home are chaya always prepared latest by 6 by Amma. But I do make it better – I’m good at cooking only one thing but at that, I’m the self-declared best. I brew it strong, which can raise BP and induce a whole lot of other disorders according to elders. Your mother would keep asking to check if you’ve had your tea, you’d reply “I’ll have it, Amma” till with a loud sigh she’d bring it to you. You’d unabashedly grin and drink without complaints. She never complains either.

Evenings at home are the huge – indeed they’re bigger back home – orange ball slowly traversing the sky in an arc till it disappears in the horizon, or amidst a thick green of coconut trees as dusk approaches. Traffic peaks too – after-office hours. Many would be rushing home in terrifyingly cramped KSRTC buses and overcrowded pavements, some unlucky others would be making their way to night shifts. Amidst all of this, the trees would be gently swaying – relishing the retreating evening sun and the slow-cooling air. Now that I think of it, everything back home is against the backdrop of a cheerfully brilliant and imposing green.

Because concrete roofs do not define us, coconut trees do. Sunsets mean a lot to us too – perhaps you’d like to call it consequential to having a beach. And perhaps you could never expect a city without one to resonate that.

What pacifies you in these passive evenings is knowing that someplace else, somewhere a little far for you and 4 hours away for an air-passenger, the same sun is setting amidst undifferentiated green and a beautifully painted sky, somewhere not too far from there are kids frolicking in the wet sand and families watching the playful waves as the sun touches the horizon. And a bus-ride from there is your home, a vessel of still-warm tea waiting for you as Amma lights the evening lamp.

It’s raining!

My favourite season is here. To sit on the window seat of a KSRTC bus watching the looming clouds and romanticizing the things they’ve seen on the way. To sip steaming chaya and munch on piping hot ethakkappam from the overcrowded tiny tiffin shack that everyone scurries into as the downpour thickens. To sit on the verandah reading your favourite book and drinking hot kappi. To watch the shadowed buildings and the shady skies with your companion to decide if it’ll pour. To dotingly complain about not having picked the umbrella Amma handed on your way out, then carelessly remark ‘Maybe the dams will fill this time’ or hope ‘the rains don’t destroy our crops’. To sleep in, blissfully unaware of the position of the sun. The best weather in God’s own Country.

They said on the news a day ago that monsoon’s finally arrived. Of course I knew, it’s been raining heavily out the window directly facing my bed and indeed in other parts of the state for some days now. I’ve also been conveniently using it to explain my laziness to get out. Before, I abused sleeping late and before that it was the summer heat.

So I no longer have to spend time listening to Neeraduvan, wondering rather poignantly what waterbody would’ve replaced Nila had my future husband written the lyrics, and of course how lucky ONV’s wife is. After squeezing myself in amidst all the other stuff that occupies it, I can now lie on my bed and  watch as the sky, murky with the heavy clouds, tosses light breezes down below tugging at our frames. Soon to throw long heavy showers that send forth the cool of moist air and the comfort of familiar odours into half-lit rooms, invading the stagnant warmth and introducing the new season.

And I pretend to be a blogger seeking inspiration, before sleep lures me in rather unprofessionally.

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Evening Coffee House visits

Whenever I can, I visit the Indian Coffee House at Medical College for veg (beetroot and potato filled) cutlets and coffee and on hot days, their soothing refrigerated fruit salad my cousin and I found last year.

I only discovered the MC branch towards the end of my second year. Before, I would frequent the ICH near Statue, after visiting Public library or sauntering through Palayam. The place was mostly filled with middle-aged intellectuals, some working youngsters, a few college-goers, and a couple of odd families now and then. I’ve sat next to tables of wise-looking uncles who’d be engrossed in discussions of economics and politics, at other times next to long curly haired artsy people in kurtas vehemently discussing films and media. I’d wondered if some day when I grew up, I’d sit there discussing serious shit with my grown-up friends. Probably not cos they shut the place down a couple of months later for violating food quality standards or smth, or are they open again?

Every time I passed the watchman by, he’d give me a weird what-are-you-doing-here-kid look. I’d come home and inquire, “Amma, do I really look like a kid?” and she’d say “Pinnallathe, 10th standard max”. I’d sigh, secretly smug that I look so young but go on to complain gleefully about my parents’ genes (they’re both short, Amma’s even shorter than me). (I love complaining).

