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?

 

Advertisements

But who misses home?

Do evenings still make you miss home, they ask.

Pfft no not any more that was almost a year ago when I’d just left Trivandrum.

It was New Year and we were supposed to celebrate. I knew we were supposed to cos the reading room had remained shut. So the 60-odd souls, some unbespectacled (like me from the good ol’ days), mostly with specs and clothes worn straight for a week were made to dig up their roots growing from beneath their seats where they sit eating up WiFi all day and night, getting up only to attend calls and nature’s  calls.

The reading room basically shoves its occupants out once in a while viz. Holi, Christmas, etc and that’s how we know that it’s been a month or two or a year even. Well, two in some cases.

Since we were supposed to celebrate, I stayed in my room, ordered food and chomp-chomped watching Julia Roberts eating (well something between that and sucking in but isn’t that how many of us slurp it) spaghetti off her Italian plate, Katut sermons in tropical and sweaty Bali, When You Say Nothing At All in the middle of a park and singing Forever and Ever at rehearsal dinner table at the Best Friend’s Wedding.

I slept off somewhere in the middle.

When I woke up, it was dark and raining. Outside the window, there were lights and honking from rain-induced traffic below.

The tall curtains were only half-drawn and there was an army of headlights at the signal. Orange streetlamps bathed the building in front of mine from under, a pigeon was perched on its roof against the deep maroon sky, or was it?

Slanting slivers of rain hugged at my panes and more kept beating against, drowning everything else with them.

And I had that really strange/lonely/confused/clueless feeling when you wake up after an evening nap, and the first question when you open your eyes and scan the darkness around is (always), Am I in Hogwarts? Gryffindor Living Room? We must be on our Hogsmeade trip, I probably slept off. And finally to find out what ‘gingerbeer’ tastes like. Where are the others though?

Then you come to your senses that it isn’t Hogwarts. You never caught the train, never got the letter, you missed the feasts and the Sorting Hat and the Quidditch and Fred n George and everything else JK Rowling had promised. This is when it’s worst, when you feel like you missed the last 10 years of your life in ignorant sleep, when you are reminded that Hogwarts was a big big joke on you, and even if it wasn’t a joke, you’re 22 now. So again, joke’s on you.

In these deep situations, I usually decide I’ll make do with chaya if not gingerbeer. So I call for Amma.

Except this time, there was no chaya either. So I was just sitting on my bed, staring at the window not least because it was an inconsequential Jan 1 – it always is – but because it was evening. Alone.

Achan Amma were probably watching the 7pm news in our living room now, an old habit that stuck on from the days of Doordarshan. He would have attended the JanaMaitri meeting in the evening and she would now have lit the lamp and he would have shut all the windows to keep out mosquitoes, and they would’ve settled in front of the TV after tea.

Usually, it used to be Achan Amma and me on weekends. Usually, we would eat the stew I had cooked after extracting the three thengapaal’s (coconut milk) watching Om Shanthi Oshana at 5 pm (Asianet played that a lot).

Oh look who else wears shorts at home like paru, she says.

At least she doesn’t look homeless, says he, every time. Oh pinne’s (Yeah right’s) would surface. It happened so often it is almost a ritual.

Do evenings still remind me of home?
Some days, especially New Year’s, I think.

But what’s life without a little missing?

Nammade Ooru Keralam – a rant

Some people we meet know exactly what they want and where to find it. Like my roommate Umadri, who’s lucky enough to know she loves good music and yummy Afghani chicken. Her only roommate on the other hand hops from place to place, tasting samosas deep fried in God-knows-how-many-weeks-old oil at the first joint and quickly conjured chowmein at the next, consequently contracting infections one after the other.

While I am thoroughly exhausted of this exercise, in my two months in this city I have found that while writing is liberating, blogging (which is essentially publishing within constraints) brings me happiness.

I remember the day Miriam asked me to start blogging, and I did.

I remember the day Miriam suggested I come to Delhi. Two weeks later, I’d landed in this place.

While that woman (so to speak) is to blame for all that I’m suffering today, it also suggests she’s responsible for my ongoing slow process of correcting the 22 years of wrong info my system has unapologetically gathered, including my coming to terms with the realization that after all, Veerappan wasn’t the LTTE leader I’d mistakenly believed to be from the days of my childhood until umm two weeks ago.

She’s also responsible for the little dance I do and my shrieks of delight when I find that the entire back page of The Hindu has been administered to accommodate Modi ji’s thala and Modi ji’s full figure. (Chalo ek page kum padhni hai 😜)

So venturing out in the morning these days involves thanking the Gods for the (relatively) clean air in the early hours  and taking a deep breath, only to chokingly realize the unwelcome stench from the dry latrine on the other side of the road just made its way in too. And I’ve almost christened a blessing on that Good Samaritan feeding the famished stray, not before he rakes up his entire energy to passionately discharge spittle onto the pavement sending half of it on a trajectory to land on my shoe.

If you can watch Delhi’s starless skies on brilliant nights that tell a story of steady cacophony below and nonchalant splendor above, and somewhere far away that speaks of corporate neon lights from a concert hidden from your view, that you don’t have tickets to and that you aren’t sure you want to. If you can look past the cramped dirty streets  and the dirtier profanity that IPhone wielders to your surprise indulge in, if you can catch hold of the multitude of roofs around occupied by bhayyas and didis lost in thought and fathom it’s all in good faith in the future and never desperation. If you can look past the pasted and painted faces on the Metro standing on their five-inch heels and insecure glances of self-reassurance, past the daily number of little kids buying icecream/golgappe from other kids who’d have been called classmates had the RTE really trickled down, maybe you could love Delhi.

Because surely this city is, like many others claim to be, an emotion. Whether the emotion of flying kites on rooftops/eating dahi chaat on a rainy day, or of an entire city that let a man bleed to his death on its roads in its wake, I know not.

Sadly though, I love my iddali (with an ‘a’ in between, yes), I instinctly look for thenga (coconut) before remembering it isn’t thoran but sabzi. I am baffled by the sweet sambar before I’m reminded it isn’t our sambar. And I miss listening to Velikku Veluppan Kaalam and Aareyum Bhava Gayakanakkum on Akashavani. Jk, that was around 18 years ago. But I do.

And if streets with all sorts of rubbish and a dust-spangled surrounding don’t repulse you, if the daily menu of paratha and thin long grained basmati rice doesn’t exasperate you, if being charged 30 rupees for a plate of measly vada doesn’t leave you feeling violated. If hearing a “Thankyeww soo muchhh” delivered in authentic Kerala English doesn’t evoke your grinning response of “Malayali ayrnnalle :D”(So you were a Malayali). And mostly, if a couple of weeks’ residence in (most) other parts of the country doesn’t elicit a special sense of pride about your own (and of course a rant like this one here), you probably weren’t fortunate enough to be born in my favourite part of the world.

PS: Do not ask me why this feature pic. Between banana leaf sadyas and coconut tree silhouettes, coastlines and backwaters, cities and towns and villages and sunsets and greenery and the arts, finally I settled on this I guess.

Evenings away from home

12383613_1541857646141982_523925891_n.jpg

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.