Memories are timeless treasures of the heart. Like all children, midsummer vacation was the extensively celebrated holiday in our school life. It marked the midpoint of the growing season, halfway between planting and harvesting. For children like us, it was a celebration day, with no schooling, no studies, and relief from being admonished and smacked by parents and teachers. It was harvesting time also. To take part in the process of paddy harvesting along with a handful of workers was honestly a mind-blowing experience. To beat the scorching summer, nature took its unique way by offering fruits in abundance. A way to celebrate true happiness in the lap of Mother nature.
I was eagerly waiting for those special days to come. Somehow I got the opportunity to visit and dwell in my maternal ancestral home, where my lovely grandparents reside. The big quadrangular building was positioned in a large compound surrounded by trees and plants. It looked like a small forest housing different types of birds and creatures.
The four-winged house had independent room for each venture. A corner delivery compartment also accommodated menstruating girls and women, and a closed room for dead people where pujas were performed periodically. Another big cabin where the cistern(large chest to keep rice corn) was kept. Its corner portion was exclusively used for protecting seasonal fruits wrapped in vatta leaves for ripening.
The room encompassed the sweet smell of ripe jack fruit, mango, pineapple, guava, and the like. Sometimes we used to take a midday nap over the cistern. A wooden stair led to the deck where big brass vessels, utensils, and other old items stood. Blindfolded by the elders at times we play hide and seek over there.
After lunch, the servant’s room was changed into a conference cum working area assembled by the neighbourhood ladies to beating rice corn, grounding rice, and splitting grams using the touchstone, wooden mortar and pestle, and grinding stones. While doing so they exchanged pleasantries, personal woes, and a little bit of gossiping to ease the endeavour. Such a subtle and generous person like my grandma handles the situation, with love and compassion helping them to get their life under control and solve their problems. Being there and eavesdropping was one of my favourite time passes. Before twilight, we would take a bath and wash our clothes in the nearby Temple pond. There I glanced at some peeping tom’s watchful eyes at the bathing ghat.
Most fruits and cashew nuts transported to the evening market for sale. It was indeed a joyous journey to accompany my grandpa to the trade point. The crowd, the hue, and cry, the exchange of levity with the fellow vendors, the happiness of trading, etc were worth contemplating. I learned a little bit about the techniques of marketing there.
Not far away there lived my Kochamma(my mother’s younger sister) and family. The cosmic homestead was covered with the canopy of fruit-bearing trees. We used to glide over the slanting branches of mango trees and sliced the mango with the hidden knife and, ate it comfortably sitting there. Occasionally, we plucked cashew nuts and roasted them by bringing about fire using the fallen leaves, relishing the cracked hot nuts under the silhouette of the big tree.
I loved my Kochamma dearly. Her poor academic background didn’t stand a chance in front of her mastery in reading cinema and affiliated subjects. A treasure house of cinema stories, which she narrated like real-life sagas, I was always eager to hear her narration. She had a decent collection of cinema notice and cinema song books I adored going over and over. Rarely did she take me to the nearest cinema theatre to watch the black and white movies prominent in that period.
The cuisines she prepared were appetising to my taste buds, especially the whole salted raw mango pickle adding kanthari chilly which was made and preserved in the previous season and kept in the big clay jar. Its smell and flavour were unique, the salt n sour and chilli taste refused to depart from my mouth to date. (to be continued)