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Every memory a seed

“പലരും എന്നോട് ചോദിക്കാറുണ്ട്, ഞാന്‍ എവിടുന്നാണെന്ന്… അപ്പോഴൊക്കെ ഞാന്‍ പറയുന്ന പേര് കേരളത്തില്‍ ഒളിച്ചിരിക്കുന്ന ഒരു കൊച്ചുഗ്രാമത്തിന്റേതാണ്.

ജനിച്ചത് അവിടെയല്ല… പഠിച്ചതും വളര്‍ന്നതും അവിടെയല്ല. പക്ഷേ, ഞാന്‍ ആ നാട്ടുകാരനാണ്… ആ നാട് എന്റേതും.”

Palarum ennodu choddikyarundu, njan evidinaanennu… appozhokke njan parayunna peru keralathil olichirikyunna oru kochu gramathintethaanu.
Janichathu avideyalla… padichathum valarnnatthum avideyalla. Pakshe, njan aa naattukaaranaanu… aa naadu entethum.
These are the first words in my film Manjadikuru.
When the movie released, I was flooded with long messages from strangers about their memories of Kerala. Those notes felt far too special to simply sit quietly in an inbox. So we strung them together on this blog site and it continues to grow.
The journey of Manjadikuru brought me close to my roots and I learned how some the best homegrown experiences were fast disappearing. It set me on a trip to find people who thought similarly and some of us have come together now to make LORE trails, a cultural travel venture that helps to explore Kerala more deeply and work towards conserving our heritage, arts and nature.
This blog continues to be that little hub for folks bitten by the Kerala memories bug. Perhaps more of us live far away from our roots today, running after our destinies, in crowded cities and foreign countries. So what is our relationship with that old Kerala village or town that we are originally from? There are others who have arrived here as travellers and yet felt at home in the warmth of the soil here. We treasure those special moments in Kerala that throb on our minds but have disappeared from everywhere else…  I invite you to walk along those old paths and share with us your stories, your Manjadi*
Anjali Menon
* Manjadi refers to the lucky red seeds (Adenanthera Pavonia) that children traditionally gather as a keepsake in Kerala.

 

Paths studded with red

Manjadikuru
A tiny little seed that is inconspicuous, yet commands attention.
For most of us, the manjadikuru or the little red seed is a reminder of our childhood. Most of us have a memory that is linked to them.
Mine is of a tall crystal jar, filled to the brim with the manjadikuru my grandmother had collected over the years. Perched on top of a tall cabinet, it was out of my reach. And, need I say, that very fact made it all the more appealing!
So one day I scaled the cabinet, an eagle eye on the kitchen door where my grandmother was busy with the afternoon`s cooking. I reached the top, dipped my hands into the sea of red – then a slip, a tilt, and I came crashing down in a cascade of clattering seeds.
The noise brought my grandmother barrelling out of the kitchen. I expected a smack and hours of sitting in a corner. However, surprisingly, she understood a little girl`s curiosity, and my grandmother joined me on the floor, to hunt down every last seed, even as she told me anecdotes of how she had collected them.
This trip down memory lane came thanks to Anjali Menon`s Manjadikuru, which promises to take you back to your childhood days. And it has struck a chord with many; not just me.
People have been sharing their memories – from green-tinged days when they coveted the seeds their friends possessed to idyllic flashes of running down paths studded with red.
Image
Surya lives in Chennai now. She describes herself as

“A bookworm, a foodie and a movie buff, I am quite happy in the world of make believe! And when I am forced to be in the ‘real’ world, I work as an Associate Editor at Sify.com”

Returning to my wonderland!

എന്റെ സ്വപ്ന ലോകത്തേക്കൊരു മടങ്ങിപ്പോക്ക്

ബ്ലോഗിന്റെ ലോകത്ത് എനിക്ക് മൂന്നു മാസം പ്രായം കഷ്ടിച്ച്. കൈവിട്ടു പോയിയെന്ന് കരുതിയ മലയാളത്തനിമയെ തേടി ബ്ലോഗുകള്‍ ആര്‍ത്തിയോടെ വായിച്ചു തീര്‍ത്തു. “കമന്റ്സ്” ഇലൂടെ അഭിനന്ദനം അര്‍ഹിക്കുന്നവരെ അഭിനന്ദനം അറിയിച്ചു. പ്രോത്സാഹനം അര്‍ഹിക്കുന്നവരെ പ്രോത്സാഹിപ്പിച്ചു. ചിലയിടങ്ങളില്‍ ഒന്നും പറയാതെ ഒരു വായനക്കാരി മാത്രമായി. പ്രതികരണശേഷി അല്‍പ്പം കൂടുതലായതു കൊണ്ട് പ്രതികരിക്കാന്‍ തോന്നിയപ്പോള്‍ പ്രതികരിച്ചു. പക്ഷെ ഇപ്പോള്‍ തോന്നുന്നു, ചിലയിടങ്ങളിലെങ്കിലും എനിക്ക് നീതി പുലര്‍ത്താനായില്ലായെന്ന്. കാരണം പല ബ്ലോഗുകളിലും പ്രതികരിക്കുന്നതിനു മുമ്പ് ആ ബ്ലോഗ്ഗറുടെ മതം ഏതെന്നു ഊഹിച്ചെടുക്കുവാന്‍ ഞാന്‍ ശ്രമിക്കുന്നുണ്ട് എന്ന് ഞാന്‍ തിരിച്ചറിഞ്ഞു. സിനിമയെക്കുറിച്ചോ, സ്ത്രീ സ്വാതന്ത്ര്യത്തെക്കുറിച്ചോ എന്തുമാകട്ടെ – ബ്ലോഗ്ഗര്‍ ഏത് മതക്കാരനോ മതക്കാരിയോ ആണെന്ന് തിരിച്ചറിയാതെ കമന്റ്‌ ഇടാന്‍ സാധിക്കാത്ത അവസ്ഥയാണ്.

