I was born into a family of hard working middle class brahmins who also owned agricultural lands. As far as I could remember, our lives used to circle around tilling, sowing and harvesting. I have never witnessed any of my family members scrutinising newspapers or registering with Employment Exchanges for jobs. It is, by way of life, understood that in spite of the different level of education one is able to achieve, he has to finally end up looking after the land and help the family business continue. The third generation started to venture outside the town and here I sit during this long weekend, penning my thoughts about my childhood to give solace to the stressed mind.
This big mansion belonged to my grand father situated in a small town near Trichy in Tamil Nadu, India. The house has a long patio followed by a open ceiling quadrangle. On all the sides of the quadrangle, there are big rooms with broad windows. The narrow path from the quadrangle leads to a big kitchen and a couple of huge store rooms. Then there is the backyard where the livestock are housed. The tour will be incomplete if i do not mention about the bigTulasi plant, lush green which used to be a lovely sight in the backyard. Grandma worships Tulasi day in and day out. She believes that Tulasi brings happiness and prosperity to the family alongwith long life to Grandpa.
At no time, there were dearth of food or other food products in the house. There were no waiting in the queues for ration or waking up to the sound of milk distributing person's clattering at our gates. We always had about four to five cows and a couple of buffaloes at our backyard. There was regular supply of milk and milk products at home. The excess was either distributed or sold off for a meagre amount. Never our meals were completed without the traditional 'thirattipal' (thickened milk sweet). I can only recall those taste as it is now impossible to retrieve those, with the current available marketed milk from shops.
During summer, our house was flooded with cousins coming from various parts of the country, each one bringing delicacies from their place. The day starts with all of us queued up early in the morning with our mouth wide open to receive a tablespoonful of sesame oil for oil pulling. Not exactly understanding the benefits, we used to be more interested as to who would bring out whiter liquids after the splish splash!!!! This will be followed with a hot glass of milk followed by hot steamy idlis with chutney. There were no options. Lunch would mainly comprise of rice,lentil and vegetables (picked from our backyard).
After lunch, our favourite resting spot used to be a big banyan tree where sun will shy to enter in. My grandpa converted one of the strong branch into a swing, plainly made of thick ropes and a wooden plank as seat. This seat used to be very long and could accommodate at least four of us at a time. The lush green grass and the distant mountain view used to be treat for eyes. Illness among children were unheard of. No special diets, no health drinks but all of us used to be very healthy. There was a big swing about 6' by 3' in the open hall. The seat of the swing is of teak wood and the connecting chains had beautiful designs. This is one place where all of us can play at the same time. No time limits when we were in the swing.
Mostly in the evenings, there would be a scheduled visit to the local temple. There were numerous deities and it was a pleasure praying at length to each one of them. The prasad mostly sundal (cooked spicy lentil) from the temple used to be our evening snack.
Girls used to have a lovely time plucking the jasmine buds in our backyard which was dutifully braided by our old maid servant which would adorn their well oiled and plaited hair. There were no room fresheners. The jasmine would spread its smell throughout and the air would be filled with fresh bloom.
Particular mention to be made about our bathing rituals. At the backyard, in the midst of the fields, there is a big tank (almost like a mini swimming pool) which gets filled with water through a pump which draws water from the ground. This water is channelled to the paddy fields. This tank used to be our favourite place. The cool fresh water bath under the sun is never missed and forgotten. Twice a week all of us gets an sesame seed oil massage followed by thorough wash with lentil powder (also prepared at home). Dandruffs and other hair related problems were unheard of.
There were paddy fields as far as one could see. There were quite a number of labourers working in the fields and would bring the refined produce back home to be stored for future use. Excess of anything is always sold in the open market. In certain parts of the land are grown seasonal crops. Not to mention the variety of fruits like Guava,Mangoes, Seethaphal and the Sapotta. The best trips were made to the Oil chakki in bullock cart where we used to carry home grown groundnuts and sesame seeds to be crushed and oil removed. This oil is used at home and the waste termed 'Punnakku' is used as feed for the cows. The freshly ground hot 'Punnakku' is a delicacy even for us. Except clothes, I have never witnessed any other purchases at home. We would climb up the Amla tree to devour the best and big amlas. Dancing peacocks visiting our backyard were a sight to see. We also had occasional visitors of bear and cheetah from the nearby 'Kolli hills' retreating on their own after a tour of the area.
As twilight sets in, grandma used to light the sacred lamp and all of us would line up for reciting 'slokas' dedicatedly following grandpa. No televisions or computer games for us. After dinner, all of us would gather in the front patio where the older generations ends up with local talks whereas we end up playing games with a pile of tamarind seeds (puliyangottai).
Unheard of the word 'bore, boredom'. Each day is being looked forward to live at the fullest!!
My eyes glisten as I recall those good old days which disappeared very slowly on the death of grandparents and the rest settling with their sons and daughters mostly abroad. The house was rented out to a school. On my recent visit to India and of course to my home town, I saw the house still in tact but devoid of buzzing of the happy souls!!!!