Monthly Archives: August 2012

The Jasmine Vine and Indian Night Queen – Need a Trim

Update for week ended 24 August 2012

Shekhar had returned from college and climbed the stairs with expectation. He had the keys to the terrace flat, but rarely used it during the day. Usually, his mother would have opened the door the moment she heard his 100cc motor-bike driving into the building compound. When he reached the third floor, he reached out to the door to push it open, but met with resistance. His mother was not there. She had left them a while ago and he fished out the keys from his pocket and fidgeted with the lock. He was angry and in the clumsy moment, got his thumb pinched in the lock. Reflexively, he pulled back his thumb and shook his hand violently, howling. He used his other hand to open the door and headed to the kitchen sink. He let his thumb soak in under the sink tap. If his mother was there, he wouldn’t have had to deal with this problem. The open door would not have caused the injury and he would walked in to a fresh piping hot cup of tea and some crunchy snacks. And they would have taken the eats and the mugs of tea to the open terrace to soak in the fresh smells of the flowering vines and bushes. His mother loved the green vines with their fragrant flowers, and on wet monsoon nights, the moist air held onto the scents for longer, turning the terrace into a fragrance sprayed open heaven, with grey or purple clouds looming overhead, and if they got closer, the refraction caused them to look red. And Shekhar did not know whether it would rain tonight and he did not care. He was bitter that his mother had packed her bags and left, there was no reason or discussions. He walked out to the terrace with his tea-bag tea and looked at the slightly overgrown jasmine vine. He had to trim it today, and the Indian Night-queen was also attracting more mosquitoes than bees with its thick undergrowth. The terrace floor was also slippery as the stagnant puddles had to led to algae growth. Shekhar had a lot of work to do, but all he wanted to do was call his mother and talk to her.

The D Boyz started their ascent pretty early in the week, as they raced upstairs in expectation of good tidings this week. The rains seemed to have caught up and as they took the SENSEX up on Tuesday, but some fumbling on Wednesday caused some injured thumbs and a slight loss that day. And then the story sunk in, as the problems within the country affected the way international investors felt about their famous D Street, and as they examined their green garden, they knew that it had overgrown and needed some trimming and pruning. A week that started high finally settled slightly lower at 17783.

Shekhar called and the phone was answered by the answering machine. He did not want to say anything, so he held on for a moment and then hung up. Smita was right beside the phone and had recognized the caller. She also knew that it would be Shekhar, her favourite middle son. He was anxious and she should have picked up the phone and talked to him. But what if it was Madhav? She would not talk to him, though they were officially still man and wife. She wanted to tell Shekhar why she left without a word and how she found courage to do it. Madhav’s torments and high-handedness was intolerable and insufferable. For him, Smita was the mother of his three strapping lads. None of his two brothers had sons, and he had three. She made fantastic food and kept a good house, unlike his sisters-in-law, one of whom ran a small business and the other was busy with the local Mahila Mandal (Women’s club). Smita was the perfect wife that he celebrated, but never let her. Ron was out for the weekend on a business trip and she reckoned she had about an hour before Madhav would usually return home from work. She picked up the phone and dialed 0011 – 91 – 20 – ……..

So what were you expectations this weekend? Did they go well? Do write in…

Have a nice weekend and a great week ahead. Cheers…..

p.s. in case you want to refresh yourself with why Shekhar liked his tea on the terrace on who Ron was – or why Smita was sad in a far away land, read



The Footprints “Kolam”