ഇത്രയും നാള്‍ ഞാന്‍ ശീലിച്ചത് ഇതാണോ?

മൈമൂനത്ത്, സുലേഖ, ടോണി, മെറ്റില്‍ഡ, മേബ്ള്‍, വിദ്യ… ഇതൊക്കെ എന്റെ ബാല്യകാല സുഹൃത്തുക്കളുടെ പേരുകളാണ്. (ഇന്നും ഇവരില്‍ പലരുമായി ചങ്ങാത്തം ഉണ്ട്.) എന്റെ ജീവിതത്തിലെ ഏറ്റവും മനോഹരമായ ഏഴു വര്‍ഷങ്ങള്‍ ഇവരോടൊപ്പമായിരുന്നു. – എന്റെ ബാല്യം. ത്രേസ്സ്യ സിസ്റ്ററും, പൗലോസ്‌ വൈദ്യരും, ഖാദര്‍ക്കയും , വാസുവേട്ടനും, ദേവു ഏട്ടത്തിയും, കതീസ്താത്തയും ഒന്നുമില്ലാതെ എനിക്കെന്റെ ബാല്യ കാലത്തിന്റെ ഓര്‍മ്മകള്‍ പൊടി തട്ടി എടുക്കാനാവില്ലല്ലോ?

കഞ്ഞീം കറീം വച്ചും, തൊട്ടു കളിച്ചും, ഒളിച്ചു കളിച്ചും, ഊഞ്ഞാലാടിയും ഞങ്ങള്‍ കൂട്ടുകാര്‍ ഒന്നിച്ചു കളിച്ചു വളര്‍ന്നു. ചിലപ്പോള്‍ ഉറക്കം തന്നെ സുലേഖതാത്തയുടെ വീട്ടിലോ , മേബ്ള് ന്റെ വീട്ടിലോ ആയിരിക്കും. ഓണവും, വിഷുവും, ക്രിസ്മസ്സും, പെരുന്നാളും ഒക്കെ ഞങ്ങള്‍ ഒന്നിച്ചാഘോഷിച്ചു. ഓണത്തിന് പൂപ്പറിക്കാന്‍ ഞങ്ങള്‍ ഒന്നിച്ചു പോയി. വിഷുവിനു എന്റെ വീട്ടിന്റെ മുറ്റത്ത് ഞങ്ങള്‍ പടക്കം പൊട്ടിച്ചു. ക്രിസ്മസ് കരോളുകാര്‍ എല്ലാ വീടുകളിലും കയറിയിറങ്ങി. കരോളിന്റെ മുമ്പില്‍ തന്നെ റസാക്കാക്ക സ്ഥാനം പിടിച്ചിരിക്കും. കരോള്‍കാര്‍ക്കൊപ്പം പൗലോസ്‌ വൈദ്യരുടെ കൈയും പിടിച്ചു മേബ്ള് എന്റെ വീട്ടില്‍ വരും. “merry christmas” ആശംസിച്ചു കരോള്‍ സംഘം റോഡിനു മറുവശത്തെ ഖാദര്‍കാക്കയുടെ വീട്ടിലേക്കു പോകുമ്പോള്‍ ഞാനും മേബ്ളും പിന്നാലെ ഓടും. കരോള്‍ പോയി ക്കഴിഞ്ഞാല്‍ ഖാദര്‍കാക്കയുടെ മകന്‍ സിദ്ദിക്കാക്ക എന്നെയും മേബ്ള്‍ നെയും കൈ പിടിച്ചു റോഡ്‌ കടത്തി സുരക്ഷിതമായി വീട്ടിലെത്തിക്കും. ആരും കണ്ടാല്‍ ഒന്നെടുക്കാന്‍ തോന്നുന്ന വിധത്തിലുള്ള ഓമനത്തം തുളുമ്പുന്ന എന്റെ അനിയന്‍ കുട്ടിയുടെ ഒരു മുത്തം വാങ്ങാന്‍ പോകുമ്പോള്‍ സിദ്ദിക്കാക്ക മറക്കാറില്ല. വ്രതശുദ്ധിയുടെ വൃശ്ചികക്കാലങ്ങളില്‍ ശരണം വിളികളോടെ ആ നാട്ടുകാര്‍ ശബരിമലക്കു പോയിരുന്നത് സുബേര്‍ക്കാക്കാന്റെ ജീപ്പില്‍ ആയിരുന്നു. തിരുവണ്ണൂരപ്പന്റെ അമ്പലത്തിലെ ഉത്സവത്തിനു ഗാനമേളക്കൊപ്പം സുബേര്‍ക്ക പാടിയിരുന്നത് ഇന്നും ആ ഗ്രാമക്കാര്‍ മറക്കാനിടയില്ല. പെരുന്നാള്‍ക്കാലം ഞങ്ങള്‍ക്ക് ഉത്സവ കാലം തന്നെയായിരുന്നു. ഒരു മാസത്തെ ഭക്ഷണം ഞങ്ങള്‍ക്ക് കുശാലാണ്. നോമ്പ് മുറിക്കാന്‍ മിക്ക ദിവസങ്ങളിലും വാനരപ്പട മുഴുവന്‍ ഖാദര്‍ക്കാക്കാന്റെ വീട്ടിലുണ്ടാകും.

