അന്ന വസ്ത്രാദി മുട്ടാതെ ഞങ്ങളെ…

breakfast

‘നിന്റെ അമ്മൂമ്മയുടെ കൈപ്പുണ്യം ഒന്ന് വേറെ തന്നെയായിരുന്നു! അമ്മ വെറുതെ പച്ച പപ്പായ വേവിച്ചു, കറിവേപ്പില ഞെരടി, ഒരു തുള്ളി പച്ച വെളിച്ചെണ്ണ ഒഴിച്ച്, ഉപ്പിട്ട് തന്നാലും അമൃതിന്റെ രുചിയായിരുന്നു…’ ചെറു പ്രായത്തിലേ മരിച്ചു പോയ അമ്മയെ കുറിച്ച്, എന്റെ അമ്മയുടെ ഓർമ്മകളിൽ ഇപ്പോഴും ആഹാരത്തിന്റെ രുചി നിറഞ്ഞു നിൽക്കുന്നു.

ആഹാരം ഉണ്ടാക്കുക എന്നത് , ഒരു കലയും, കവിതയും, ധ്യാനവും, ഡി-സ്ട്രെസ്സിങ് തെറാപ്പിയും മറ്റുമായി വിവക്ഷിക്കപ്പെടുന്നതിനു മുൻപുള്ള കാലം. അന്ന് സ്വന്തം ശരീരത്തിന്റെ ഭരണം പോലും സ്ത്രീകൾക്കില്ല. പല തറവാടുകളിലും അമ്മയും മകളും രണ്ടു മുറികളിൽ പ്രസവിച്ചു കിടക്കുന്ന കാലം. എന്നിരിക്കിലും, ഭക്ഷണ മേഖല സ്ത്രീയുടെ ചുമതലയിൽ പെടുമായിരുന്നു.

‘ഉള്ളത് കൊണ്ട് ഓണം’ എന്നും മറ്റുമുള്ള ചൊല്ലുകൾ, ദാരിദ്ര്യത്തിലും സമൃദ്ധി വരുത്തുന്ന ‘സ്ത്രീകളുടെ മാനേജ്‌മന്റ്’ തന്ത്രങ്ങളെ പ്രകീർത്തിക്കുക കൂടിയാണ്. വിശന്നു തളർന്ന ആറു കുഞ്ഞുങ്ങളെ , ചോറോ കഞ്ഞിയോ വയ്ക്കാൻ നിവൃത്തിയില്ലാതെ, പച്ച പപ്പായ ഊട്ടിയ എൻ്റെ അമ്മൂമ്മയുടെ കണ്ണീരുപ്പ് തന്നെയാവും അമൃതിന്റെ രുചിയുടെ കാതൽ. ആഹാരത്തിനെ
പറ്റി പലരും  പറയുകകയും, എഴുതുകയും ചെയുമ്പോൾ ഞാൻ ഓർക്കുന്ന കഥയാണത്.

**
“അമ്മൂമ്മ ഉണ്ടാക്കുന്നത് മാതിരി, ഉള്ളി നല്ല ബ്രൗൺ കളറിൽ മൊരിച്ചു വേണം.” ഒരു നിർദ്ദേശം എനിക്കും ലഭിച്ചു! മുട്ട പുഴുങ്ങി, ഉള്ളി മൂപ്പിച്ചു അമ്മൂമ്മ കറി ഉണ്ടാക്കാൻ ഞാൻ ശ്രമിച്ചു.
“ഇതിന് വലിയ എരിവാണല്ലോ…!” ഒരു കുറ്റപ്പെടുത്തൽ കൂടി മകളിൽ നിന്നും കിട്ടിയത് മിച്ചം .

