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Breathing Memories

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Breathing Memories

Post by runashajeev on Tue Jul 05 2011, 14:50

BREATHING MEMORIES

Have you ever noticed how it feels like after having read poetry. You sort of find it tough to read a piece of text, like a prose, immediately after. The hangover of the poem makes you read the text like a poem, in a rhythmic and sing song manner. It is not to state that a text cannot be read like a poem. This is not my argument at all. I am concerned with something entirely different.

I started wondering about the after effect of things that linger on to you long after the act has ended. Like the extraordinary effect of a film or a moving effect of a powerful piece of art or music or all such sort of things. Every time I finish reading a good book I end up feeling like, or reacting like one of the characters in the work. And I know this feeling is universal.

This thought came to my mind as I was passing by a row of chawls near by my college. Every time I passed through these houses, the smell of burning firewood would flood my mind with chlildhood memories of times spent during vacations in my native place at Kerala. Every morning the children of the house would wake up to the delicious smells emanating from my grandma’s kitchen. We had a separate kitchen during those days thatched with coconut palm fronds. Every one would huddle around the long bench and desk (not a dining table) to wait for the freshly steamed puttu ( steamed rice cakes) and kadala (chickpea curry ) or idiappam (rice noodles)and stew or simply rice kanji (gruel ) with pappadam or onion chutney. The family of around 20 ate in the kitchen, starting with the kids, men and the women in the end. Every meal, breakfast, lunch and dinner was cooked and eaten up immediately with boisterous energy and amusement. In Kerala houses of relatives are so near by that relatives would pour in day and night and they too would be fed incessantly and happily.

Now that I have a family(though only of four) and a kitchen of my own I wonder how things were done so neatly with no one ever going hungry and food prepared ever so effortlessly. Even rare visits of friends and relatives would send me scurrying for want of good food and recipes to be served.

Every morning we would wake up to the sound of M.S. Subalaxmi’s recital of the Suprabhatam and the munching noise of grandpa having his breakfast. He would cajole us with the tasty breakfast and also scold us girls for having overslept. Grandma woke up in the wee hours and like my mother used to say, no one had ever seen her going for a bath because she would have had one long before every one woke up. . In my memory she would always be busy feeding every one and working in the kitchen up till very late into the night. She had 9 children, 4 girls and 5 boys. All of whom stayed with their cousins both maternal and paternal, together under one roof.

The first thing we indulged in on reaching our native house would be rushing to the pond near our house for a swim ( if you can call that) though not knowing how to. Dad often warned us with stories of city bred children drowning. Of course this did not stop us from venturing into the pond. Me and my sister would stand gaping in awe at the dexterity with which our cousins jumped from the heights into the pool and splashed us with the damp. Seeing fish swim by we would hold our towels in an effort to catch the tiny fish that would swim into them. Some we would carry in bottles and keep them as trophies for a few days till eventually when they would float one by one and stank.

Morning hours were also very special for some thing we could never find in the city, fresh dew sticking like gel on the blades of grass. We were told that applying these in the eye would give clear sight. Some we held on to our tongue and licked till they melted away. Once when I and some cousins were returning from such an adventure were caught unaware with a cow charging from the opposite direction. I lost all my sanity and rushed into tall cacti growing near the fields and was bleeding all over. The rest of them escaped through the fields and were bursting with laughter upon seeing my predicament. I remember mother taking strains trying to pull out some of the thistles that had stuck to my hair and clothes. Till today I dread going near the cattle. .

Fishing in the dried out pond was another of our favourite pass times. We would collect around with fishing traps and other paraphernalia. Strangely enough the crows in the countryside behaved in a rather urban manner. Being brought up in the city we were unaware of the cunning manner in which the crows snatched the fish after they were put in our earthen vessels. Grownups would laugh at our indiscretion.

Another lovely game that we played was building ‘unnipera’ (loosely translated as kids’house). We would be helped by the elder cousins to collect palm fronds, bamboo sticks and some mats. These sticks would be dug into the loose sand and roof thatched with the palm fronds. The mats were laid out inside and we played in our ‘house’. Bricks were placed outside for cooking. We collected vegetables, rice and dal and the elderly cousins would help us cook. I remember eating the half cooked rice and curry and relishing it like never before.

Swinging from mango and guava trees was another play we loved. We hung swings from mango trees and played till our palms ached by holding on to the ropes too tightly. I remember screaming at the top of my voice when we were pushed too fast. Grandpa would scold the rest for tormenting us city bred kids.

Gorging on the ripe mangoes, guavas and jackfruit brought by the neighbours and people around us, we wondered how they could throw away delicious ripe fruits. We found them lying around everywhere pecked at by birds and squirrels. This seems more outrageous now that we spend thousands on buying such fruits from the markets.

Grandpa who was very old would be busy taking care of the hen and goats. Every time I see dried cashew leaves I recollect the pains grandpa would take to collect the leaves to be fed to the goats. Since he couldn’t bend to pick up every leaf, he would sharpen a twig and pierce them through the dry leaves, standing up. Thus, collecting a stack of leaves which then he would pull out and feed the goats. Every morning he would invite me to get the freshly laid warm egg after carefully pushing the hen away. Then he would ask us to eat the raw eggs, a healthy practice, which I would flatly refuse making him laugh heartily.

Today my grandparents are no more. The children have shifted from Kerala to many other places. The modern gas kitchen has given way to the makeshift kitchen. I grieve over my kids’ misfortune of not having a childhood like this. I long to go back and have those days back. This happens every time I smell smouldering fire wood.


runashajeev

Posts : 3
Join date : 2011-07-05

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Re: Breathing Memories

Post by flouna on Thu Jul 14 2011, 22:16

Hello,
I really like what you've written, it took me 10 years back !! Was it so sweet at that time? or we're not children anymore?!! I really miss my childhood, it was special, or maybe I think it was so!!

flouna

Posts : 135
Join date : 2011-02-03

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Re: Breathing Memories

Post by runashajeev on Fri Jul 15 2011, 13:16

Thanx Flouna. Yes it was really sweet and innocent. No wonder they are called good old days !

runashajeev

Posts : 3
Join date : 2011-07-05

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Re: Breathing Memories

Post by flouna on Fri Jul 15 2011, 21:57

Innocence, spontaneousness, infnite dreams, laughter and craziness are just missed nowdays!!
I miss when we were all living in one huge house, with my uncles and their sons! The big noise we were making with all of our cousins! wars, games, and fighting all the time !!
I miss playing football with my cousins and sons of the neighbourhood! playing till falling apart, ending it with a fight! Being punished by our parents! And, friends again the morning after !!!
I miss making trips, where?! 10 meters away from our houses ! We look for a green space, bring our food, and keep telling lies to each other! they were like our secret adventures !!
I miss summer days, when going to "kutab", it was like a tradition for all the neighbourhood, learning two verses and chit chatting two hours!!!
The most thing I miss is summer nights, when listening to granpa stories! Those stories don't have the same taste they have now! I tell my littel brothers about them, but I can't enjoy them like I did at the time !!
Now, we're not living in the same house anymore! we've been separated long ago!! No more playing with the cousins and the neighbours, no fighting, no trips, no inventions! Nothing sweet like these things!
And the most hurting thing, no more granpa and granpa's stories!
If only we'll have the past back!

flouna

Posts : 135
Join date : 2011-02-03

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Re: Breathing Memories

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