Blogging Challenge – Day 7
A couple of weeks after Amma (my mother-in-law) passed away in February this year, Bala asked me why I was not writing a piece on her like I did for Appa (my father-in-law) in 2015.
It’s not that I did not have anything to share about her. Twenty years of being a (daughter)-in-law in the Ayakkad family came with a lot of memories. There was so much to write, and I didn’t know where to begin.
Last evening, my colleague Dipti was dropping me home and we got talking about the largeheartedness of the generations before us. In an instant, the first person who came to my mind was Amma. Largehearted defined her, wholly and completely.
As I sit before my laptop screen and try to put together some sort of a tribute, I realise Amma does not need one. After her passing away, the number of Ayakkadians who came to visit us said it all. One remembered the number of times Susheela maami (as she was known) made sure he had food at home, another remembered her leading the band of women who made murukkus and laddoos for a village wedding, her enviable collection of traditional recipes (she didn’t have to repeat a dish for three weeks) and yet another for her nuggets of wisdom.
While Amma was conservative and superstitious about certain things, she was very open-minded about a lot of others. She never commented on my “short hair”, or sense of dressing but was rather pleased that I never hesitated to wear a saree when the occasion demanded it.
As the first home in the village, anyone who visited the temple dropped in at ours. Relatives, friends or old-timers, Amma made sure they had a quick meal, and in olden days, some of them even stayed over for a few days. If I learned how to welcome guests in the wee hours, do jugaad and stretch a sambhar with some modifications or whip up a simple upma at midnight, I learned it all from her.
At a time, when in-laws were put on a pedestal because they are “sammandhis”, the bond between my family and my in-laws was often envied. Whenever Amma and Appa made a trip to Cochin, I would joke that they packed half the house into the car. Amma would pluck fresh sambhar keerai from the backyard, pack buttermilk and milk (because we got milk in packets in the city), make special sweets and would never forget to buy halwa from Lakshmi Bakery for my kid brother, Karthik. Once they were in Cochin, Amma would take over the kitchen for a few days because my father loved her cooking.
Her food came with a lot of stories…. how certain vegetables were preserved for the monsoons when fresh vegetables would be scarce, how every part of vegetables could be used to make more delicacies (for example, the nendran stem was made into thoran, the pulp of the pumpkins into thuvaiyals, etc). She and Appa diligently plucked the manaithikalis growing in the front yard, and pickled them along with fat chillies in curd. The nellikas (gooseberries) would be made into pickles or drowned in salt water. Every waking moment was spent in doing something fruitful. Her cooking was to die for… and the variety mind-boggling. Amrit insists that no one can make better sambhar, rasakalan or chutney podi (that the children lovingly called paati podi) like his Ayakkad paati.
She faced a lot of struggles in her lifetime, but took them in her stride and showered all her love on her five children. She was warm, friendly, disciplined and a woman of the world.
Alambalam Narayanan Parvathy (fondly known as Susheela maami), your love lives on!