വാഴയ്ക്കാപ്പം ഉണ്ടാക്കിയപ്പോൾ അതാ വരുന്നു അടുത്ത ‘തലമുറ താരതമ്യം.’
‘ അമ്മൂമ്മയുടെ വാഴക്കപ്പത്തിന് നല്ല ഷെയ്പ്പാണല്ലോ…ഇതെന്താ ഇങ്ങനെ ഇരിക്കുന്നത് ?’
‘അപ്പം തിന്നാൽ പോരെ, കുഴിയെണ്ണണോ?’ എന്നാണ് ശരിക്കും മറുപടി കൊടുക്കേണ്ടത്.
‘എടി ചട്ടമ്പി ! Do not look a gift horse in the mouth…’ മൈദയില്ലാതെ, കിട്ടിയ കടല മാവ് വയ്ച്ചു പഴംപൊരി ഉണ്ടാക്കിയതും പോര , ഇനിയിപ്പോൾ, ‘ദി ഷേപ്പ് ഓഫ് യൂ’ എന്നും പാടാനോ?

അമ്മയോട് പറഞ്ഞപ്പോൾ നിറഞ്ഞ ചിരി. കുടുംബത്തിന്റെ ധന-ധാന്യ സമ്പത് വ്യവസ്ഥ എത്ര മാറിയാലും, അമ്മൂമ്മ എന്ന ‘ക്വാളിറ്റി ബെഞ്ച്മാർക്’ തലമുറകളിലൂടെ നിലനിർത്തപ്പെടുന്നു.
‘Gully Boy’യിൽ രൺവീർ സിംഗ് പാടിയത്   പോലെ  ‘അപ്‌നാ ടൈം ആയേഗാ!!!’

***
നുറുങ്ങു കഷ്ണം : ‘Lamb to the slaughter’ എന്നൊരു ക്ലാസ്സിക് Roald Dahl ചെറു കഥയുണ്ട്. Alfred Hitchcock Presents എന്ന സീരിസിൽ ഒരു എപ്പിസോഡ് അതിന്റെ ദൃശ്യ-ആവിഷ്കരണമാണ്.
ആഹാരം ‘ഹരിക്കുന്നതു’ കാണണമെങ്കിൽ , അതൊന്നു വായിക്കൂ…കാണൂ !

***

Cats and Porcupines

 

momsnkids

‘Next time I will make you a porcupine,’ says my elder daughter. It is a warning in the guise of sibling love.

‘Nah! Persian cat with green eyes. The one which asked God whether He was seated in her chair!’  My younger girl replies. That is a rejoinder of untrammeled self confidence which is utterly undisguised.

The sequel of my daughter’s novel ‘Scientia’ is undergoing publication. It is called Eva, short for Evangelista. It is peppered with feisty women scientists, wise mentors, handsome men, and cats…

Little girl has trouble over the fact that the pesky cat does not get to star much in the book unlike the first one. Chechi has been ruthless with her pen; and has snipped off her  nose-in-the air, prima donna scenes mercilessly.

‘You get to banter with the dog, be thankful for that, brat!’

‘Huh! I know, I know.’

I conclude that in the scenes where she does appear, she gets an upper-claw over a doggy. Poor dog.

‘I have a serious issue to bring to your notice. Whenever grandma calls, she asks about you first. That is major unfairness. We have been studying equity and equality recently in school.’ Persian cat purrs dangerously.

Chechi cackles in abandoned glee.

‘Well, well, certain facts in life have to be accepted. She loves me more.’

‘There is something called majority opinion.’

‘Since when has one been a majority?’

‘ I am adding my cousins here. You should not hog all the attention all the time.’ Persian cat bares her pretty teeth.

Chechi giggles openly. She knows that certain statements need no answers. They are the divine truth.

**

I advise my mother that certain family undercurrents need firm resolution. She should be neutral when it came to showing her love for the grand kids.

She chortles like my elder girl. They share the same eyes, delicate bone structure, and the indomitable will.

I am determined to not let that laugh sidetrack me.

‘Please call the little girl today. Ask about her this time!’

‘ Okay. I will have a chat with her soon. You know she is exactly like you. Remember when you were always cribbing over your brother getting all the attention? That child has your eyes and attitude by the way.’

Now I am in the mood to ask my elder girl to create a couple of more porcupine relatives in the next book….

