Bitter and Sweet Memories
I am sorry I threw out a pack of kariapak. I didn’t realize I’d shoved one at the bottom of the veggie drawer in the fridge and bought another and used it. So when I was busy cleaning up the drawer to accommodate new purchases, I was mortified to see this sad little bag withering away. Sigh. I now know that I can dry them and use them as fresh, thanks to Tanu.
This morning, as we had coffee, I had this sudden memory of a time during my 5th std when we were in Madras. I was recalling to Vidur how we had a post office right next door and how I was never encouraged to go mix with the kids there. They spoke such funny Tamizh and called me Vadiya. I still hear their lispy baby voices – they were about 6 and 8 – and they’d say “Vadiya, nammalam vallalam”, inviting me to play with them. I used to be fascinated with the post office’s workings when I managed to sneak in there. The smelly gum, the noise of the rubber stamps and the general chatter was so interesting.
On the other side, we had Hema, Meena’s aunt. We were not encouraged to mix with them, either. After all, Hema’s aunt was an actor! Who knew that Meena would become a well-known star at the time! What is funny is, eventually you were requested to tutor Hema who was not so good with her school work. I remember you mentioning they were kind to you, which is more than I can say for our “family” and for that I am grateful.
I have memories of going with Hema to school sometimes. She was in the 8th and I was in the 5th. She had a couple of male friends that no one approved of. Naturally! On Sundays, we would sometimes dry jackfruit seeds on the bonnet of their black ambassador car and peel them and eat them. Never liked that taste! In fact, this whole post was triggered by jackfruit from our garden sitting in our fridge right now, thoughtfully in an airtight box!
Then there was Madhavi opposite our house. I enjoyed visiting them and playing in the backyard with our makeshift toys. Her mom and dad were kind people and always gave me something to eat, which was a blessing, and you know why. Sometimes I can’t get over not having enough to eat, you know. You managed somehow on fresh air, strengthened by your pride, but as an 8-year old, it wasn’t easy for me.
I can never forget that day when I came home from school to find the house locked. They hadn’t told the neighbor anything and I didn’t know what to do, except wait outside in suspense. One of the neighbors saw me and kept a little bucket of urad dal to grind, for when the folks returned. Even Madhavi’s family was not around.
I was voraciously hungry and didn’t know what to do. I remember eating some leaves from one of the plants. Then I got adventurous and climbed the compound wall to cut off a coconut. What stupid self-confidence! I only managed to tear it off the tree with the aruval – but did not succeed in opening it up, dashing my dreams of eating the coconut into space. I was so tired from the effort and in tears when you returned home around 7-ish after your second shift at Blue Star Convent.
I wonder what you thought when you saw me with my face all streaked with dirt and looking miserable. But I do remember you immediately took me to the shop nearby and bought me some biscuits. Glucose biscuits never tasted so good. No wonder one of my major ambitions in life was to eat an entire glucose biscuit packet – 10 amazing biscuits!
Funny to think of that time now.
And funny how the memories do not hurt any more, because they’ve been replaced with happier ones.