Sunday, 8 May 2022

After the Fire!

On the 08th of April while most of India was sleeping, a kind and alert neighbour who has never called me before, called me on my mobile phone. The time was about 04. 43 am. The number was unknown and my groggy self was quite baffled to decipher as to why someone would make a call in that time. After confirming that it was me, he indicated that there was smoke coming out of our kitchen and asked us to get out of the house. I awoke my sleeping husband and along with our nonhuman companion, rushed out of the house but not without opening the kitchen door and trying to see what was happening; I could not make out anything. Later we found out that our fridge caused the fire burning the entire kitchen in the process. 

We were homeless for a week, living in a temporary arrangement for we could not live in the house which was blackened by soot carrying a strong odour of burnt residue. 

-----

That was a month ago.

Today we have shifted our house and still settling in the new house. Alongside everything, my meandering mind was shuttling back and forth to the old dwelling place from where we were unceremoniously driven away. It still seems strange to us that while we retired to our bed the previous night, little did we know that exactly a month after, we would be waking up in a different house. The uncertainty of life hit us hard but we were quite gracefully accepting the blows. We did not panic. But there were many questions from some of my friends; They argued whether life was trying to tell us something or we were being warned by the divine power. R and I were just focusing on what had to be done - clearing whatever was available and packing the things in boxes to be carried to the other house which was thankfully in the same campus. The whole memory trigger which was laying still chose to hit hard while we were packing. Most of the items reminded me either of people, incidents, moments or generally a time in the past when things were different and we were younger. While I was thinking of something and mechanically packing, my husband was quite focused on meticulously packing (thanks to him, I cannot find many things). 

While bits and pieces of our stuff still remains in the boxes, we have completed most of it. It took us a month to get used to the present house--the walls, the switches, the nooks, corners, and everything else. Sometimes I sit and stare at the new rooms that my old stuff occupies and feel weird because though I know the items, I imagine them in my old place and picturing them in the new place is something that I have to get used to. 

Cooking in the new kitchen though exciting suddenly pulls me back to the crammed kitchen and I search for an item in the exact place that I had kept it in the old place. Then I physically shake myself and nod--a nod to remind me that we have shifted to a new place. 

Getting up in the mornings is also a challenge at times but yes I am slowly getting myself cocooned in the present house and forcing comfort out of the walls and windows. Whether one lives in one's own house or a house provided by the employer, the lived experience is the same. We form a kinship with the nooks and corners, passages, walls and bathrooms.

Well, life has to go on and tomorrow is another day.

Saturday, 15 January 2022

What's your Proustian madeleine?

Reading an article of Raghu Karnad this morning, I came across the phrase, Proustian madeleine. The phrase led me into the magic hole of nostalgia where I started walking the sweet lane of my growing up years. What were the sweets that I enjoyed while I was living through a time when I didn't realise how precious those years would be in the coming years. 

There was peanut candy where peanuts were soaked in liquid jaggery and hardened to give a fine texture. These candies can be found even today sometimes the taste unaltered. It was eaten mindlessly during different times of the day. It was so commonplace that one attached no value of significance to it. It was called kadalaimittai. It is not much of a nostalgia because one feels this emotion when one misses something. But the simple sweet is much available. Perhaps nostalgia is for the lost days of yore.

Another sweet is the then mittai. I don't have many memories of the sweet except for occasional treats now and then. It isn't nostalgia material for me. But I remember the taste of the sweet and I don't see it anymore. It used to melt in the mouth oozing honey; it was a stark difference to the texture of kadalaimittai which was hard and chewy. 

Another sweet we used to enjoy was the palkhoa or the milk sweet. My grandfather used to treat us with the palkhoa and sev which is known as omapodi. The combination is a deadly one. We were looking forward to eating that combo whenever my grandfather used to return from his daily outings. Now neither my grandfather nor the omapodi is relished by me - the grandfather is no more and the omapodi disappeared after his death. But once a while my sister and I talk about those days. In spite of the omapodi still available in the market, it isn't the same!

I guess I wasn't much of 'sweet' person to remember the delicacies of my growing up years. But nostalgia makes everything sepia tinted and mellow which led me into a sweet trail of Proustian madeline!

What's your Proustian madeline?

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