As the car winds its way through the narrow roads of the quaint little village of Elangoor, sandwiched between layers of verdant greenery, spilling on to the sun dappled streets, my son is enthralled by the sheer beauty of the place. Local tea shops, ‘chaya kadas’, the quintessential countryside social hub, that brew fragrant milky tea and gossip with equal gusto, dot the scenic way. Its glass cases are piled high with artery clogging, soul satisfying, deep fried treats; ‘pazhampori’, banana fritters golden and crisp, spicy ‘bondas’, mashed potato spiced to perfection, batter coated and fried.
Ironically, the first thing I notice is the silence that envelops the place; not the kind that is stifling and weighs you down, but the kind that washes over you and invites you to enjoy the moment. It follows me as we pull into my husband’s ancestral house, to spend a day with his grandmother. ‘Ammumma’ exudes a sense of serenity, an absence of restlessness or agitation; even time seems to glide by her in slow, graceful moments rather than the frenzied, hurried ticking I am accustomed to.
She is a lady of few words, but then, she is one of those people who radiates so much of warmth and positivity that words seems superfluous. Her delight in having us over is apparent in the lunch that she serves us; supervising the cooking herself, so that the ‘naadan chicken roast’ (one of my husband’s favorite dishes) is roasted just so, redolent of coconut oil, crisp curry leaves and toasted bits of coconut and the baby mango pickle, tart, spicy and delicious is taken out of the huge ceramic urns or ‘bharanis’, where they are preserved with a thick layer of oil, especially for the visiting great grandchild.
“I’m a year younger than this house, I’ve lived here all my life” she tells me, mildly amused at my fascination with it. The house, like most old houses where generations of a family have lived their multiple lives under its roof, is full of character. It is filled with unexpected nooks and crannies and echoes of countless laughter, conversation, and memories resonating off of its walls.
She talks to me about her childhood in this house, the mango saplings she planted around the house, of how she loved spending time among trees and plants who are still her friends, of how she has discovered a new passion; collecting exotic recipes. I am humbled and inspired by her enthusiasm and zest for life; the way she has kept her sense of wonder intact. I discover that she has learnt the art of befriending her solitude rather than fearing it or despising it.
As Rumi quoted “Silence is the language of God, all else is poor translation”
I realize then, that she has deciphered the language of God.