Monday, January 28, 2008

The object of my affection - tag

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.

25 comments:

molarbear's posts said...

Can't point to one thing about this post any more than you can point to one memory....enjoyed the whole post.And I enjoyed the description of 5TC!

S said...

This is one of those posts which just tugs at your heart strings .. brought tears to my eyes when you talked about your dad .. hey and guess what, am a potato lover too :)
Thanks for tagging me. Will do it after getting back,ok?

Poppins said...

What a beautiful post Noon. I have fond memories of my sappadu thathu as well, although I don't use it anymore.

I'd decided not to take up any tages because I'm so lousy at it, but you're tempting me !

And oh alu curry - to die for !

noon said...

MB - thanks..yes, when I think back I can't believe people lived in such large houses in the heart of the city! Some 50 people could have slept in just the verandah!

S - thanks..look forward to reading your post on this. Do remember to do it when you get back.

Poppins - thanks. Do write please! :)
And the little aloo you get in India - fried brown with some chilly powder - oh god it is just out of this world!

Timepass said...

LOL on quickly disposing vegs u dont like!!

the mad momma said...

what a lovely post Noon... the scene just appears before my eyes as I read ... will do it immediately.

bird's eye view said...

That was a beautiful post and I could almost picture you and your siblings...

DotMom said...

what a beautiful post indeed! I am laughing at your nickname.. motorbike :) I so gotta meet you :P

The description of your mealtimes was so lovely. I was there in that room.. in that "easy chair" very nice post noon!

Lavs said...

Tagged!!

Preethi said...

Such a beautiful post.. :) I love thenga thugayal and aloo fry too!!! And this thattu story brought back to mind another thattu story of my own.. will post on that and disposing veges.. we have all done it.. I did the same with milk too.. down the drain :)

The TAAMommy said...

Lovely post , noon, well written and brought back memories for me as well. Thank you!!

K 3 said...

(Blogged hopped here ) Lovely post brought back memories of my “milk cup” from yester years. **Now starching my head trying to figure out its location **

Preethi said...

Linked to your post on mine.. come read! :)

Orchid said...

beautiful!..simple things told so well! thank you for a nice read and for bringing back a few memoires of my own!

Tharini said...

Beautiful, just so!! Sappasu thattu reminded me of my grandfather's oval one. Heavy too. He used to eat only in that. And just to watch him mix the rasam saadham with his hands....mmmm mmm!

So u had a motorbike laugh huh? My friends used to tease that I laugh like a helicopter! :)

Alu fry was a delicacy on Friday afternoons (in Bahrain, weekend) at our place too. Such memories your post is opening up!

Lavs said...

Your “motorbike” laughter reminded me of my college days. My friends named by laughter as “moped laughter”. When meal times become family “together” times, it develops closer bonding. My mother always wanted me to clean up after food and I hated to do the “yetchal” [cleaning] part. Mopping was not a problem though and I always used to “disappear” soon after food and re-surface once cleaning was done:-)A well written post,noon!

Aryan said...

What a lovely post nooniee..So nice..Thanks for tagging me on this..Will do it..
So you have motor bike laughter..I have a laughter that resembles a Car when it switched on..Ahh funny..
I love thengathogayal..and thengaaracha kolambu..ymmyy...
Aryan's mom

noon said...

TP - you've done that too right?

MM - thanks! And for doing the tag too!

BEV - thanks!

Dotmom - hope you are feeling better when you read this...
Thanks...And I sure hope we can meet when I come that side...I have to meet sweet little Chip - he had me floored in that lawn mowing post...

Preethi - thanks! Will soon commnet on your post...

Taamommy - thanks! :) Why don't you write as well - will be fun to read...

K3 - thanks so much. So, did you find it?

Orchid - thanks for reading and for such a sweet comment...

noon said...

Tara - thanks so much for tagging me on this. I enjoyed writing this post.
And please please do a post on your life in Bahrain...you grew up there?
Or just worked there? Helicopter...hmm...KB does a good imitation of the helicopter sound. He will enjoy your laughter then! :)

Lavs - thanks - Moped, Helicopter, Motor bike! :)) Funny!
Oh my god "yethchal"! That wors can trigger memories of all my summer hols at my Patti's house! Goodness...I used to feel compelled to help out with the clean up after meals - but hated having to do this part of it...so I would try to do the second level clean up! :)

noon said...

Aryan - wow - a whole host of vehicles in our blog group! :)
Hmm...thengai thogyal, aloo, arachu vitta sambhar...my god! Do you do all this on some weekends? Where do you live! Am comin over!

ranjani.sathish said...

beautiful post noon ! taken up ur tag and done it on time for
once ;-)

BangaloreMom said...

Loved ur post!! Ur post brought back nostalgic memories of my childhood...and the beautiful traditions that are so much a part of every family and every childhood. Keep writing Noon...you write beautifully..

And I have finally made a post, as you were asking!!:)

Deepa said...

I am delurking! Yes, becoz this post was so beautiful I had plesant shivers running up my spine. Perhaps because living in the U.S. such memories are so hard to re-create in my present life. And don't I wish I could. You are a lovely person wondernoon.

noon said...

Thanks Ranjani.. I just read your post - is not letting me comment - will try again later.

BM - thanks. Nice to see you back after a long time...and also read your post...keep writing!!

Deepa - thanks for your comment...It is always a pleasure to have this pleasant surprise when someone delurks and leaves a comment - and esp so with such a sweet comment. Yes, the simplicity in some sense of those days is just hard to recreate now...I dont' think you have that even in India now...you just can't chill out - have to keep running and take your kids along with you and keep 'em running all the time too!

Rohini said...

Hey...this post just brought tears to my eyes...like I wrote to you on your latest post, I am in love with your writing, and I think this is one of your best posts....

I too was suddenly reminded of my "sapaadu thattu"...I had one of my own, and then suddenly one day, I took over my dad's one...whihc was oval shaped and had three little stands at the bottom...I was so reminded of the plate and how we used to have our meals at home...

I had two thattus....one small tiffin thattu in which we used to have tiffin, ven pongal, dosai and all that...and one saapadu tahttu...the one where we had lunch and dinner....

I so miss my home and family....I wish we could get back together...if only...

Thanks for the post...loved it...