: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. 😀

 

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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.

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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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.