**

 

Visitor

1. Less

Bad words, bad man

Bad tears?

Trying to get at your jugular

Stop you from breathing, creating!

Why give a bad word, a bad man

Such importance?

(Tears should spring from joy, by the way !)

I have found the antidote!

Good words, good man,

Good, wholesome laughter!

So I have removed ‘fear’ from my lexicon

And instead added a word with ‘less’ in it:

Fearless.

Great, isn’t it?

What less of a bad thing can do to  one’s life?

**

2.  A Visitor

She told me in my dream that she cared deeply,

That loving soul.

‘Did you feel pain’, I asked.

‘No, I was reading as usual and then a

Strong wind blew…

That is all I know, my dear!’

I heard that bubbling laughter again

That loving, gracious face again.

‘I will give you enough money to bring up

Your children, ‘ she said.

Before I could answer, she took out a blue

Purse, check pattern all over

And started counting coins!

‘To know that you are watching over me

That is all I need,’ I wanted to tell her.

When I woke up, I had a smile

On my face.

Next birth, we will meet again,

Most beloved woman.

 

**

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Priori Assumptions

She is so close that I can touch her. Yet, she is so far away.

“Nice sweater,” I say, “Do the shoes match?”

“Of course not, Amma!” both say in unison; one little critic by my side and her sister, continents away. Perfect timing.

I roll my eyes. Yeah, I deserved that for asking  such a dumb question. The elder one thrives on Chaos Theory. The younger one matches her shoelaces with her earrings.

Soon I am immersed in how wonderful Physics is, how much she is loving the colloquiums, the study groups, the kind professors, etc etc..

“Did you wash the pillow cover ?” I ask, not able to bite my tongue in time.

Her bubbling flow is stopped for a moment and then she shakes her head and shrugs.

“Gawwwd! That’s all you could say?”

A small giggle comes from my side. The source, is hugging a plump,stuffed Unicorn.

“Ask her if she has washed that animal for ages?” The Physicist snipes, snarkily laughing at the rainbow coloured hug-toy.

“Amma washes it, when I sneeze,” retorts the little girl.

“As a matter of fact, when I started sneezing two days before, I too washed the pillow cover,” grins my elder one.

“And Amma, you know, this seminar on black holes…”

I rein in my mind which is bursting at its corners with neither gravity or anti-gravity, but with questions on whether her table was neat, shoes were polished, and whether all documents were kept away safe. Whether there were ants inside the bottle of snacks that I had given her. Very high level theoretical questions that needed experimental validation indeed!

“You are thinking about something else!” Internet is very powerful that she can see my thoughts from across the oceans.

“Did you eat those snacks?’ I ask sheepishly.

“Arrghhh! Yeah, I did. I shared them with my room mates too. Amma, you never let go, do you?In certain matters, you are exactly like Ammomma!”

“Only, she is not so pretty as Ammomma,”agrees the younger one.

I take the salvos bravely. I remember my mother packing cucumbers and tapiocas in my hand luggage without telling me. I also recollect my shock when the airport staff asked me to open my bag due to weird looking shapes within. Of course, they had grinned when they saw my mother’s choicest garden pickings. I had locked the check in luggage to dissuade her- my indomitable mother had countered with an easier solution.

And then I ask her why her selfie has her in a tshirt that I thought I had donated a few months before.

Two giggles break out in conspiratorial unison.

My mother’s blood had certainly found a way into the new generation. They achieved what they set out to achieve.

And I am so glad and grateful about that. Truly and deeply.

**

Following A Goddess

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My grand mother, who died when my mother was but nineteen, and my youngest aunt a mere three,  was named after the  Goddess of Learning. Her name “Sarda” is also that of  the ancient writing script used for Sanskrit and Kashmiri. Till today, my maternal anscestral home is called, ‘Sarada Mandiram’ aka “The abode of Sarada.”

There are no pictures or photographs  left behind of this Grihlakshmy, (Goddess of the House like Vesta or Hestia in other cultures:) for her grand children or great grand children to know her.

