mom of all trades

mom of all trades

Listed among the best Indian blogs by mommies

Friday, April 17, 2015

Twinned for life

I don’t have the faintest recollection of ‘meeting’ the twins; just like I don’t remember ‘meeting’ my sister or cousins. They were always there, an integral part of my growing up years.

They were my first friends, I suspect my sister’s too.  We lived in two separate countries, in a time, where video calling and whatsapp might pass off as a science fiction movie. They came each year, when the fat bellied dark monsoon clouds gathered in the skies and the land was covered in a lush shade of green that is at once startling and calming, a shade of green that is unique to Kerala.

The twins and us
We have spent countless happy hours talking, playing or watching movies together. My favorite game was the one we played with their amazing collection of dolls. I always chose Jane, who in my eyes was the most beautiful doll, ever made. Her long silky ebony black hair combined with her emerald green eyes gave her a mysterious, exotic beauty that left me mesmerized. The dolls came with a wardrobe collection, which looked straight out of a high end Parisian boutique.
 Then came the miniature furniture; the little kitchenette, with its brightly colored cooking range, crockery unit with an inbuilt plate rack with tiny yellow plates, the color of egg yolks. I loved setting the table which was shaped like four pizza wedges, which could be put together to form a circle with inbuilt grooves for plates and cutlery.

In my mind the twins have always been a singular entity, like a coin with two sides. It was always, “Let’s go to Susan-Sandra’s house” or “Did Susan-Sandra call? It was in conceivable to think of one without the other. Their beautiful family was generous to a fault, letting us into their lives so that we felt like one of the family. We loved the sleep over sessions, where we would stay up late into the night, snug under a warm comforter gossiping and giggling. Then there would be make over sessions, where we would smuggle cosmetics from their sisters' room (they have two beautiful sisters, who we were in awe of) and preen at ourselves in the mirror, our faces slathered generously with all available items of makeup.

We would then sleep late into the day and tumble out into the kitchen, where the twins would make us breakfast. My sister and I watched in wonder, as they deftly cracked up eggs and mixed it with milk and sugar and dipped thick slices of bread into this mixture, which looked like liquid sunshine.

 I can still picture Susan by the stove, flipping over the French toast sizzling in a glob of butter, filling the kitchen with its mouth watering aroma and Sandra laughing at something we said, pouring out chilled orange juice into tall glasses.

Now although we are scattered all over the globe, the memory of those  beautiful monsoon days filled with laughter and the innocence of youth, scented with fragrance of friendship, binds us together.
We are twinned* for life.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Where are you, Shyamala amma?

I haven’t seen her in quite a while; my mother. My sister and I call her Shyamala amma; calling her plain amma did not seem to do her justice. You cannot miss my Shyamala amma in a crowd; she is strikingly beautiful with her long ebony black hair which she always wears in a thick plait, creamy porcelain like cheeks, which feels like butter when I press my cheek to hers, a single solitaire diamond nose stud, glinting in the sun.

She bakes the most delicious cakes, soft and ‘melt in your mouth’, even when there is no occasion to celebrate. She loves to doll us up in pretty clothes and surround us with books and stories, so that it becomes a vital part of our daily lives. She laughs a lot, my Shyamala amma, a delicate tinkling laughter that reaches all the way to her eyes and assures us that all is well in our little world.

The lady in my family home is her, my logic assures me. But Shyamala amma would never sit still for a minute, and she would never have greys in her hair, argues my heart. I love this lady fiercely, but I’m always searching for traces of my Shyamala amma in her. I expect her to bake for me and am puzzled when she says she is tired. I want her to call me every day and ask me if I have had breakfast. I don’t want her beauty to be veiled, like a mirror foggy with steam.

I love this lady in a whole different way; I understand her ways, and her emotions better now. I know she doesn’t skip a step and dash upstairs, but stops at the landing to catch her breath. I notice how things seem to slip from her memory and her laughter is punctuated with deep lines on her face.

 I imagine her at my age; her dreams and her fears.  I look into the mirror and see my Shyamala amma smiling back at me, a single diamond solitaire glinting in the sun. 

I know then, that I had been looking for her  in all the wrong places. 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Happy birthday(s) to you!

Growing up, I always assumed that everyone had two birthdays; a legitimate date of birth (cake cutting) birthday and a nakshatram* (payasam drinking) birthday, with questionable levels of legitimacy. In my part of the world, stars are a force to reckon with. They make their glittering presence felt in almost everything; from choosing your ideal life partner to deciding the date of your ‘other birthday’.
You could walk into my home on my ‘nakshatram’ birthday and you would see amma, my mother, waking me up, holding a gilded framed photo of a cherubic infant Lord Krishna, blissfully gobbling up, butter from a pot, for me to look at, as soon as I open my eyes. I loved circling my arms around amma’s slender waist as she towel dried my hair. She always rubbed in a pinch of the woody cinnamon colored ‘rasnadi choornam’*, on my scalp, with a whiff of the warm nutty fragrance to be inhaled in, for good measure.
Ammumma serving the birthday boy.

You would see the whole house hold buzzing with activity by noon, for the all important birthday sadya or lunch.

You would see ammumma,my maternal grandmother in the puja room, lighting a tiny silver lamp filled with ghee,  laying out a small banana leaf, the colour of a parrot’s breast with a small serving each of all the dishes prepared; an offering to the gods.

The birthday sadhya
 The 'sadhya'(feast) itself would be customized to include my favorite dishes. There would be rice of course, steaming hot with just the right amount of bite, which amma would douse with warmed up ghee. Sambar, the omnipresent lentil and vegetable stew, avial, a medley of crisp vegetables in a tangy coconut based gravy, redolent of coconut oil.
 Dessert would always be my favorite, semiya payasam or kheer, which consisted of vermicelli boiled in cardamom flavored milk, till it swells up soaking in all the milky goodness, sweetened to perfection and adorned with plump golden raisins and cashew nuts fried in ghee.

You would see no decorations or a profusion of gifts no return gifts or fancy catered food, on this “other birthday”; but it made me feel loved and cherished, a feeling of comforting familiarity much like slipping into your worn out pyjamas after taking out your fancy party clothes. It gave me a sense of contentment, which the original legitimate birthday, with its party and gifts, failed to evoke.

May be it’s the virtue in our stars.

*Rasnadi choornam: