Back to the Village | A present from a benevolent past

One of the beautiful effects of independent living is that it allows you to feel an unconditional love for your past and those you earlier took for granted — elders, for example, be they adoptive or parental.

January 09, 2019 06:09 pm | Updated January 18, 2019 03:52 pm IST

Our ancestors, living or otherwise, have bequeathed us more than we can repay them for, except with our eternal gratitude and extreme love.

Our ancestors, living or otherwise, have bequeathed us more than we can repay them for, except with our eternal gratitude and extreme love.

This is a blog post from

Dear Amma and Appa,

You are the world’s BEST PARENTS ever. And it’s not just my biased claim. Everyone here agrees. “Maya! Your parents are so sweet! Lucky girl!” was all I heard the day your gigantic parcel arrived.

 

When I first saw Muthu ride through the gate with a big, brown carton delicately balanced in front of him on the motorbike, I assumed it was an official delivery. I went to help him with it and that’s when my eyes fell on the slender kolam designs that covered the entire box like a slim shawl.

 

Muthu looked at me.

I grinned.

He grinned back.

 

We rushed into the store room, shut the door behind us, tore the cellotape with a conveniently available foldable-knife from Muthu’s pocket, and let our eyes feast upon the feast that lay within the carton. For 5 seconds.

Then, we attacked.

 

Ah! Appa! You spoil me. A big, big thank you hug to the WORLD’S AMAZING-EST PARENTS for...

 

• the two XL boxes of kaju katli

• the 6 packets of Amma-made idli podi

• the 2 glass jars of mango and tomato pickle.

• the misleading cloth bag full of Herscheys and Toblerones.

• the 10 tins of special tuna for Shushi

• the mini speakers (how did you guess that I needed it?)

• the classic rough-and-tough black umbrella (this also you guessed!)

 

... and most importantly, for...

 

• the joint six-page letter that had me teary-eyed from start to finish.

 

I miss you both. So so much.

I’m glad you also prefer snail mail to its electronic counterpart.

I’m glad you approve of my choice to denounce smartphones.

I’m glad you have pasted the accompanying drawing on the bathroom door. (But why bathroom?)

I’m glad you are proud of my newly-acquired kitchen skills.

And as requested, I’ll gladly elaborate on the last point.

 

For the past few weeks, I have become the official apprentice to our resident Goddess of Food. Oh you should meet her! She’s a tiny bundle of delight. Really tiny. Just about comes up to my chest. Has a Bugs Bunny smile and a strangely adorable frown. The villagers know her as Vadivamma. Here, she is the PATI.

 

The first time I went into the kitchen, she gave me a suspicious frown. Apparently that’s how she welcomes all newcomers. The next morning, I smiled extra hard and complimented the previous day’s dinner (brinjal sambar and drumstick curry). She smiled. But still suspicious.

 

Then I sauntered into the wash area behind the kitchen, settled down on a stone, picked up a piece of coconut fibre, dipped it in the bowl of ash and began scrubbing vessel number 1 of the 58 vessels piled up in front of me (mini-tumblers, spoons and ladles included).

 

Thirty minutes into the process, I was half-way through, with my white salwar having turned 50 shades of grey.

 

Pati walked up silently. Motioned at me to move aside. Picked up a football-sized steel vessel, its bottom covered in soot. Scrubbed it clean in a record 80 seconds (I counted). Motioned at me to place the already-washed smaller vessels on the rack. Returned to scrubbing vessels larger than footballs. Done! Barely 15 minutes and the wash area was empty, even the excess water had been swept into the drain.

 

That’s when she finally smiled with a nod of approval. I smiled, bowed, and walked towards the water tank. The sooner the salwar was cleaned, the better its chances of returning to its original colour.

 

It was at lunch that Pati and I finally spoke proper-proper. She’d overheard me asking Muthu about the medicinal properties of some of the herbs in the nursery.

 

“Oh! Nee Tamil ponnaaa?” Pati exclaimed, her mouth open wide enough to welcome a dozen bumblebees.

 

Muthu and I burst out laughing, simultaneously spattering the tamarind rice from our respective mouths.

 

Like everyone else on this planet, Pati also assumed that I was from a strange land. Amma, Appa, I sometimes wonder if I I’m adopted. I look nothing like the both of you. Yes, we share a common passion for fart jokes and Bhojpuri music videos but that’s not strong enough evidence. Please tell me the truth. I promise not to go looking for my birth parents. You guys are the best. Just that it’ll be good to know the truth. (Wait! Wait! Wait! Are you extra good to me because I’m adopted and you’re worried that I’ll go away if you are old-fashioned and mean like the rest of the parents in the world? OooooO. Conspiracy theories abound.)

 

Anyhow. Back to Pati. She drops jaw. We spatter tamarind rice. Muthu explains my ancestry. Pati rolls in embarrassed laughter. We hug, kiss and make plans to buy sugar and oil for a special welcome snack of innipu vadais. That’s medhu vadais dipped in sugar syrup. It has officially replaced kaju katli as my favourite-est sweet ever. Pati’s promised to make a batch for when I come to visit you. She knows all about your midnight sweet tooth indulgences, Appa.

 

Over the next few weeks, she trained me on the most optimal way of washing vessels and the best position to sit in while cutting vegetables. She revealed her secret hiding place for the ‘good knives’. (Missing knives are her biggest worry in the world.) She taught me how to select vegetables, how to clean pumpkins and handle bottle gourds. She showed me how to use the old-style cutting board (the one with the knife attached the to the piece of wood). And a dozen other things in the kitchen handbook. (Great idea for a book, no? Too many recipe book out in the market. This one will be special.)

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However, the biggest lesson she’s imparted so far is on how to light a fire. I now have immense respect for Mr. Early Man. It took me 10 attempts before I finally manufactured an apology for a fire. That too with the advantage of matchsticks. Imagine! All HE had were two flint stones!

 

So that’s that, dear parents (birth or otherwise). Now to feast on the last of my secret stash of Toblerones.

 

Give each other hugs and kisses from me. Extra-scratch Yellow’s neck and grab the many flying kisses I’m blowing your way.

 

Yours with extreme love and eternal thanks,

Maya

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