After the news spread about the unkempt kitchen –that’s what amma told me it was – I discovered the one at Medical College. Of course, it had always been there and I’d overlooked it, after the clothes on the corner chair in my room and my many messy tables and the newspapers that loyally arrive home everyday.

It was more convenient for me too, considering I stay at Ulloor. So now I don’t have to wait until my Public library due date to visit ICH. In S5, S6 my visits were few and far between, as dance practice engaged us on all evenings and most weekends. S7 started, bad stuff happened, princi kicked the dance team out of the dance room and Paru ate more ICH cutlets.

Visiting the ICH is a delightful thing. It’s like an hour devoted entirely to solemn sacred indulgence, so oft repeated yet always gratifying. No I’m not going overboard in describing them cutlets man, just read on. I usually go after 5, earlier if I’m craving ICH cutlets or in the mood to get out in the hot afternoon sun. It’s a 4-minute walk from my place to the bus-stop at medium pace. I walk all the way to ICH if there’s an hour to sun set (takes hardly 20 minutes), else I take the bus on a 7-rupee ticket. There’s a constant smile playing on my face on days I take the bus because it means I’ll be getting the sunset scenes complementary. Actually I always take the bus, the free stuff is pretty much star of the show 😀

I get down at MC bus-stop and cross the Chalakuzhy road. The place is overflowing with lower middle class men and women, relatives of patients staying at Medical College Hospital, all from different parts of the state, flasks and tiffins held or hanging from one hand, buying hot tea/tender coconut for the inmates or getting bites for themselves from the array of tiny chaya kadas and bakeries there.

There is a guy with his pushcart selling chaya+kadi, other street vendors seated by their platter of home-made assortments, there’s even home-made tea (I know right, must be good why else would they be permanently seated here), vada and idiyappams, idli and sambar, etc. The roadside they sit on is wet and always smelly coupled with the stench from bleaching powder carelessly sprinkled over the narrow open drain adjoining the footpath. The medical shops, general stores, all attending to customers. Throngs of people crossing the main road during STOP signals. The multitude of faces on foot, the unending lines of cars and autos and ambulances to and from the wide MC entrance arch. Vehicles parked in front of shops in no orderly way. Nothing’s different today.

The play begins. From where I stand now, the sun is a brilliant orange behind the Dental College block on the left. The world slows down here. I could stand for hours watching it, just as I could when it’s behind Palayam palli or at CET, but the memories they evoke differ. The setting sun here reminds me of all the evenings when we stayed at RMO quarters behind the Dental block (they were demolished some years back to construct the OP blocks) from when I was 6 until 10.

The veiled medical college ground seated somewhere deep behind the many hospital buildings and the bifurcated roads and all the trees. I have a single vague memory from when I was 9 or so of walking to the ground for a cricket/football game one evening with my brothers, the sun was the same brilliant orange then. The summer vacations we spent stealing mangoes and guavas from yards of empty quarters and hiding from kozhikkallans (chicken thief). Evenings spent playing cricket and football (I sucked at it) and badminton and cycling until sun went down with Achu annan, kannenan and Biju and Aju chetan and listening to the prayer calls from a mysterious mosque somewhere far away.

I’ve been coming and standing in the same spot watching the same sun remembering the same stuff here for so long but the novelty never wears off. I always wondered how nice it must be to go there every day. Probably not for the ones that do though, I’m sure they don’t stand out here on the smelly road watching the sun on the other side, reminiscing stuff. (At night, with the orange streetlamps and all, the MCH is way sexier than CET, that too is subjective I’m sure). (OK amma enne kollanda). (Aarum enne kollanda).

Just to clarify things here, when I say MCH, I’m referring to its whereabouts and the places and people without referring to the Medical College hospital itself. This is a convo I had with amma back in first year (she works at SATH inside MCH).

“Amma, there’s SO many medical shops at Medical College and Ulloor alle. Appo aarku marunnu venengilum ingot varande, it’s so easy for us since we live here”. “That’s because it’s Medical College”. “I’m also talking about Medical College only”. “I’m talking about the hospital, paru”. “Ethu hospital, oh, OH. OOOOOH”.

That’s the day I remembered (soon to forget tho) there’s a hospital in there. I mean I always knew it’s a hospital, it’s just been in the background all of my life so I never really thought about it. Ok so it’s not just a place with students and goodlooking pg chetans and friendly chechis and some strict and some fun professors and tonnes and tonnes of people. I keep forgetting it from time to time, though.

