As Benny Chetan, my cousin, drives us to the scores of relatives from my side of the family, living in and around Pala, looking at the rubber plantations on either sides of the serpentine roads, I feel a lump in my throat. The more I clear my throat in an effort to get rid of it, the bigger I sense it grow. It has been seven years since my last visit. Pretty long for a life that has seen only 3 decades. Yet, not long enough.
As I feel the wind whistling and hear the cicadas call, memories of 7 years back, 10 years back, 20 and 30, flood my mind. Seems like yesterday when my sisters and I, carried our flimsy thorthu and walked bear foot to the near by thoodu, for a bath and and fun fishing. Yesterday, as Amma balled large grains of boiled rice with nai and onaka-meen and tossed them into my 3 year old mouth, that reluctantly opened as wide as her eyes did at my slightest refusal to eat. Yesterday, when Chachan and Amachi married me off from the tharavad, with kisses and blessings to a nice boy from Delhi. Kerala, sure does bring about mixed feelings within me. I’m still not sure what tugs the chord. Is it the thick family ties? Or is it the exhilarating smell of the rich soil and brassy green around me?
We arrived yesterday at Poovarani, my dad’s home. It is Roy’s first visit here. This trip was long over due. Traditionally, we were supposed to do this 7 years back as the manavati and manavalan. Then, circumstances and Roys work commitments had us flying back to SFO the very next day of our wedding, much to the disappointment and score keeping of my extended family all over the terrains of Pala. I’m glad now, though 7 years late and 3 year old Nish on the side, we are here. I had been waiting desperately all these years to show Roy this major part of my past in the people and the land around here.
He was slightly taken aback when we first stepped in though. Wasn’t prepared I guess, for the overly dramatic hugs, sloppy kisses and tears. But, when all the hullabaloo of the initial meeting had died down and we had settled in, and when one of the the maids in the scullery enquired about my mishap with the hair, he realized just how deep rooted my attachment and belonging to this place was. He understood why I could spend hours over the phone with these people thousands of miles away from me, discussing family politics and drama of every day life. People who had not seen me in years, still knew why my hair looked freaky and what Nish’s favorite food was.Though popularly denied, for us it does feel like blood is thicker than water.
Like most other South Indians, Keralites too, eat a minimum of 5 good meals a day, and the lavish evening kaapi is one of them. To help Roy build up an appetite ( or to burn up the millions of calories he had devoured just a couple of hours before) [read more]
The smaller the fish the tastier they come. Don’t ask me the hows and whys. It is just my personal opinion and I think I couldn’t be more right .
The smaller fishes are a popular sell in Kerala too. Now and even as a child, I could eat just about anything with these! [read more]
Kanni Manga / Pickled Tender Mangoes