The Last of the Maamis

As a rule I’m not too fond of the maamis. The ones that insist on being madi*, the ones that fret over rahu kaalam** and yama kandam**, the ones that don’t enter the kitchen during their period, the ones that insist that other women in the house follow these rules at the same time cutting the men slack, the ones that think that a woman’s place is in the kitchen, the ones that gossip when a couple does not have a child after a year of being married, the ones that flaunt their Reebok shoes and their thick ropes masquerading as thaalis# during their morning walks, the ones that sport incongruous “Penn State” bumper stickers on their Maruti 800 cars.

I’ve been very happy that my grandmom is extremely un maami like for her generation and my mom tends more towards non maami except the odd instance here and there when her maami traits do show through . And me? Nah, after years of careful cultivation I’m practically non maami.

Yesterday I received a gift from a colleague.  A “Horlicks bottle” full of mavadu##. Homemade by his mother.

Needless to say I was thrilled and was trying to come to terms with how much mavadu she must have made to offer non family so much. I sent up a silent cheer to her and stopped in my tracks. Now this was a maami trait I appreciated quite a bit! My grandma did make mavadu, but now her health does not really allow too much of work. My mother was never a pickle – vadam person. My mother does supply me with my sambar podi and rasam podi and she makes her own idly maavu. With assorted members of the family having been afflicted with high BP, high cholestrol, diabetes etc, the bhakshanam@ being made has completely dwindled. We were never a family of sweet eaters – so sweets are a no show again. And who do we have to take this rich legacy forward in the family?  Me.

Maamis are facing extinction. And are being replaced by Grand Sweets. Not a very comforting thought that.

* Madi: Being pure, a requisite to perform pujas etc

** Rahu kaalam and yama kandam: Inauspicious time in a day

# Thaali: Mangalsutra

## Mavadu: A kind of pickled raw mango

@ Bhakshanam: Snacks and sweets made for a festival or occasion

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Margazhi, Mylapore and memories

Having in the heart of Mylapore as a child, all the hullabaloo in the papers about the “magic of mylapore”, the music festival attempting to create a hype and recreate that magic catapulted me into that time when there was no hype, no need for all the publications to draw the attention to the so called culture, no advertisements, no obsessive sponsoring…there was the real thing. I was young, really young, around 4 or 5…before I was packed off for the mandatory paattu class…so my recollection of that time is not very vast…quite hazy in fact…

I remember waking up early in the mornings, finishing up my bath and waiting in the  balcony…all bundled up to fend off the “pani”…then they’d make an appearance…the old men singing bhajans…I’d dutifully and solemnly take my fistful of rice….empty it into their sombus…and fall at their feet….now why I found this so fascinating is really beyond me…but I would faithfully do this…every single day that those thathas made an appearance..I did not understand the significance of this..but I followed the routine pretty strictly…we then moved away and this childhood memory faded until a couple of years back…when I was the lazy lump and the only reason I was up at 6 am and in Mylapore was to attend my CA classes..and I saw a bunch of thathas…with their clanging instruments… Obviously these men were some twenty years younger when I had my first brush with the bhajana ghoshtis and were possibly working at that point…and after their retirement have decided to do what their fathers and uncles did…I was fascinated that the tradition is still living!

Another memory I have is that of travelling by bus number 21 from the Devanathan street stop in Mandevali to Luz corner to do all our shopping…my world started and ended there…my trips to school near Mount Road were routine and did not hold too much of a novelty…but these trips to Luz Corner were real treats….Of course came the occasional trip to Parry’s corner to visit the tailor with my paati and uncle…these were ultimate for me for it meant such a nice long bus journey…instead of getting off at Luz, the bus took us all the way to the terminus…and we had to take a little walk to reach Shumm Tailors where my uncle would be measured and cloth given to the guy to create his magic! I tagged along happily and was rewarded with a cone ice cream for being a good little kid!The Allen Sollys and Louis Philips have taken over now and the fancy ice cream pubs have invaded…but that childish fancy that these trips held for me will always be a part of me..

Fresh vegetables, rich colours, plenty of haggling, holding patti’s hand tight and carrying a tiny bag, we’d walk up and down South Mada Street, long before these vendors were cleared for encroachments, long before broccoli and bell peppers made an appearance in our supermarkets…we would take a cursory glance at all the vendors and check on whose vegetables were the freshest and settle on one of them to start the process of haggling..great drama would ensue and paati would act as though these were the worst of the lot…she’d throw the vegetables back and declare that she would never buy from him..and he’d match her…saying that she was damaging  her vegetables and that single act of throwing a tomato would wipe out his entire family…a lot of fun later we’d walk back laden with all the loot..I still find buying vegetables therapeutic and will never say no to a trip to Suriya Sweets and Greens!

Oh to be 4 again! Why do things change so much?

Na autokaran autokaran

For some reason KT and I were singing this song yesterday and the thought that came into my head was this is a song that glorifies the autokaran so much…and puts the typical auto wallah on this high pedestal and makes them sound like a community of good samaritans…God’s gift to humankind

I don’t drive…so no road rage for me…but auto rage…is a term I think that can be coined to describe the crazy emotions I experience when dealing with Madras auto wallahs..I’ve never known anyone who has driven me nuts than the auto wallah. They have become a law unto their own and subject unsuspecting commuters to such harrasment. For me this has become automatic…I tell them my destination, they give me the fare I’d be willing to cough up times two at least…and then my legs will automatically move ahead…so much that when on a rare occassion they ask for a reasonable amount…I walk on before I realise that I’m ok with the fare and walk back!!!

 I just fail to understand this…the standard of living is way higher in Bombay than in Madras..the traffic is much worse…on the whole I’m sure the average autowallah has it much worse in Bombay..yet the minimum fare there is Rs 11, where in Madras it has recently been hiked to Rs 14, though the reality is that you cannot get anywhere for less than Rs 20. In Bombay, if the fare amounts to Rs 29, the autowallah would insist on returning the change if you hand him Rs 30, while in my dear darling city if the charge is Rs 21, and you hand the guy Rs 30, the chances of the autowallah returning change is practically nil.

For the locals to deal with the issue is bad enough…God save non Tamil speaking people or tourists…worst affected are the foreigners…complete rip off that’s what happens to them…the whole Atithi Devo Bhava concept on which there have been ads…they can base an ad on this!!!

I am at my rudest worst in dealing with autos and have absolutely no patience for these dishonest, greedy people who I’m forced to deal with on a daily basis..the whole autowallah-police-politician nexus has made it impossible for any action to be taken against these guys..I’d rather walk / take a bus (not anymore!!!) than have to deal with these nasty bunch of people and I simply refuse to pay a paisa more than what ought to be paid (major bone of contention between KT and me…I’ve even gotten off an auto once as KT agreed to pay extra…major fights have erupted thanks to these guys!!). On the other hand when one chap asked me for lower than what I normally paid, I gave him the extra money wholeheartedly…

The only way in which I can get rid of this nuisance is to get a car and learn to drive properly..that’s why I said…get a car…get a car!!! 🙂

Sigh….