അന്ന് ഞങ്ങളുടെ വീട്ടില്‍ ഇടയ്ക്കിടയ്ക്ക് വന്നിരുന്ന അതിഥികളില്‍ പ്രധാനികളായിരുന്നു ജോയ് അങ്കിളും കുടുംബവും. എന്റെ അച്ഛന് photography യോടുള്ള കമ്പം കൂടിയത് അങ്കിള്‍ കാരണമാണ്. അന്നത്തെ സന്തുഷ്ടമായ ജീവിതം ഇടയ്ക്കിടയ്ക്ക് ജോയ് അങ്കിള്‍ ക്യാമറയില്‍ പകര്‍ത്തി. ഇന്നും എന്റെ പഴയ കാലങ്ങളിലേക്കുള്ള തിരിച്ച് പോക്ക് അങ്കിള്‍ പകര്‍ത്തിയ ഫോട്ടോകളിലൂടെയാണ്. അങ്കിള്‍ന്റെ മക്കള്‍ ഡിന്നിമോളുടെയും, ഡിനോക്കുട്ടന്റെയും കൂടെ ഈ അഞ്ചു വയസ്സുകാരി കുറുമ്പി ഒരിക്കല്‍ പള്ളിയില്‍ കുറുബാനക്ക് പോയതും, വൈകിയത് കൊണ്ട് അവര്‍ എന്നെ വിട്ടു മുമ്പിലേക്ക് പോയപ്പോള്‍ ഇനിയെന്ത് ചെയ്യണമെന്നറിയാതെ കുറുബാന സ്വീകരിക്കാന്‍ പോകുന്നവരുടെ കൂട്ടത്തില്‍ ഞാന്‍ വരിയില്‍ നിന്ന് പള്ളിയിലെ അച്ഛന്റെ മുമ്പില്‍ പോയി വായ പൊളിച്ചു നിന്നതും, അത് കണ്ടു അച്ഛന്‍ അന്ധാളിച്ചു നിന്നതും ഒക്കെ ഇന്നലെ കഴിഞ്ഞ പോലെ ഓര്‍ക്കുന്നു.

അച്ഛന്റെ ഏഴു വര്‍ഷത്തെ rural service ന്‌ ശേഷം ഞങ്ങള്‍ ആ ഗ്രാമം വിട്ടു. വര്‍ഷങ്ങള്‍ കൊഴിഞ്ഞു വീണതറിഞ്ഞില്ല. പഠിത്തം, ജോലി , വിവാഹം .. അങ്ങനെ ഇന്ന് ഞാന്‍ മദ്ധ്യ വയസ്സിലേക്ക് കാലൂന്നി നില്‍ക്കുന്നു.

ഇന്ന് സാധാരണ ജനത്തിന് സ്വതന്ത്രമായി എഴുതാനും, അഭിപ്രായങ്ങള്‍ പറയാനും, എല്ലാ അവസരങ്ങളും ബ്ലോഗിന്റെ ലോകം ഒരുക്കുമ്പോള്‍, മതം സൃഷ്ടിച്ച വിഭാഗീയ ചിന്തകള്‍ ഞാനീ ലോകത്ത് തെളിഞ്ഞു കാണുന്നു. ആ കാഴ്ചകളെന്നെ തളര്‍ത്തുന്നു. നിസ്സഹായതയോടെ മാറി നില്‍ക്കാനേ എനിക്ക് പലപ്പോഴും കഴിയാറുള്ളൂ..