I know there’s a lot of suffering you have to overlook to see the beauty here, and maybe only when you own the memories I do too. Then I think of the front blocks where my brothers had been admitted more recently, a little bit of guilt sets in and the odour catches up with me.

Walking to ICH from here takes around one minute. It’s a tiny footpath, dotted on its sides with old men and women selling cigarettes, paan masala, lottery tickets, toothpicks, mirrors and combs. Everyone’s walking past briskly or pausing in front of shops to read signs or making their way in, and more crowds take their place on the footpath as pedestrians dissolve into shops.

The time spent in ICH itself is pretty uneventful. I almost always order Veg cutlets with coffee/tea. If my parents are home, I get them packed too after tasting the beetroot sauce (they’re often too soggy or too watery or bitter). But almost every time, the taste differs. The ICH at Shangumugham always gave cutlets that tasted the same, perhaps cos they were consumed after being crusted with the salty breeze from the beach, or cos I was too young to notice. Even they shut down after a while. Once in a twenty batches or so, that old taste from the beachside ICH is delivered. I can’t describe the taste, but my father says it’s all potatoes and beetroots topped with more beetroot sauce and doesn’t do much good for the tummy. The last bit isn’t true, but rest of his description is spot on.

Well he suggested the famous ICH mutton omelette as good for the tummy once when I was a kid and that was the day I thought I was going to die of a stomach explosion (I got gastritis and get it every time I smell mutton from afar ever since). So no thankyou. Beetroot cutlets with beetroot sauce please.

Otherwise filled with relatives of people from the hospital and the working class, if you visit during 11-1, you may catch some pg’s with stethoscopes hanging around their necks walk into the partitioned doctors’ tables section. A few uncles/aunties always give me weird looks (here it’s are-you-here-all-by-yourself). I re-read the wall-hung menu board every single time I’m here, just the Malayali me complacently making sure nothing’s new. They keep updating the prices, that’s one thing they do. And the person at the counter NEVER asks me for change. Do you know how rare that is in today’s world?

The slow stroll back home is only the second best part of ICH visits. There are less people crossing my path now, wider roads. The medical college blocks to the left, some I’ve never visited, others I identify from having often curiously observed from home during nights. The orange sphere can be spotted where the buildings part, and to the right side, in the spaces between the proximate apartments, I catch glimpses of distant houses and coconut trees and mobile towers rising up from the bottom green patch against the blue skies. Somewhere there, my distant future awaits and I’m smiling again. It’s also (for some really weird reason) where my past resides. I’ve no clue why, I think somewhere along I associated distant past and distant future with literal distances 😐

The PT Chacko Nagar roads have been in a pathetic condition for too long, all opened up and left on their own. I walk a bit more, watching my future lying so far away, where I’m working in a bustling metropolis, all by myself and shit. JK, more often the image is me sleeping on the floor of a living room with hard copies of draft articles strewn all over.

I reach Ulloor, cross and reach Akkulam Road. It’s a downhill slope now on, the sun directly infront moving down the horizon, beckoning me back. From here, the journey is effortless, I just have to follow the straight (and make way for Biharis now and again) and usually takes longer than 900 seconds since the frame is reluctant to let go of the evening.

 

PS: Written after last visiting ICH yday evening

 

 

 

Mind Your Own Pickle

Here I present before you the story of X, a typical South Indian middle class boy .(‘X’ so that I don’t have to keep repeating names like Ramesh, Suresh, Subramaniam, Gopalakrishnankutty etc but guess I missed the point already). So, X made and sold pickle all day and all night. Yes, it was the love of his life and he enjoyed every bit of it. How on earth does that fit into the ‘typical’ definition, you point out. Yes, yes, I’m coming to that, thou disrupted souls. Everything will be made right.

Once, X was at a funeral with his parents. Seeing this happy guy (the alive one, I mean), every one of his relatives who never had anything to do with him, didn’t have any idea what his name was, who naturally and understandably would be most enthusiastic about his career, felt compelled to offer free advice to his extremely irresponsible parents who let their son live jauntily with utmost disregard for his future (?).

