Sunday, March 29, 2009

Daddy Long Legs


My favourite book till date, the best amongst the many, is Daddy Long Legs. Time and again, I have wondered what is it in this simple epistolary novel that has captivated me so much. Is it the assurance that kindness still prevails in this sometimes cruel world? The idea of a developing romance, through letters, or the Jerusha Abbot's pursuit of knowledge and excellence? I have wondered often and guess that more often than not, it is precisely these questions that make me return to the book.

First of all, the idea that simplicity and conviction of thoughts still reign the roost. Probably I escape into a world of fantasy when I think about that. Next, the idea that letters can be such powerful tools of expression. That is some food for thought in the present age of 'twittering'.

To me, the whole point is knowing about a person so intrinsically without ever having met them. The letters that Jerusha writes to her unknown benefactor are chronicles of her life, a record of her thoughts, her successes and her losses and sometimes, indignance. But all punctuated by honesty of thought. Hence to me, the book is not just a tale. This may not happen in real life, but as long as the possibilities of parallels exist, why not?

Or probably it is just the idea of a preparing to write. Whatever. This is the one book that I would love to curl up with on a winter's day, on a rocking chair, with a hot cup of coffee in my hands. And travel with Jerusha as she moves on with her dreams of becoming a writer.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Pickled Life!

What's a meal without a pickle. A welcome sign in any kitchen is those rows of bottles filled with reddish brown substance. [colours vary from red to brown depending on the constituents]

Come summer, it is the pickle season out here. Yesterday my aunt made fresh cauliflower pickle. Needless to say, anything that comes out of my aunt's hand is yummy. Remembrance of things past. My mind travelled to those days when another aunt of mine used to make mango pickle. It was more of a ritual, something that she did with reverence every summer. Let me tell how she did it

First of all, the pickle making day was announced in advance. The children were warned to wake up early in the morning and finish the morning rites, have their fill of food and disappear. Disappear here means going off to the groves, playing with the other village kids or watching movies on the rented VCR.

The kitchen was a separate block by itself. In the garden, aunt would have already pounded the red chillies [they only look red, they are not so spicy] and the other required ingredients. She would pound them into a fine powder. Then come out the cut mango pieces. Triangular pieces of raw mangoes. She would mix the pieces with the powder and oil by hand and store them in earthern jars....huge ones. Only after the kitchen was completely cleaned would the children be allowed.

The result - red mango pickle. Mix it with steaming hot rice and add a dash of ghee - you are on your way towards a lip-smacking treat. Of course, the treat used to be punctuated by stentorian warnings that we should not eat too much, otherwise our stomachs would start behaving unpredictably. But...who cared.

Today, very few people have the space and time to make pickles in such large quantities. My aunt in Hyderabad makes pickle using a mixer. It's good. But nowhere does it approximate to the taste of those pickles in earthen jars. But at least my aunt is making.

As I walk down the supermarket aisle, I see the numerous bottles of pickles of all kinds and constituents. They remind me of those earthen jars, red mango pickle made by my aunt. I sigh, and move on.

Friday, March 6, 2009

A Shouting in the Silence?

'Long time ma'am, since you last came here,' remarked the waiter. I was at Java Green in Punjagutta, and it had been a month since my last visit. He knew what I wanted as I settled down with my book. Out of the corner of my eye, my eyes registered something out of the usual. I could see hands flinging about. Words that were supposed to be heard but not heard. Right in the middle of the outlet, a group of five people around a table were engaged in an animated conversation. They were almost shouting, but silently!

I was amazed. So much of communication and so noiselessly. The waiter, obviously wanting to share his observations on them, felt a kinship with me and moved over. 'Just imagine the noise levels ma'am if five people had actually been engaging in this kind of a verbal discussion.' The five people were communicating in sign language.

I was interested. Who were these people? They were of a mixed age group and were of a professional disposition. Most importantly, they were starkly set off against the motley crowd by their willingness to connect and communicate. Fascinated, I asked the waiter. 'Do they come here everyday? Who are they?'

'They are employees of the Andhra Bank above. Everyday they don't take their break at the usual time and instead in the evening settle down here for a long discussion. I have been seeing them for the past eight months and everyday, watching them has been quite fascinating. If there is no place inside, they place an order and make themselves comfortable outside on the pavement. But the pattern has remained the same for the past eight months. The five get together at the same time in the evening and god knows what they talk, but they talk.'

I looked at the animated speakers again and was struck, by their willingness to connect to each other. Even at the expense of 'shouting' in silence. How many of us are willing to take time for that?