Update for week ended 10 August 2012

Parukutty Amma had more basil and ixora to pluck and pick today. As she walked into the basil grove, her ankles brushed the plants, and she bent down to pluck the leaves. She knew which to pick and which to leave behind as there were 2 varieties in her garden, the lighter green leaves and the darker bluish tints. The former was milder in its fragrance and flavour (when chewed) and akin to the Lord Rama of Indian mythology, while the bluer tinted basil was sharper and more pungent in smell and flavour and  referred to Krishnar Tulasi by her – akin to the naughty and perky Krishna, the Lord with a flute. Tonight, Parukutty Amma was also invited to visit her neighbor for a special occasion, so she had to make a longer garland, so that she could cut the longer one for the usual temple visit, and the shorter one for the papier mache idol at Paahi Mami’s home. She ran short of the ixora flowers and so she compensated it with more of the leaves, the bluish tinted Krishnar Tulasi. After her temple visit, she hobbled out of the temple gates and headed back to her lane, but the murram road or path was slushy due to the monsoons, and she had to walk by the sides where the laterite lined walls supported as she walked. That was when a little hand slipped into hers and in his sweet sing song voice called out – “Ammamma, here I am!” “Is that you, Unni?” she asked. And her face lit up with a grin that exposed her slightly blackened teeth. “Come along to Paahi Maami’s house, and you will get nice treats to eat”, she urged him on. And as they reached the modest house of Paahi Maami, the Tamil Brahmin neighbor, Unni pulled his hand back and ran. “Careful careful, Unni,” she cried out, “you will fall if you run so fast”. As she entered the house, Lalita (Paahi Mami’s daughter greeted her, “have you come on your own? How did you manage in the dark?” Parukutty Amma laughed out, “what is darkness to a blind old woman, who has never seen light, so how does it matter?” Lalita apologetically bit her tongue and held Amma’s hand to let her into the large room, where the Krishna Idol was the centre of attraction. Parukutty amma’s feet felt the wet floor, and exclaimed, “Oh, so the little Unni has come in”, as she stepped over the freshly laid Kolam, decorativefloor prints made of rice flour and water. This one depicted little footsteps of a child walking clumsily into the house. The Idol at the centre was adorned in tinsel garlands, and lamps on either side of it gave it a glow. The treats were also spread out in front, mostly fried eats – like the cheedai, (fried crispy rice balls), murukku (deftly twisted crispy swirls of rice and lentil flour), nei-appams (sweet soft rice and jaggery balls fried in ghee) and the only non- fried avil (sweetened flaked rice). Paahi Mamibrought out the payasam, Rice and milk pudding, and laid it in front as well. She took the little garland of the green basil and red ixora from Parukutty Amma’s brass basket and adorned it onto the idol. Everyone praised the deft knotting of the perfectly symmetrical garland, and were happy that it had lots of green basil and just that hint of red ixora to make it look attractive.

The D street denizens, the D Boyz were also busy preparing for the Krishna Festival and they too enjoyed picking up greens along the week – as the SENSEX also reflected the colour. There were some red flowers that they picked, just to balance off the green, but not enough to crowd the green out. So the SENSEX did reflect some reds during the week as it ended 17557 – up from last week’s  17167. Overall, a joyous week for the Boyz as they also celebrated the festival of the human pyramid and breaking pots of milk strung high.

And then after Parukutty Amma settled down, they egged her on to sing her popular song, “Krishna Krishna Mukunda Janardhana, Krishna Govinda Narayana Hari”…. And she went into a trance like state as she sang, and little Unni looked on from outside the room, and as everyone shut their eyes in devotion singing along, he quietly sneaked in and picked up a few treats into his little palms and stuffed them into his mouth, and carried out quite   few as well. And as the song concluded, Paahi Mami lit the camphor on a brass plate to offer it to the Lord, and was surprised at some spilled payasam, and a few nei-appams rolled out of the plate. She looked around for the errant cat or Lord forbid, rat, but saw none. She also saw that the spilled payasam had been stepped upon and there were little footsteps that led out. The footsteps looked just like the ones she had made in her Kolam….. she was perplexed, but continued. At the end, Parukutty Amma got up to leave and Paahi Mami gave her a large plateful of all the treats. She asked Lalita to help carry it to Parukutty Amma’s house, but Amma resisted. She said, ”Lalita has lots of work here, so let her stay on. I will carry it with me, and Unni can help me get to my house”. That was when Paahi Mami asked, “But where is this Unni? I have not seen him. Let me also give that little Puck some sweet nei-appams.”  Everyone yelled out “Unni! Unni!”, but there was no response. Parukutty Amma shook her head and smiled, “he maybe a naughty fellow, but he is quite shy of you all. Don’t bother, I will take it for him. I am sure to find him”. And she took the extra nei-appams and walked out of the Brahmin house. And as was about to enter her house, a little hand slipped onto the plate that she held and picked up something. Parukutty Amma could not hold that hand as both of hers were occupied – holding the brass basket and the plate. But she knew who it was, “Unni! So here is a special Nei-appam for you – I will call it Unni Appam! Do you like it?” “Yes, Ammamma, it is very tasty, and I loved the payasam as well.” But Parukutty Amma was surprised, as she was not carrying any on her plate? How did he taste it when Paahi Mami had not even seen him or offered any to him?

