My friend’s reminiscences on this blogpost have caused me to write a post yet again…(as usual it started as a comment on his blog and got pretty long and I thought I might as well post it here…)

The glass bangles at the temple shops and the smell of thaazhampoo kungumamam and mallipoo..that was Madurai Meenakshi temple for me..The cold mandapam floors that caressed my running barefeet and the bats that screeched…the yaali with an irretrievable stone in his mouth..the echoes I made shrieking after the bat ..Once a group of foreigners were fascinated by my paavadai chokkaai and took a pic of me ..*blush*..they also took pics of my mom and her pattu saree and thaali.. 🙂

My friend talks about Balakrishna Sastrigal! My thaatha was obsessed with that man.. :p Every morning started with his Harikatha on tape.. My mom and her cousins jocularly referred to his way of talking as “kaeval” 😐 My maternal thaatha had a huge collection of Carnatic music LP records and books by P.G.Wodehouse..His room had so many things I went in there like “Cortez with eagle eyes”..I got to opening things, breaking them to see if they worked, or licking them to see if they tasted good..much to my thaatha’s chagrin.. :))

And the food in my thaatha’s house in Madurai we had this Thangam maami, who made special bhakshanams for us when we went there for the vacations..and I loved the yummy adhirasams and mysorepak dripping with ghee and the vadaams..the unforgettable maavadu..and how this maami used to run behind me to feed me..:p

At Trichy, the Malai Koattai (Rockfort) was likeour own backyard…after some good icecream at Summer House with paati and shopping at Sarada’s we entered the temple..leaving our sandals with the regular coconut shop guy we walked towards the temple…me excited at the prospect of getting to eat lots of vibhooti ..(my inner brat rulez..)..

Climbing the 400 odd stairs was never a problem…I would get up there in a jiffy..running halfway..sitting on the steps to catch my breath..gazing through the small grille windows at the whole city below with a beautiful cool wind blowing at me from the Kaveri banks..once we get right to the top we looked at the various deities (honestly..they did not mean much to me..) I loved the paintings on the ceiling of the Thaayumaana Swami sannadhi though.. After eating lots of vibhooti, prasadams and after drinking lots of frooti right at the top…and enjoying the lovely breeze we descend back to the earth..I would be sulking and taking a long time to go or two steps at a time..accompanied by whines and complaining a lot…

Sometimes we visited one Chellam maami, an emaciated old lady with thick glasses and a stoop.. who lived halfway up the Malai Koattai…she would present me with pattams (kites) made by her grandson, which I never knew how to fly but took home all the same..and with cheedais…O! How I loved that maami..and there was another Rajam maami who liked me so much she used to feed me four times a day when she came home…rasam saadham with lots of paruppu and ghee.. 🙂

Some paatis clutched at my hands with so much love their cool and wrinkled hands so tender..their shining diamond mookuthis..asking me to sing a song or recite a shloka…me shying and trying to run away..and they would kiss me with lots of affection calling me “Raajaathi”…and I can still remember the quaint smell of love in their old sungudi 9 yards sarees..

I would sometimes be bored when the elders have their own conversations and would be trying to talk to the ants on the arisimaa koalam or the monkeys (from a safe distance… :D) Thaathas often found me interesting because I was Ravi’s daughter…and presented me with a book of mathematical tables..telling me stories of my appa’s pranks..asking me to study well…wishing I would be an IITan like my dad.. :p (which I successfully managed not to do..)

The Thiruvanaikka temple was my all-time favorite also because two of my paatis lived near that temple..Jaya and Lalitha..they were sisters who remained unmarried..I loved their small house with its cold stone floor and the small pillayars in their showcase..the well at the back and the monkeys that came there to snatch at my goodies..(scary ones!! :O)..Their house smelled of love and affection..:)

..and the Thiruvanaikka temple itself is unforgettable..first thing I used to ask for was a
Nagalinga poo…some flower-sellers had this rare flower which had a small lingam inside it..sometimes the lingam would have fallen off 😦 but I always took the one with no damage..and held it like my life depended on it and carried it back home..and the next thing would be to take a coin from my dad and tap a pillar which produced a metallic sound (a strange phenomenon)..I would run all around the temple and sometimes get lost and then get found..I can never get done with talking about it..

There are so many more memories about Trichy and Madurai which I can never finish with recounting…even a million times..I would look at them as a storehouse of happiness…maybe even as a tool for regression…the ever-famous defense for the psyche..Like Shashi Deshpande says in “Small Remedies”, “As long as there is memory, the loss is never total.”

Thazhampoo kungumam – A kind of vermilion scented by the perfume of a flower called Thazhampoo
Mallipoo – Jasmine
Mandapam – A huge pillared hall
Yaali – Gargoyle
Paavadai chokkaai – A long skirt and blouse usually made of silk worn by young girls in South India
Pattu – silk
Thaali – Mangal sutra (a thread or golden chain worn by ladies as a mark of a married woman)
Sastrigal – A learned man
Thaatha – Grandfather
Hari Katha – The story of Hari, a Hindu God
Kaeval – Wailing (Gerund)
Maami – Aunt, A term used in addressing elderly ladies
Vibhooti – Holy clarified ash
Bhakshanams – Sweets
Adhirasams, Mysorepaks – Special South Indian sweets
Rasam – A soup made with dal, tamarind and spices
Saadham – Rice
Vadaam – A fried delicacy made of dried rice flour
Thaayumana Swami – A deity, An incarnation of Lord Siva
Sannadhi – Sanctum sanctorum
Prasadam – An offering made to God eaten as a holy oblation
Cheedais – A savoury snack
Paati – Grandmother
Paruppu – Dal
Raajaathi – An endearing term
Sungudi – A soft cotton material
Pillayar – A deity (statue)
Arisimaa koalam – A pattern made on the floor with rice flour
Poo – flower

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11 thoughts on “Reminiscences….

  1. beautiful post – revived parts of my childhood in my mind..You do seem like the kind of girl who would talk to ants and be understood by them too.

  2. beautiful post… paatis and thathas are so adorable :). no better people to pamper you! and yes… some memories are so beautiful that u want to return them only to eternity… thats probably why we dont really want to go down as ashes and surface unblemished by nasty parts of past.

  3. It could be..because of the different cultural connotations you might have..after all this is my own reading and that too at a tender age..if I go back myself I dont know if I would feel the same way..which is what makes it all the more special as a memory..

  4. Amazing recollection and capture of nostalgia. It was a treat and a short odyssey into the past for me as I have been to Malaikottai, Srirangam and Thiruvaanaikovil n number of times and experienced exactly what you have said.

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