ഭൂമി ഉരുണ്ടതാണല്ലോ. ഇന്നും പല യാത്രകളിലും എനിക്കെന്റെ ബാല്യം ചിലവഴിച്ച ഗ്രാമത്തിലൂടെ കടന്നു പോകാന്‍ അവസരം കിട്ടാറുണ്ട്. പണ്ട് ഞങ്ങള്‍ വിറ്റിട്ട് പോയ വീട്ടിന്റെ മുമ്പില്‍ വണ്ടി എത്തുമ്പോള്‍ പറഞ്ഞറിയിക്കാന്‍ പറ്റാത്ത ഒരു അനുഭൂതിയാണ്. അവിടെ വണ്ടി നിര്‍ത്തി പൗലോസ്‌ വൈദ്യരെയും, ഖാദര്‍ക്കാനെയും, ദേവു ഏടത്തിയെയും ഒക്കെ കണ്ടിട്ടേ ഞങ്ങള്‍ യാത്ര തുടരാരുള്ളൂ… ചുറ്റും കാണുന്ന മത വിഭാഗീയതക്ക് നടുവില്‍ നഷ്ടപ്പെട്ടു പോകുന്ന എന്റെ ഊര്‍ജ്ജം വീണ്ടെടുക്കാന്‍ ഈ ഗ്രാമത്തിനെ കുറിച്ചുള്ള ഓര്‍മ്മകള്‍ മാത്രം മതിയെനിക്ക്.

Pyari Singh is a blogger who writes about her personal worldviews on
She says ” My blog like yours, is an expression of my feelings & sometimes an outburst of my emotions. I am not a literary person and want to admit that my command over both the languages in which I write is not that great. I respect your ideas and views too, even if they contradict with mine. “
The above post was first published on Pyari Singh’s blog and she sent it to us because she felt it belonged amongst our manjadi.

Treasure hunting in Singapore

“Its amazing as I read your blogspot, how much it brings back the memories of us growing up in Dubai. We have since moved and went to UK and then now reached Singapore…where we found some amount of magic.

Our building/s in Singapore have a huge amount of land area around them and when Aryaman (my 7yr old!) was walking down this path between trees – his term ‘secret pathway’ little did he realise that he was going to start a new vocation – collecting these pretty little red seeds – for his mom and make her very happy. I was pregnant with Krishu (my second son, now 2+) then and I thought, wow, what a beautiful gift from my little one. I started collecting them in a crystal bowl and it became a bit of a competition within little Aryaman’s mind, how much more magic and love he could collect for his mom!

I have them sitting very pretty in a lovely crystal bowl and i love the feel of the smooth red beans. I have often wondered if I could have them transformed into jewellery or something that I could showoff more, but then each time I think of that I get a little selfish and think, I dont know if I would want any other hands ‘feel the magic’ that was passed on to me by my little chipmunk.

I did not know that these seeds grow their own roots but I dont think I would like to part with them as Singapore does have a huge amount of these trees around. We have loud proclamations to the fact as we visit different areas of this pretty island and see these gorgeous seeds strewn in gardens and ‘other secret pathways.’ ”

Ruchi Gulati

A trueblue second generation NRI who spent all her life outside her home country. Qualified in human resources management, today she lives in Singapore with her husband and two sons. Read more of her writing on ruchiruminates.wordpress.com

Deepa’s search for Manjadi

A few days back, I happened to go through a link that popped up on Anjali Menon’s wall – sharing one’s childhood memories. I was surprised and amazed by the response, more importantly the memories each one associated with their own. Surely we are nothing but a bunch of memories!

Now how could I resist writing on this? Childhood is one phase that I have always loved reveling about! Though for today, I will limit myself to just the manjadikkuru episodes in my rather eventful childhood days!

I found them huddled on my doorstep!
Well to begin with, I had those naughty prank filled years sandwiched between Kerala and Nagaland and Mumbai, and it was during one of those getaways from Nagaland that I first got acquainted with manjadikkuru.
I had to sit through a Malayalam school for a week’s time (my parents thought that would enlighten me), and among the 20 odd classmates, I should say manjadikkuru was like an (invisible) celebrity! It was a prized possession that they even disliked showing let alone sharing with!
One day on a walk through those kuchha roads, I got this tiny shiny red and black seed.By the time I reached home, I had managed a handful. You could well picture me smiling like a king who had conquered a kingdom. I showed it to my grandma very proudly, but Oh! I was in for a shock, for she said this was not manjadikkuru , it was kunnikkuru. Angry, I rushed out to the muddy road and threw all of them there. It lay there to be tumbled, scattered, flattened, transported!
Probably the next time I was home, my cousin was ready with a gift for me. It was a tiny red seed moulded into a beautiful shape. At last I had one of them right there in the valley of my palm! I kept staring at it, wondering, how it acquired this shape? With little time left, I had got on a vain pursuit to find the tree that bore these beautiful seeds!

 

 

 

 

 

Before leaving I was forced (as children usually are) for a visit to the village temple. The kodimaram , surrounded by a grill, had 1000s of my prized possession scattered all around. It had always been there. And it is only now that I notice! It is surprising- you don’t really start noticing things unless you are aware of it, or unless there is a story behind it! There I was, straining against the iron bars to get hold of a bunch of manjadikkuru. And there was Ma too, taking me by the ears for stealing the prized manjadikkuru from the temple complex!

