Thanks to those readers and my dear friends who wrote in asking where maami had disappeared. I still don’t know whether I should keep the series going… will depend on your comments. As I’d explained in a post earlier, maami and this series is not just a figment of my imagination. I have drawn a lot from places, people and incidents in real life. It’s also a light-hearted attempt at reliving moments of the 80s and 90s… and also a picturisation of a Tamizh Brahmin middle-class family of those times…
Maami in Palakkad – 2
The engagement went off without a hitch on Sunday morning and was followed by a sumptuous brunch. Maami was quite perplexed by the items on the menu. There was rasakalan, olan, mezhukupuratti, khichdi and karakari on the menu followed by paal payasam. The overdose of coconut and coconut oil did hit maami’s taste buds, in a delicious way, though the names didn’t quite roll off her tongue. But the Nagpur group came to a lip-smacking conclusion – the food was indeed heavenly. There were a few hilarious moments here too – Krishnambal quite became the centre of attention, constantly asked to translate a common language between two parties. For maami, drinking water for all purposes was thootham and for the Palakkadians it was the Malayalam equivalent of Vellam which with a lighter ‘l’ sound for maami meant jaggery. And the delicious vegetables floating in the rasakalan were ‘thaan’ and not kashnam, kashnam as Baby was singing out with alacrity.
After lunch, the families sat down to enjoy a conversation while chewing betel leaves as was the custom. This was an opportunity for Gopal to whisk Nitya away for a tour of the village (of course with the blessings of his mother and some reluctance on maami’s part who only acquiesced after a stern, liberal look from maama). They walked through the rice fields and Gopal pointed out the pride of the village, the gramakulam and since it was a Sunday, the two lovebirds literally had the fields to themselves. But this was not Nagpur but his own village, so Gopal only managed to lock his hands into Nitya’s for a few moments, and both smiled at each other… the smile of a young couple flush in love. All that was missing was the radio blaring out Nitya and Gopal’s all-time favourite, Bade Acche Lagte Hai. The last few lines of the song mirrored Gopal’s pain to a large extent… In Sab Ko Chhod Ko Kaise Kal Subah Jaaoge… For he would now be at Rishinaradamangalam, having been transferred to the Main branch at Palakkad.
Meanwhile, back home, the two sets of parents, despite the differences in language, had broken the ice. Gopal’s grandfather being a Gandhian espoused the ‘Simple living, high thinking’ philosophy and despised dowry in any form. Baby mouthed the standard line of all mothers-in-law, ‘Ippo Nitya ennodu ponnu mathiri’ (Nitya is now my daughter) but there was a genuineness in her tone. They wanted no cheer and would be happy with whatever jewellery she brought with her. As she pointed out, “Gopal is my only son. Whatever we have, the sprawling house, the rice fields and a plot of land in Palakkad town is all his. All I want is for the young couple to live here with us.” All this was discussed interspersed with jokes by Ambi maama, Baby’s younger brother and a Forest officer at nearby Walayar, but in essence, the family’s favourite humorist. And the best part? Maama was laughing his guts out at the jokes, clearly enjoying himself.
Maami, despite the initial misgivings now felt that there couldn’t have been a better match for Nitya. From a three-room chawl to a sprawling home, in-laws who didn’t look the terrorizing types, and a husband who worshipped the ground she walked on… She would live like a princess, concluded maami as they boarded the bus back to Palakkad in the evening.
The wedding two months away, she was certain would go off without any hassle. And that left only Ramya and Sivakumar… And they were still young…
Rasakalan – A famous Palakkad curd-chilies, coconut vegetables preparation.
Olan – a side dish of pumpkins and stringed beans in coconut oil.
Mezhukkupuratti – a dry vegetable dish without cocounut.
Karakkari – a spicy potato preparation
Paal payasam – milk payasam
Cheer – sweet and savoury preparation for wedding.
Gramakulam – village pond
Note: (In earlier days, Tamizh Brahmins never married outside their region. It was very uncommon to have someone from Tirunelveli married into Palakkad or Thanjavur or North Arcot families. But now, with nuclear families and a cosmopolitan upbringing, region is no bar. In my family, my brother, all my cousins and I have been married into families hailing from Kerala. Initially, the differences were striking, especially when it came to food and other quaint customs and that’s certainly fodder for another post.)