Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Kerala of my Childhood

Having been born in Calcutta (Kolkotta of today) and having spent most of my school life in Allahabad, we would come down to Kerala for our holidays once in 2 years.

The heat while traversing the length of India in a train was unbearable. We had a long wait at Itarsi where our compartment from Allahabad would be attached to the train going to Madras (was it the GT?? I can't remember).

I remember though that my dad used to dip the 'thorthus' in water and hang it on our coupe windows to cool down a little bit. We used to stock up on thorthus for the 2 years during our trip and the last function they performed was to cool the interior of the coupe after which we would throw them away and stock up on new ones!

From Madras, my dad would hire a taxi and we would travel to Kerala via Salem, Coimbatore, Palgat Nilambur (which is where my mum is from), Calicut, Trichur with a detour to Guruvayoor finally ending up at Adoor where my paternal grand mother lived.

All the way we lived with relatives for a day or two, my parents catching up with all the news but me feeling very out of place and awkward. The only languages I was comfortable with were English and Hindi and my Malayalam was very hesitant. I still have trouble with some of the words (nammal and njangal to name 2).

I loved Nilambur though, if only because of the books that were there and plenty of corners in which to curl up and read. In some houses, especially during my earlier visits, evening would fall and the randhal had to be lit. That would be the end of that day's reading. I guess I was not a very popular guest with the kids.. (doesn't know Malayalam properly and not joining in the games!! What Jaada, in today's language).

Adoor was fun. A huge house filled with lots of cousins who were army brats and more or less in the same position as I was though I think they were more adaptable due to their constant uprooting. There was an unavoidable trip to Mavelikkara and Trivandrum to visit more relatives.

There were so many things so different from our northy life. The rain, the likes of which were rarely seen in the north, that started at the beginning of our holidays. The outside loos which scared the hell out of me (what if we fell down one?). The sight of the lush green paddy fields. The trips to the rubber thotam with my grandmother at Adoor and the smoky curing room. The smell of bananas hung up to ripen in the kitchen. The women bent over at the waist, wiping the floors of the house twice a day. The sound of the pounding of rice for puttu and kadala in the morning.

Fed on banana chips, chakka and poola (kappa here) chips and chakka varatiyathu and mangoes and so many of these goodies which we saw only when we came to Kerala ... unless some hardy relative decided to visit us at Allahabad and brought us these in little plastic packets and then wrapped in the Malayala Manorama/Mathrubhumi depending on which end of Kerala they came from.

Of course it was fun in parts, but mostly I think I was glad to go back to my undisturbed existence where a book or two was all I wanted and the only contact we had with Kerala was when someone wrote a letter and the daily songs broadcast on radio from 3-4pm (15 minutes in each of the south Indian languages). My mother would switch on the radio at 2.30 and woe betide anyone who had the temerity to change the station!! (not that there were that many to choose from.)

Memories of childhood and early teen years.. relived every 2 years and remembered with affection now -- though at that time the feelings were more ambiguous.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Finally gathered up my courage and decided to start this blog. One of my new year resolutions taken care of!! I've been fairly pushed into this by family and friends (now I wonder whether the description of those worthies changes to FOES). I'm still quite unsure of the rules of the game.. guess I shall have to learn as I go along. If anyone reading this comes across some horrrible faux pas I've committed, please do let me know.

I've been sneakily reading the posts of a few people for sometime now - Paresh Palicha, Thanu ,Dr Hari and Silverine to name a few and finally, daybefore yesterday I posted a comment on Thanus under anonymous (still debating, see!) and hey! she responded to it. Wow!That gave me some courage..

Now I shall have to get down to the second resolution on my list... to lose weight. I shall not mention how much just yet, let me just say its a lot.

I just saw the preview of this, and it looks pitifully small. I shall not loose heart, I shall go ahead any way. Like they say, a step at a time!!!!!