Post 20 years….
The thirst to experience the real blobbed in my head again, and the thought of the long forgotten hunt for finding the Manjadikkuru tree surfaced (thanks to Ms.Menon’s movie)! I was on a 2 day visit to the pristine village of Kanjhangad and I made arrangements to spot one there. Unfortunately, with my temporary memory loss, I forgot about it until I reached home. So there I was, on my bed at 10 in the night, talking to my parents, when I suddenly remembered- the Manjadikkuru!
‘Okei, Pa do you know of any manjadikkuru tree nearby?’ Pa scratched his head, searched the realms of his brain and said, ‘oh yeah there was one near the kizhakketheile veedu near nammude swantham john achayan’s…. you don’t know john achayan, molly kutty’s…’Ma cut the conversation by piping in-mole deepe, it was felled years back…! End of conversation!
All these years I thought I was living in a village, and god there is no Manjadi here…!!!!
My friend from Kanjhangad while all ears to my complaint that he did not show me one, quipped in- there is one planted at Museum, or better still there is one at our college (oh I know they are part of an arboretum) But my dear, what I want is the magnificent tree in the midst of a village, children playing around, elders engaged in conversation, children and elders alike competing each other while gathering the red seeds… Oh how do I make you understand?

Heights of madness!
One of these days, back in Trivandrum, I even dreamt- I was travelling to Kattakkada (a friend lives there, and my fantasy prone brain has already visualized it as a place shining in the glory of a village) and found the tree, all robust, the branches, some looming high to touch the sky while some bending down knowingly, just so much that I could break away one of those pods containing the seeds!

‘I suppose I do have one unembarrassed passion. I want to know what it feels like to care about something passionately….’ Susan Orleans, Adaptations

Deepa Sasi

Based in Trivandrum, Deepa Sasi’s words about herself : : After so many years did I discover…photography and writing capture moments…and so when I aint architect-ing, they keep me occupied!”
Read more from Deepa Sasi on http://ddzinz.blogspot.com/

Crimson Pearls – a poem

“Crystal path was full of crimson pearls

And that I was once a witless wanderer

Clustered by the rusty spears as shelter

For my heart was placed upon the hills

So I focused on my dream to see it real

Then the blue bells lured my lone way

With colors of gleam risen from azure

So I tried to climb the hills in fortitude

But the path bore the greasy pebbles

So I slipped through the nights in vain

And the days seized the sun in wilds

And I kept my hope close to my heart

Soon an angel flew so nigh, at night

And rubbed her fingers upon my hairs

And said, “Path is full of crimson pearls”

“All you want is what you see, feel it”

And then I shuffled towards the hills

While the sun trailed from the woods

And the brook rushed from virgin rocks

For the path was full of crimson pearls

And each of them had a hearty tale.”

a poem from NJ, who describes himself thus:
“I believe in simplicity and see that every person has a tag on their neck saying ’I am special’. All of us are… Keep smiling… Love & Peace, N J

His poems can be read on http://www.facebook.com/njwrites & http://www.njzlife.blogspot.com/

Granny tales at Kottakkal

My earliest memories of my Ammamma (maternal grandmother ) is that of cuddling by her side in the darkness pleading for a story. She tells me that I never tired of hearing about Prahlada. Another memory is of a long winding rhyme about a fly who goes around asking different creatures if they knew what its name was. On each visit to a different creature the list of the previously visited animals have to be recited in the correct order before the question is asked. Finally at its last stop , upon being told of its name as “eecha eecha ponneechha”- the fly is so delighted that it laughs to death! But of course the rhyme story does not sound gruesome at all when recounted.

We used to live in Bombay then and I would wait eagerly for our vacation trip to Kottakkal to my grandparents home. Ammamma would’ve kept ready the blouse and munduensemble for me to wear when accompanying my appachhan to the temple nearby.

Vacation also included the not so pleasant task of learning the Malayalam script. Schooling in Bombay meant no Malayalam in academics. However it was this routine inculcated by amma’s and ammamma’s insistence that helped me learn to read and write in Malayalam for which I’m immensely grateful today. (And today, we grandchildren faithfully ensure that our children also learn the Malayalam script during the vacations much to the latters’ chagrin.)
Afternoons were not meant to be slept away and it was time for sewing, hand embroidery. Reading was another habit which was gently enforced but that was a delight anyway.

The tri-sandhya neram – twilight hour would be ushered in by – ‘naamam chellal’ -the loud chanting of shlokas by us grandchildren sitting crosslegged in front of the ‘vilakku’- lamp in the puja room. The then youngest would also lisp along the complicated Sanskrit words enthusiastically. Ammamma made me learn a couple of chapters of the “Narayaneeyam” and the “Mookambika sthothram” . She would ask me to write the shlokas down along with the meaning and then chant it until I had it by heart.

Ammamma would write to me in English in the beginning until I learnt to write in Malayalam. Those days of no internet , email and even limited phone access, amma saw to it that I kept in touch with my grandparents and cousins by making me write letters to them.

When I joined college in Kerala, it was to my grandparents’ house that I came down from hostel. Ammamma used to be very protective and took care of all my needs. She would share her life experiences and taught me many things about life and people. She would talk about books, authors, poets. She had met many famous people in her time and she would share snippets from those memories. She maintains that Humility is the most important quality that one should posess. She often reminds us that Vidya- Education should beget Vinayam- Humility.

One of her morning routines included churning buttermilk in a brass ‘kutam’- a pot shining like gold. It was a pleasure to sit by her listening to her sing softly about the exploits of baby Krishna as she churned the buttermilk. She taught me to churn as well in the traditional way.