A hitherto never before-seen relative uncle (who would henceforth never be seen again) approached his parents. “Pickle?!you mean ACHAAR?! How idiotic is that!”
“But maama, X loves making pickle. He’s super happy”.
“Happy?! Who wants to be happy making pickle?”
“Um. Me?” a disgruntled X muttered, confused.
“You should make him get a B.tech. What’s a boy without a B.tech these days?!”
“What? :o” his parents asked, curious.
“NOTHING!” he barked. “Are they providing food here? Miserly relatives these days, not many do, you know! No respect for the deceased or what? Let me go ask if there’s chicken”. He dashed to the dead man’s kitchen.

“Amma, I don’t have enough marks for B.Tech admissions. I’m a just pass, 41. You need a 50 for B.Tech”. X couldn’t believe this was happening.
“That rule’s coming into action only next year onwards. YOU LUCKY GUY!” the uncle beamed emerging from the kitchen, victorious, tearing off a fried chicken’s legs with his teeth.

Back at home, X begged the Gods (though I doubt they had anything to do with it) to know why on earth he couldn’t have been born a year later.
“Imagine our X having wasted his entire life with pickles! That man’s a lifesaver! Who is he, btw? He should be worshipped!”
“I’m on it!” X’s mom, who never missed a chance to worship anyone, opened her Facebook and found her homepage deluged with the previous day’s funeral pictures. And right there he was! Their saviour posing with the cadaver! She frantically clicked the Like button and had his photo printed, framed and hung next to the rest of her Gods in her Pooja room.

X on the other hand, packed his bags, and off he went to college. Sitting in class, he noticed how everyone looked similar to him. He soon realized it was cos they were all guys :D. Some were there to fulfil their parents’ -obviously- unfulfilled dreams, to some it was a stepping stone to a Ph.D at MIT, some pursuing the love of their lives (which to his horror X soon figured was a reference to Mechanical Engineering). He had to cram his brain, pockets, sleeves, shoes and any place undetectable to the staff with notes to get through exams.

Second year saw X entering the labs. As he rotated the wheel of the Francis turbine, he imagined processed apple pickle pouring out the delivery pipe. “This is the strainer at the foot of the pump”, the instructor explained. “There goes the essence of it. We’ll just have to use squashed apples then”, X replied, much to the bewilderment of his labmates.
He fantasized all day about constructing a machine that churned out pickle (If this were a hyperbolically written unrealistic satirical tale, trust me I would totally make him make one. Alas!)
Soon his hostel mates recognised the treasure that he was and with their support he resumed preparing pickle again.

Luckily for him, his pickles became popular in a jiffy. Infact, he was surprised at the rising demand for them from men’s hostels all around the city. “You should try it with Rasam, tastes awesome”, he suggested. “We have something better”, the pickle-buyer winked at an unsuspecting X.

Meanwhile the Student Health Club members protested against the exorbitant levels of sugar and salt used in the pickle. Grabbing the opportunity, the USA sued X for high rates of obesity there followed by surges in sales here, to the discontent of SHC (abbreviated club name but guess I’m missing the point again).

X’s pickles yielded unexpected results all about him. Around the college, attendance in classes went down as sales of soda and certain other commodities went up. As a discussion was opened in the Economics class as to the causes for this, someone suggested that law of variable proportions was at play when someone else shouted,”X’inte achaar thanne saar!” And as reality dawned on X, his world (he thought) came crashing down. Was he to be expelled? Would his parents disown him now? What if the uncle that had inceptioned the whole idea in his parents’ heads adopted him? He contemplated suicide.

However, here’s what really happened: the Dean being a fancier of pickles himself (no insinuations intended), asked X for samples. Thoroughly impressed by them, he let X open a counter at the college store, imposing restrictions on the supply nonetheless. Soon, curd rice and X’s pickle became a staple at the college canteen and his parents were informed of their son’s exploits.

Two years later, proud parents watched as X received the award for the best Final Year project design – a hydraulic machine that chopped, crushed and pickled anything you poured into it.(I told you that was coming).

After successfully completing his B.Tech, he came across a never before-seen aunty who, you bet, won’t ever be seen again either.
“Mone GPA ethra und? Namukk ini oru Mtech oke edukkande?” (“What’s your GPA son? Shouldn’t we take that M.Tech now?”)
“CHAKKAPAZHAM! (JACKFRUIT!)” he blurted out.
“Eh”
“..Vechoru achaar undakkunnundu! Auntykku veno?” (“I’m making a pickle out of it. Would you like some, Aunty?”) 😀

Moral of the story: You may like pickle. You may even love pickle. So make a career out of it, or not. But more importantly, stay the hell away from shit you don’t know shit about.