So how did you celebrate the Krishna Festival? Do let me know.

And have a great weekend and week ahead! Cheers…

The Indian Night Queen and Jasmine Vine

Update for Week ended 3 August 2012

The rains were lashing on the window. The evening looked like dusk. The damp air smelt good, as Smita looked out of the window and up at the storm clouds. The grey clouds were gnarled and churning about – and she felt her cheeks get wet. At first she thought it was the spray from the rain, but then she noticed that the window was shut down. She took in a long breath, pursed her lips and let the tears flow out. The rains always brought out the emotions within her. Her last monsoons were in a far away land – in Poona. She had seen the “first” clouds of the pre-monsoon showers build up from their rooftop home. She had immediately rushed to the kitchen to rustle up a quick snack – some chickpea flour, some seasoning, a few carom seeds, and water. She then quickly sliced onions and potatoes, the vegetables she had in her larder. And set the wok on the gas stove, filling it 1/3 way up with vegetable oil. Her kettle was turned on to boil some water and she hand crushed an inch of ginger to pulp and added it the water. She let the tea leaves boil in it for a while. She looked out of the window and saw Shekhar’s motorbike. She set the kitchen table with 2 mugs and the plateful of the fried snacks she had just prepared and opened the kitchen door that led out to the terrace. On the terrace was her version of a kitchen garden. Pots and pots of plants lined the edge of the terrace. There were the vibrant bougainvillea, pots of rose bushes, lilies and the one closest to her bedroom window were her favourite night queen and the jasmine. There was something mystical about of the evening perfumes that permeated from these vines – and the smells mingled into a cocktail and when it wafted into her room through the wet vetiver screens, the perfume was earthy and yet quite out of this world. The skies had darkened and Smita ran out to quickly gather the tray of potato wafers that she had left out to dry, as well as the glass jars of sweet mango pickle. As she rushed back, she could smell the fresh smell of the rains, the wet earth and also felt a drop or two on her blouse sleeve. The water drops felt so cool and relaxing on the hot and humid day. And then the breeze started blowing, warm in the beginning, but quickly cooling. She sat under the awning outside the kitchen door as Shekhar joined her. He was the middle born and had returned from college. Both mother and son settled down to their cups of tea and hot pakoras as they watched the heavens descend. The cool rains and gusty winds sprayed Smita’s face and she enjoyed it, as she used the end of her saree, Pallav, to wipe her face. Shekhar laughed.

The D Boyz also gazed at the skies and saw the gathering grey clouds. The monsoons were here, and yet the rains were not enough. This week was different, as the Meteorology   office predicted some not good news. But as is the wont, they were always wrong, as the rains descended upon D Street everyday of the week. And this cheered the Boyz quite a bit each day as they cheered their SENSEX up each day. So the week the SENSEX perk up each day from last week’s 16839 to 17167….. There were some skids, as the Boyz walked on the slippery street, but overall, they too welcomed the rains.

But this time around there was no laugh. Her Pallav was in her hand as she wiped her face, not of the rain spray. She bit her lips, blinked a few times, drew in a big breath again, and turned around. And she almost bumped into Ron. He had 2 potted plants in his hands. Ron was at least a foot taller than Smita and quite muscularly built. Yet his voice was soft and caring as he pointed down to the pots, one of which looked like a jasmine vine and the other looked familiar without the flowers. It had a tag around the stem – and Smita gingerly picked it up to read – “Indian Night Queen”. Smita did not say anything, but used her pallav to cover her nose and mouth, as she rushed past Ron towards the kitchen. She poured water into the coffee machine and replaced the cannister of powder, as she turned the machine on. Her memories were not letting go of her!

So what memories do a good monsoon bring to you? Other than the plate of crisp pakoras and hot chai? Or maybe hot, roasted corn on the cob, or walks in the rain with or without the umbrella.

I look forward to the rainy weekend and the week ahead. …..