She tells me that one recurring memory she has of me is that of me as a baby crying out piteously for her from my mother’s arms as the train chugged out of the Tirur railway station when we were returning to Bombay after one vacation.Some bitter experiences have made her cynical in some aspects and she tends to be skeptical of new fangled modern ways. She can be quite acerbic in her reprimands.

Ammamma has been a very strong influence in our lives . She is well read and keeps abreast of current affairs and has a strong opinion on everything and does not hesitate to express it. She takes good care of her health and follows a disciplined routine. People who know her come to her seeking advice and Blessings. She gets invited to grace and speak at functions in our village. She commands a lot of respect from everybody around her. She does have a somewhat strict countenance which makes some people a little wary about approaching her. However once the ice is broken they realize that it is just a veneer.

After I got married and set up my home she has come to stay with me to help me out many times . First time was when I went back with my first born . The last time she stayed with me for an extended period was in ’98. I remember how desolate I felt after she left that time. Nowadays, she doesn’t travel too far due to health issues. I cherish the bond that I feel with her. I feel warm when people remark about how I resemble her in my looks.

( At this point, I stop trying to recollect about my ammamma and impulsively pick up the phone to speak to her. Her voice at the other end gives me a sense of warm reassurance).

Nirmala Varrier


An avid blogger who was a “Gulf Kid” herself. Now based in Trichy, she works for The Hindu Newspaper as a Resource Person in their Newspaper In Education Programme. Read more of her writing on http://ardramaamsandhyakal.blogspot.com

Iris’s Indo-French Manjadi

When I look back to my life today, it feels I don’t know where it actually started. I’m only 18, I’m still a girl, and its only a life.

I made my first step to India when I was 4 years old. At that time, I was living alone with my mother, and we were here for a visit to some friends house in Trivandrum. I was French, I was white. It’s maybe the first time I felt so watched. People around me, hands, eyes, words… and me. But I was so charmed by all.

My dream? To become an Indian princess, in saree, with lots of jewelleries!

And then the lucky red seed came into our family. It was a man. The man my mum met at that time, at the French Embassy. Just 10 minutes maybe. She didn’t know at that time, that this same man would then stand by her for a lifetime. This man whom I call Appa today. The reason why I came back.

After their marriage, we used to come every year to our new family in Fort Cochin. We were always warmly welcomed. I met new people, got a little brother, two cute cousins, a great aunty and a strange uncle. I was so happy near my family. And when holidays were over, we would come back to France, for another year.

It was so cold suddenly. I can remember myself, 14, waiting in the cold for a bus which isn’t coming. When I breathe, it is like a gust of smoke. I join my hands, wait… keep waiting. Its not yet snowing… I reach school. Sit. I am a bit different. I can see those beautiful girls laughing, putting one more time some lipstick, and gossiping. I’m different. Getting a new boyfriend each week won’t help. I stay alone… look around. I got to learn so much. Silently. Watching, and waiting. Waiting the clock to ring.

If we look at it… it seems my life has been a long wait.

But not only that. One day… I came back home for lunch. My parents sat and told they must talk to me. Okay… That day was the starting point of today.

“We are going to live 6 months in India”

Shock… Silence…

“Well well well” I said. “And what about me”?
“You decide” they answered. “Do you want to come with us, or not? But give your answer quickly. For the plane tickets, you know…”

Same week, I met a man. When I met him he had some cards in his hands. He looked at me… put the cards in front of me and told “take one”. I took the card.  One near the middle, little hidden. (I am always trying to take the most hidden card). And I gave him. He told “The traveller. You are going to travel.”

I run back home. My heartbeats were too fast. My mother looked at me. I whispered “I’m coming” in a breath.

I had to leave all. The few friends I had, my comfortable life, my French family, my world, my school, the late bus, the cold air. I had to leave, to go forward. But it was so scary…

5 years have passed. I am still living between France and India.

When I came here, in Kochi to live, I was scared. Scared to be seen as the “French girl” only. It took time for me to meet some friends. My aunty’s family stayed in Iddiki. I was feeling quite alone. Not going to school as I was doing all my studies throught correspondance. Staying home…

Since 5 years, my parents have a charitable institution. My father is teaching yoga and my mother has a textile workshop to help some women. Their activities brought so many people to our home. More and more. Every day, coming and going. Always coming… but always going…

I started to dance. Bharatanatyam. I met some other girls little by little. I felt less and less different. I grew up… searching for the childhood I had lost.

You know, I have no place to be. No place to come from. I might be from France, but today, really, I feel my heart is Indian too.

Catching the culture, growing with it. Getting the manjadis, putting them in my pocket, watch the heavy rain falling, run, forget the umbrella, batting, making a 6… out!,  dancing, feeling the drops of my tears, the smile on the face, the life in the heart, watching them, understand the complicated me, flying, dreaming…

The manjadis in my pocket are making a small “clipclip” when I walk.

I’m 18, and by the way, my name is Iris. Some will call me Shanti.

