Object that brings back fond memories…Tharini tagged me on this one.
When you are asked about something that brings back fond memories, your mind scans through several years of events as if you are looking through one of those flip photo books to see your past in action all over again. College, school, childhood…photos? Letters? Patti’s necklace? Appa’s pooja tumbler? Pink Salwar from 9th grade? Gosh, the list is suddenly long. So many things bring back fond memories. I only have a few tangible objects with me here. So many others that I wish I had preserved. But for the sake of this post, I decided that it was this that brought back a wistful feeling, a tug in the heart and a longing for that wonderful feeling of togetherness and family, those carefree moments in your childhood. My “Sapadu thattu”. (Eating plate).
It is a small little round “ever silver” plate with my father’s initials inscribed on it. I am not sure if this is done all over India. But in the south, especially in my mother’s times, it was customary to send a whole lot of vessels – both silver and stainless steel – as part of the bride’s “seer” (gifts). These would include all vessels needed to set up a home as well as those used for performing important rituals. The vessels usually have the initials of the bride (with her new last name) or the groom inscribed on it. I wonder when my plate was purchased. I assume my grandmother bought it for my mother during my mother’s wedding. It has soft rounded edges and a clean and heavy look to it. I have managed to take it with me through all the many places I have lived in so far.
I don’t eat in this plate anymore. My mother uses it when she stays with me. I don’t even pause to look at it too often. But now that I am pausing to do so, it brings back such fond memories. And the pain of longing for something that is now only a part of your memory. When I was a child (I think I was in second grade then), we lived in this large rented house with a verandah that spanned the entire house pretty much. It had beautiful red tiled flooring. The kitchen and the dining rooms were separated from the rest of the house at a lower level – three steps leading to those rooms. We had a large dining table with six chairs. My dad would sit at the head of the table and I would sit next to him and my siblings in the other chairs. On many days however, especially for dinner, if my dad was not around, we preferred to sit on the floor with the dining table behind us. We would all gather in this small space and sit down with our respective plates. We knew not to mix up plates or the sitting spot for each person. My mother would serve us hot delicious food and we would all eat together.
Weekends meant brunch around 10.30 a.m. On those days my father would also sit down along with us. He loved food and had a taste for good food. He loved steamed vegetables and much to my mother’s annoyance he would often quip, “Indha pavakai’ya appdiye steam panni sapta first class’aa irukkum”. (If this bitter gourd were to be steamed and eaten, it would be delicious). It was said partly to irritate her because she would unfailingly retort that he could eat that when he went out with his friends to some five star hotels and she would only serve fried vegetables at home! He never wasted any food and would completely clean up his plate. I was the slowest eater (KB clearly takes after me!) and would talk and laugh and sit at my plate of food forever. I loved telling my sisters about “school tales” and would laugh non-stop at any joke they made. My sisters used to call me “Motorbike” because I would laugh like one. Loud gurgling laughter interspersed with moments of breathlessness! Sundays were the best because my mother would invariably make “Thengai thogayal” (coconut chutney) which I loved and she would also make golden fried “urulakazhangu” (aloo). I would eat well on days she made aloo or okra – the other days, I would always look for an escape route – if my mother got a phone call, she would have to go up the three steps to the other end of the house where the phone was. In the five or ten minutes she was on the phone, I would make a tight fistful of the dreaded healthy vegetable (like beans or plantain) that I had been asked to finish and run up the slopy hill in the backyard and throw it into the other side of it where the crows would come and eat their find. My father would sometimes help me out so I wouldn’t get chided but would gently say, “Green vegetables Sapadnum…appo dhan strong’aa iruppe” (you have to eat green vegetables, only then you will be strong). There was so much chatter and laughter in those 20 – 30 minutes and it would be followed by a group clean up. Later, my dad would lie down and read the newspaper. I would lie down next to my father who invariably fell asleep reading the newspaper. There was a cloth “easy chair” in our living room and I would climb on it upside down and do a flip-flop. I would paint randomly and laboriously arrange the painted sheets in order of “favorites”. I would also note down what the favorites order for my sister was.
I could go on about the memories that this one tangible piece – the “thattu” – from my childhood days brings back to me. I wish I could relive the happiness and the absolutely carefree state it was then. My parents shouldered everything – the children only had to eat, study and have fun. It makes me wonder if we can be that way to our children. To let them experience childhood without the burden of all that it takes to give them that. Especially in today’s world where one has to be careful about every thing – where they go, what they do, who interacts with them, what they see on the Internet…. I remember those days and for a second wish I could talk to my father again. I remind myself that my mother is a phone call away and I feel extremely grateful for that suddenly.
I also feel that food is such a strong part of childhood memories and I want to make sure we have family meals together no matter how rushed we are, no matter how many piano and tennis lessons my children have to go to. I hope we are able to do this as a family. I hope there is just as much laughter, just as much “fried urulaks” (oh nothing can beat tasty fried aloo!) and silly conversation and sure hope my children don’t rush into adulthood with all the exposure they get in today’s world. It reminds me – I should get them each a good plate when they are ready to eat on their own. One that will last forever and will bring them back to their childhood when they look at it!
I tag - Aryan (please let mom talk just this once Aryan), DDmom (why are you missing for so long?!), Cantaloupe, Madmomma, Poppins, Ranjani, SS.