She remains, captured however (as per my mother’s version) in my  young nephew’s smile, my cousin sister’s beautiful tresses, my daughter’s eyes et al. I am very sure, that she would continue in the future bloodlines too, when something of charm or beauty shows up suddenly, gracefully, without much hue or cry.

Almost like a mystery, the stories surround the enigma of a beautiful woman who “was adored by anyone who met her, due to her generously giving heart.” No being, animal or human, went hungry if  they ever passed by my grand mother’s kitchen door.

” She could toss a few curry leaves and a  mere touch of her hand would make the dishes so tasty,” reminisces my mother, her eyes clouded with tears.

I get to hear snippets from my aunts and uncles, their memories now mostly faded, still remembering warmth, and long,black hair cascading like a river with no grey strands ever….so lyrical that I start doubting the authenticity of it all.

” Were you happy all the time? She could not have been a paragon of virtue,” I argue, my cynical temper often aroused when I hear about angelic perfection, near or far.

” She used to be furious at times. Then I wouldn’t go near her. Especially when she was struggling with her umpteen pregnancies and child births,” my mother lets out , a sigh at a time.

Then as my mother feeds me spinach with coconut topping and curry leaves sauteed , a dish she learnt from my grandma, she tells me the tale of her parents’ marriage.

An attractive young woman , single daughter to adoring parents, who lost nine children before they had a living, healthy child. The beauty, the property – the proposals that poured in for her hand. And the tragedy of a predetermined horoscope- the fate of Chova dosham- a Manglik, so to say,..she was supposed to cause early death to her husband.

” My grandfather almost gave up hope about amma’s marriage. Such a lovely daughter, but no man daring to step across the Yama’s line of caution,” my mother whispers. (She and her grandfather had a loving relationship. Till date she swears that he was reborn into her family.  Whenever I make her smile, I am the reincarnation. When I pick up fights with her, she is absolutely sure that he is someone else. That is another story altogether.)

” And how did my grandfather come into the scene?” I ask, very interested now. Some topics are eternally fascinating.

” They say, he was almost an outsider, though his family lived very close. A rebel, tall at six feet and more, a good artist, keen on science and business alike…my father,” she pauses dramatically.

I sigh again as the devil flashes his fangs at me, provoking me.

” Amma, stop being melodramatic. He had his vices, of course. But he was handsome, I presume,” I aim at the target straight away.

” Ohhhh, yes! So one day, even as his mother threatened to hang herself from the front yard for daring to dream of Sarada, he walked away laughing and entered our ancestral home.” Amma’s voice is full of thrill now.

I see a tall young man, laconic, cool, literally asking his protective female clan members to go to hell. He walks to the forbidden house, and confronts my  great grandfather.

” Why did you come, Govinda?” my great grandfather asks. He can hear the screams and curses rising in undulating tones from across the front yard.

” I thought it was worth dying for Sarada,” says my Grandfather. ” I want to marry her.”

Thus a man married a woman.

They had seven children,losing one early. One girl grew up to be my indefatigible mother.

I do not ask the other parts of the story. The happiness, the tragedies, the loss of a merchandise filled boat over the sudden tempest, the sudden poverty….so many family lores stay quiet now, lying like a calm dog at the feet of a kind, beautiful, unseen grandmother.

” Do I have anything of her in me?” I ask finally, slowly, very slowly.

My mother smiles suddenly. Her beautiful face, lights up.

” What do you think?” she asks in return.

”  You tell me that I am your grand father. Am I also your mother?” I grin openly.

” Maybe , she lives in your heart, whenever you ask her to come in,” says my mother mysteriously.

Sarada, Goddess of Learning, Giving, Kindness…..do visit my heart more often.

I have your sudden temper, my grandfather’s obstinacy, go-to-hell stubbornness. All the vices, than the sweet niceties.

There can be too much darkness inside this abode at times.

Make it your Mandiram- your temple.

Let me see you, please.

****