I’m shared into two, you know. That french girl, and the Indian me. Cohabiting in peace. Just like all the manjadis in my pocket. Making some “clipclip” when i walk, You know.I passed so beautiful moments here. I’ve seen so many sunrises; I’ve seen so many smiles. And here, it’s full of coconut trees. They say its “God’s own country”. May He will share it a bit with me!

Iris Debieve

Iris Debieve spends monsoons in India and summers in France. An undergraduate student, she is moving towards her major in Indian classical dance.

Bits & bobs from Wayanad

I dont have siblings, hence very close to all of my cousins who used to visit us@ Wayanad, for summer vacation every year.

Loads of lovely memories… scattered though…
> my pretty sis who could’nt utter one word in malayalam but wanted to watch ‘mazha peyyunnu maddalam kottunnu‘ everytime she was in Kerala
> Grandma roasting coffee beans every morning, grinding it fresh, the fresh filter coffee aroma walking us up
> My li’l cousin Kavita wetting the bed every night but curiously she wakes up dry & am all wet!
> first love letter 🙂 this guy (he wud kill me for writing this) used to get me huge bars of chocolates (his dad worked in Cadbury factory)… I shamelessly ate all of them & said later that he is just a good friend!!

> running behind the elephant during temple festival
> running out hearing the ‘duggu duggu duggu’ sound of periyappa’s bike… to get the poppins he never forgot to get for me (without my dad’s knowledge 🙂
> all of us sitting together for dinner where dinner would be served in one big bowl along with ‘so called real ghost stories’
> playing seven stones in the large ground …
> playing carrom @ home when summer rains lashes out… my twin cousins who always are fighting for the silliest of reasons, throwing Bournvita on each other across the carrom board…It never occured to any one of us to get a new one…
> taste of first beer (stolen from dad’s shelf!)
> coughing over first smoke… that too sadhu beedi!
> the fun filled trips to Muthanga forest… bathing in the river… eating in the forest … sleeping in the cool shades…
> on the way to Muthanga the men used to break cocunuts in the ‘Gulikan Thara’ to see wild elephants…while the moms & aunts light lamps ‘not to see elephants’… 🙂

> The night when a black panther from Muthanga forest strayed in to our place killing a cow & a dog… Appa, Adu anna, Anand anna & Nambiar ettan going after it with guns… when Appa accidently tied both strings of his shoes together & fell in to the pond 🙂
> the panchayat elections when the local leaders would assemble @ our place and discuss international politics 🙂

Ø     My brother Anand anna, who introduced me to the world of books – he bought me my first books wen I was 6 or 7 – ‘Kabooliwalah’, ‘Panchatanthram tales’ … soon I graduated to  Vaikom Muhhammad Basheer.

Ø     The ‘porattukali’ by paniyar tribe & Kolkkali by ‘Kurumar’ tribe during vishu. The Porattu kali would invariably end with the song “pappadom chuttathum innu thane… Appane chuttathum Innu thane J

Ø     My dad was majorly in to politics – a congress member…We had this ‘Rowdy Raman’ who was a communist party supporter…Raman had a dog ‘Tippu’. When the political differences reaches burning point Raman would take Tippu for a walk (after his quota of ‘naadan vaattu’) through our road & sing “ Eda Tippu… Congress Tippu” 😀

Ø     Vishu always was a huge celebration – we kids would hold on to ‘our’ allotted boxes of crackers like holding on to dear life… we would dry them in sun (Edavappathy would have dampened the crackers a bit…but not our spirits)….the Vishu eve would start with wearing new dresses. Appa always inaugurated  bursting crackers by lighting the 1000 mala… then there wouldd be competition with the neighbourhood people… every Vishu of mine ended with me having Sulfur allergy!

The Vishu day is the only earning period for us kids… so we take all the tactics – beg , borrow, even steal kaineettom ! Vishu lunch is special with ‘kappa sambar” Later in the evening dad would hand over tobacco, vettila & clothes to our workers. Once I tried eating the tobacco & puked all night.

Ø     Another memory is of death anniversary of my Grandfather when we all would gather & priest (vadhyar) from Calicut would come for the pooja. For help with cleaning we used to have the tribal people. But that day  the tribals are not supposed to be given food. The priest , bathed in ‘Vibhoothi’ would call out to the crow (considered the deceased) “ka ka ka”…I once heard the tribal help comment “ vadhyar pappan venneeril kulicha Nai thane… kaakene vilipparu… poochene vilipparu… ennalum namukkonjum thaararu (in tribal slang)

Ø     Those summers when sprinklers would be watering our estate… the wonderful smell of wet mud… the mangoes & tamarinds… the inevitable loose motions every summer!!!

Ø     During the coffee crop season we kids also would work along with the workers – we had our own small baskets for  harvesting… the money we ‘earned ‘ we splashed during ‘valliyoorkkavu ulsavam’ buying snake & ladder game, bangles, water pistols, colorful bindis…what not!!!

Am so happy that My Manjadi triggered off these sweet memories!!! There are loads more!!!

Menaka Ramanan

Menaka Ramanan lives in Bangalore and works as a financial analyst.

