March 20, 2013

Wake me up when the summer ends

Have you heard of this movement called Nude Cooking? No? It’s ok, don’t beat yourself up over it. I just invented it.

So in my head, Nude Cooking is this movement where women across the world take to cooking in the nude during a few months every year (March to June, to be precise), not as a form of protest or anything, but for the simple reason that it’s too freaking hot to wear clothes in the kitchen. Frustration due to any collateral damage like oil-splattering etc. will be duly taken out on the husbands.

Yes, you guessed it right. The heat in Chennai has finally gone to my head. My love for cooking is slowly going up in fumes, thanks to the heat and humidity. I don’t even have to switch the gas on sometimes. Even if I’m doing baking, I’m sweating buckets. So imagine the condition while making rotis.

I HATE SUMMER! Except for the mangoes. And you know what’s the worst part? It’s still only March. L It’s only going to get worse. I try not to step out of the house much during the day, venturing out only to go to the gym and dance class, and the occasional trips to the supermarket. And I carry my trusty John’s kuda with me everywhere. I still haven’t recovered completely from my Goa tan yet. My skin is not ready for a Chennai tan.

Summer used to be fun at one time, during school days. Because of summer vacations. Damn, I miss school, just for that. For me, summer vacation used to be at my late Acchamma’s (Acha’s mom) house in Thalasherry. Two months of lazing around, devouring mangoes by the dozen (from the lone mango tree in her garden, planted by my dad years ago. Till date, the best mangoes I’ve ever had), eating kallumakai (mussels. Damn, just thinking about it is making my mouth water), among other things. But Acchamma’s signature piece was her homemade grape wine. Sigh... prepared and bottled months in advance, it would be ready for serving by the time we arrived. She would take it out with a flourish that only one who has spent hours toiling in front of an old-fashioned wood-fire can feel. Acchamma lived a simple life all by herself in that old house. She was a fiercely independent woman. She had this tiny little box TV that had only the Doordarshan channels, and she was very protective about her TV. So she used to ration it out to me and Chech. Which was good in a way, because we learnt to spend summers without a television. That’s when we used to read the most. Ah, the endless summers spent in the company of books. Acha would fashion cricket bats and balls out of madal (what’s it called in English? The stem part of the coconut tree) and oala (leaf of the coconut tree). And then in the evenings, we would go to Acha’s school, which was just across the road. His old school, with the HUGE playground and the gulmohar trees.

Acchamma passed away in 2005 March. And along with her, she took our summer vacations. Sadly, I don’t even remember the last summer vacation I spent with her. Once Chechi finished school, it became difficult to match our holiday schedules. And then, as happens with all of us, we grew out of it. We preferred to spend our vacations in the city, with our friends, ‘hanging out’. Trading succulent mangoes for dry popcorn at the movie theatre; grandma-made grape wine for fanta orange at the shopping centre; kallumakai for pizzas and burgers; the rickety old wooden bench in Acchamma’s front verandah for plastic chairs at the shopping complex; bedtime stories for late night television. I wonder if my kids, and kids of the coming generation will have as fond memories of summer vacations as we had... I seriously doubt it. They will have great memories, sure. But not of the same kind. Not of the mangoes-from-the-lone-tree-in-the-garden-homemade-grape-wine-roasted-cashewnuts-fighting-to-watch-TV-stealing-milk-powder-from-her-cupboard-inventing-games-because-there-was-no-TV-plucking-flowers-for-the-puja-room kind...


How is the summer in the rest of the country? Please tell me it’s bad. Please let me get some sadistic pleasure out of it. Please please pretty please.

March 3, 2013

Feels like love

The cupboard was a mess.

“Oh god... I married a slob”, Shalini sighed. She didn’t know where to start. But start somewhere, she had to. She had to make space for her own stuff till they got a new cupboard.

She started pulling out some of Amar’s clothes that were lying in a crumpled mass and put them on the bed. “How hard is it to fold the clothes!”, she muttered. She folded them all and put them back neatly, utilizing the space properly, and making space for her clothes.

“Ok, so that’s done!” An hour and a half later, she had managed to make the cupboard look like a civilized person’s. She then moved on to the smaller wall-cupboard and opened it to see whether there was anything in there to be that could be trashed. One look at the shelves and she knew it was a lost cause. “Forget it.  I’ll deal with this another day”, she  said, closing the door.

And that’s when she spotted it. In the small shelf where Amar kept his toiletries. A small tin of talcum powder. She looked at it for a few seconds, wondering whether or not to pick it up.

But without even picking it up, she knew what it smelt like. She knew the fragrance. The subtle whiff of sandalwood. He used to use the same powder. For her, the fragrance was synonymous with him.

Him... wow.. she hadn’t thought about him for quite a while. She hadn’t had the time, frankly. It had been a crazy few weeks. But that wasn’t the only reason. She had tried very hard to shut all thoughts of him away. It hadn’t been easy. There were days when the pain and the hurt had got so intense, it hurt her physically- a dull, thumping ache in her heart. She could actually feel it. Wasn’t it better to shut away someone who had caused her that much pain? But if only it was that easy.  

She had loved that fragrance on him. She used to find it homely, comforting, erotic- all at the same time. Sandalwood had never really been her favourite scent till then.

For a long time after they split, the smallest of triggers was enough to set her off. A song, a place, a dialogue, a joke. And she would be a pile of mess in an instant. That was all it took. Once, her friend mentioned that she’d spoken to him, and that he’d laughed, and out of nowhere, she could hear his laughter. Just like that. That deep-throated laughter that used to bring butterflies to her stomach. That night, she’d cried for the first time in weeks. And felt guilty for having had no trouble at all in remembering what his laugh sounded like. Guilty because she was to be married in a few months to a wonderful guy. But it’s not like she’d purposely remembered his laughter. It had come to her just like that.

So she’d tried hard to shut him out.

She tentatively reached for the powder tin. “No! Don’t do it!”, her inner demon admonished her. “You know you’ll end up thinking of him and crying. You know it.” She picked up the tin and flipped the lid back, and took in the fragrance.

And she waited. Waited for his face to appear in her mind’s eye. Waited for the tears to come. Waited for the breakdown to happen.

Instead, she found herself smiling; smiling. remembering how she had been so madly, passionately, crazily in love at one time; how alive she had felt at the time; at how wonderful it had felt to love without a care in the world, to love without knowing what the future held, without knowing whether or not there was a future, without analyzing where it was going; how incredible it had felt to make love to someone with so much passion; how special he used to make her feel with the smallest of gestures.

She smiled fondly, remembering how happy she had felt at one time. The hurt, the pain, the anger- all that seemed to have gotten overshadowed. And just then she realised, that she was going to be ok.

The trick was to stop associating memories with people, and start associating them with feelings- of how you felt at a particular time. Maybe, just maybe, that might make everything ok...