:D :D :D

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. 😀

 

Advertisements

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?

 

I was middle class before being middle class was cool

I lived a major part of my life thinking we’re a poor family. It started when I was really young, like 5 or 6, was confirmed by the time I was 7 or 8, and stayed until I was done with my 10th (15 years). By ‘poor’ I don’t mean unable to afford meals, but more like we have the bare minimum and nothing more. Of course we weren’t anywhere close to rich, but I was young and I didn’t know there existed such a thing called ‘middle class’.

Yes we were middle class before being middle class was cool.

(Although I thought we were just poor).

I mean we’d lived in staff quarters since I was born (Engineering quarters till I was 4 and then Medical college quarters), I never owned more than 5 presentable (to non- relatives) clothes at a time, 4 cousins shared one double bed during summer vacations. That might be enough for a regular child but me being the self-centred kid I was, it was the more personal stuff that convinced me we were poor.

My parents were of the opinion that Manichechi (my aunt) already spoiled me by buying everything I wanted so they were under no obligation to make matters worse.

For starters, I never got any dolls from my parents – Barbie or otherwise – the fact that I never wanted any doesn’t matter. All little girls need dolls, okay? Buy your own daughter some dolls, for my sake. And when they paint monsters on the faces and detach all the limbs like I did is when you stop, knowing that she doesn’t deserve any. I also innocently checked under the frock for underwear (there wasn’t one), probably would’ve highlighted them as well.

In the evenings, Maami our maid cooked us snacks. On Maggi days, she boiled a single packet of Maggi and apportioned the noodles onto three plates. One packet for three okay?

These were only subtle hints my parents were throwing at me. There were more cruel ones.

I don’t think anybody could relate to Swamy (from Malgudi Days of course) more than I could. (Well maybe Achu Annan could). When Swamy prepared the Shopping list for Swamy and had to think hard to make sure those few things he jotted down were the only ones he needed and reflected at how his needs were so little, I must tell you I already knew he was stretching it a bit too far. Of course only to have the list brutally dismissed by his father’s “Take whatever you want from my drawer, I don’t have money to spend on all this.” I was relieved to know there existed other households like mine, if only in books.

The first time I asked my father explicitly for pencils (I don’t know why I remember it this way but it was really explicit) he cheerfully replied “Oh why didn’t you tell me you wanted them” and bought me a whole packet of Apsara HB. The next time I decided to cheerfully ask since I had such a considerate father, he asked me what I’d done with the bunch he bought me the last time.

You needed to reason for everything. Buying groceries at the Margin Free Market, he’d stand in billing queue with the full basket and say “Now go grab whatever else you want quick”. Pleasantly surprised (it was my first time, how would I know?), I picked up no less than what my tiny arms couldn’t carry. My father cross-checked the items and only what I really needed went in, plus 3 kitkats.

Next time on I had to pick things up before he stood in the queue so he could filter out Paru’s excesses. Trips to Margin Free ended that way, me attempting a critical examination of my own choices (really I was only trying to decide what I could hope to coax him into buying).

We always bought new clothes for Onam and Christmas and Deepavali but it was usually my uncles and aunt who took us shopping so I assumed we probably didn’t have much money to spend on that, or whatever grownup reason they had. And we never owned anything fancy at home or to wear.

At British Library we could pick 5 books among the 3 of us from WonderLand kids’ section (alright 2 since Achu Annan hardly cared about it) and I was under so much pressure to finish reading as many books as possible while we were there so I could take home other books. And I would negotiate with Kannenan, how many do you want to take? 3? Why are you picking THAT it doesn’t even look nice – if you’re taking 3 today it’ll be my turn to take 3 the next time. (*scrunches up face* you HATE books, why’d you do that to me Mr.Kannan, why?)

British library taught me I should always space my kids properly.

Also our Medical college quarters was so stuffed with all the furniture. During powercut nights you could hear Lagaan songs playing from Achu Annan’s Walkman and I would be choreographing my way through all the clutter, dancing wondrously until my toe hit against a stupid tea-pow. I’ve learned over the years that no matter how big/small the living room or even the house, my father will find a way to fill it with furniture.

So the time that I was very young I don’t know if I thought we were poor as in poor poor (‘tight’), but I knew that our lives had a lot of constraints. Also read : you can’t always get what you want, you may almost never get what you want unless your parents are in a good mood, ESPECIALLY if it involves spending money. And I took it upon me to correct them if any friends had the notion that ‘college professors and doctors earn reaally well’. (I don’t anymore since they revised the Pay scales).

I only realized when I was 15 that I’d vaguely thought of us to be people without money. (Some things you don’t realize, they’re solemnly understood, or something like that.) What happened when I was 15? My second brother went to college somewhere poor families probably don’t send their kids – no it wasn’t somewhere superposh but you don’t know how unresourceful I thought we were. You should’ve seen my face when I asked Amma if we could afford it and she replied with a suddenly formal ‘both your parents have been working since before you were born, we should be able to afford education’.

I was furious with her for almost a month after for letting me believe we were poor (it’s still true we didn’t have a lot of money) but of course I was happy we weren’t anymore. Not that we lived any different post-realization.

From time to time I complain to Amma about how I had to compress all my Shopping Lists for Paru just like Swamy did, and how having 3 kids was a bad idea and they should’ve had just me. Well you turned out fine (define fine? :D), she says, now get a good job and you can have kids and raise them the way you want.

She only says that cos I already told her if I ever have kids I’ll leave it upto her to raise them.

24759_1415876714758_274939_n.jpg

Also, 2 kids maybe fun but 3 is the best 😀