My Grandma’s place at Elathur, Calicut

My  memories aka manjadis are  mostly the  ones  from the days I  spend  along with my  cousins at  my  Grandma’s place  in  Elathur,  a  small  village  in  Calicut. Don’t  know why the below  ones  are  so  distinctly  alive  in my mind. Sharing  some of  them  with you …

-In my childhood days  my real fun days starts  when all the  cousins get together for  summer holidays at Ammamma’s house. The  mornings  start  by brushing your  teeth  with “Colgate tooth powder” (which I use to personally  love because it was sweet!) or  with Umikari (used to  love that too  because our mouths  would  look  like somebody just lit  a  fire inside and it and whole  mouth was filled  with black ashes) or  the  option was to pick up a  Guava leaf.  One of the things we  loved  doing was to  climb on  the  gate of  Ammmama’s  house  and we used to sway the  gate to  and  fro .The momentum  of  the  ride increased  with  every  sway till one  of  our  mom’s  used  to  yell  at  us  and  bring  us  down. I  think  we  used to imagine  that the  gate  was  a bus  and  all of  us  enjoying the  busride.

-Then there  was  this  little  gal  who  used to  sell homemade sip-ups  bonda  and  parippuvada. We  used to gather all  the  “chilllaraas”  we get  from every nook and  corner  of  the  house, gather the little  pocket  money we had and  if  we  fall  short  would  run to  our mothers to  lend  us 50  ps  to  buy  those. Icecreams  were  a  luxury  then  so  we  used  to  be content  with the sip-ups the little girl brought.

– One thing Ammamaa  loved  doing  was to give  us  Oil  baths. She  used  to   smear kuzhambu on  all of  us  kids till all of  us  looked  like  some  shiny  alien kids.  The oil  baths  were  never  complete  without  washing  our hair  in Thaali . So as soon as we were done with the oil smearing the  next action  was to  run  to  pluck  the leaves  and  flowers of  chembaruthi in order  to  make  the thaali . Used  to  take  turns to  grind the leaves  on  the  ammikkallu and  this  was a  good  way  to  spend  the  time needed  for  the  oil to  soak  deep into our  skins. Used  to  make so much, that we  had  so many  bottles  of  it  and the  leftovers were stored  in our  fridge for  later use. Of  course  we  were  generous  so all  the ladies  in the  family got a portion of our  hard earned  work!

-Now  coming to food!! Being  near  to  the  coast side we  used  to  get  the  best  fish  in  Elathur. Today  if  you  ask  me,  I  would  be  more  interested  in  eating the  fish  than  admiring  it  in its  lively  form! In those  days  the  fishermen  used  to  bring  home humungous crabs  in  buckets. When they open the lid  and let the crabs out,  they  moved  around in all directions.  Some  of  us  ran as  further as  we could   and  some  of  us  loved  to  tease  the crabs (of  course not  with our  hands, don’t  think  we  were  that  brave  then)  but  with  long  sticks.  I was so  amused to  see  the  crabs  running around  . Wonder  if  they knew  that  they  would  be  in the  curry chatty soon,  or  maybe they did  and  that’s  why they  were  running as  fast as they  could…

-Ammama’s house  had a  lot  of  backyard  space where there was this  lovely  jasmine plant that  gave us  flowers anytime of the  year. Every  evening  we  used to  pluck  the jasmine  buds  and  Ammamma or aunty  used to tie them with vaazhanaaru  and all the  gals used to  keep  them on our  hair. Soon after this  did  we sit  in the front kolaaayi to  sing our sandya naamams and after that  would  play the game Pulinguru (tamarind seeds).

-Another place we loved to  be  was  near the  mango tree which  was  right  above  the  small  outhouse .  Used to sneak out to the  terrace to pluck  mangoes  and  have  it  with  chilli powder  and  salt.

We  always  would  forget  to get the accompaniments and  one of  us use to  sneak  right  back  to  the kitchen to  get them (who usually is  the  last one  to reach the terrace) . The key, was to  get them from the kitchen without the  elders  noticing  because none of  them approved of  this!!  Reason 1 –  our  tummies  would  go  for  a toss  after  eating this,  and  reason 2  – they thought it was   dangerous  to  climb on the tree which  was pretty high… Thankfully none of  us  have  broken our  bones  in the  act!  Savoured  every bite of those raw mangoes. I  have water  in my mouth just  thinking about  it…

-Another  memory  I have is  from the night  we  heard  Ammamma’s  cow  giving out  a long  cry  and  all  of  us  ran  to  see what  went  wrong.  To  the  kids’  astonishment  we  see the  cow giving  birth  to  a  baby  calf… All  of  the us waited  near her  with  petromax lanterns for  hours and hours…  until  the little wobbly  one  came  out  of  the  womb. It  was  kind of a  ghastly sight! Next  few  days  all  of  us  kids  were  around  the  calf and  the mother cow  was  so  protective  about  its  little  one  and  wouldn’t  let  any of  us  near  it.

These are few of  my  Manjadis  that I  treasure  close  to  my  heart. (sigh)

Cheers

Neema Naveen

Neema Naveen is based in Dubai, UAE and works in the HR sector.