Monday, July 30, 2007

Of Pappadams and Onam and summer vacations

"Appallam, Pappadaiiiiii, Appallam, Pappadaiii" ears would perk up even though the book was most unputdownabble..i had to see to it that we had nice golden puffed up pappadams especially for Onam.
It would do no justice for Onam if we did not have the 'Valiyapappadam' and the 'Cheriyapappadam'.
Onam wasnt all that kinda 'traditional-great' in the grey polluted madras city for us -
Onam held the magic of verdant fields and thoughts of home-most of the colorful imagery was mallu-movie- fed ideas of what the kerala Onam would be like ..and of hearing the great Onam sadhya that my aunt painted in words for us...No Onam feast was worth its name if there wasnt the Big and small pappadam..especially made for the festival by the 'pandaarams'.

The Pandaarams - as far as my limited, aunt-blessed knowledge goes, are a group of people whose sole job seemed to be to make Pappadams of all sorts...and i imagined them having these nice pappadams everyday ..and that sounded nice.

(Psst....a family secret...
At times when super angry some imp family elders wud use the word 'padaaram' as a curse word too!
Always wondered why? Any idea?)

I Crispus am a big Pappadam fan..not the usual 4 pappadam eater mind u! I'm the 10 pappadam type ..Crush fluffy pappadams 4 at a time into the steaming rice and make balls...aaaram se..much to the disgust of my neigboring eater..whoever that soul might be and especially so since the pappadams were in gr8 demand and not all got the luck of being allowed 10 pappadams :) .
I was lucky becos i was the 'dubai cousin' getting special attention, extra helping of Kesari halwa, extra pappadams...coz i was once-in-2yrs visitor to the family.

Apart from the undisguised jealousy of the Cousins 1 & 2, Crispus continued eating with elaborate glee and equal delight in the pappadam-rice. Crispus cud disgust anyone if she set her heart to it. ;)

That was when Crispus ran around in just a petticoat and raised a bedlam in the house for the 8 or 9 rys worth of making life very purposeful for Mummy. Mummy's hand would itch to give a whack to Cripus for the sudden bouts of mischief, noise, energy and non stop nonsense in english.

Crispus had to show off Dubai school english and again this was much to the envious awe of Cousins 1 & 2 esp. Crispus had saved up all talent for the summer hols so the showing off would be worth it all - with the indulgence, attention of the grandparents, Chechy, 'distant- veliya brother' and 'friend-cheriya brother'.

Njangalude Pappadakaran
The Pappadakkaaran came all the way from kerala twice a month to sell it door to door to us mallu families in the colony...
we wud buy a lot..enuff to last this man's next visit..get the pappadams, complain a bit about the last stock not having puffed up etc and yet buy a lot the hot blazing madras sun..

Pappadakaaran wud put down the heavy bags bulging with pappadams and vatthals and sometimes he would try to sell us chips and mixture. All the while, mom wud ask abt his family; he wud tell his latest stories and then a bit about how GOD has been wonderful to his son in law got a dubai visa, daughter was studying well and then he would do a very unsual thing...he wud always ask mom if she got a moment to pray...tho eager to run back into the cool of the house, mom would oblige, never refuse prayer.. and then he would leave. was Crispus ...buying the papadam, lesser quantity, no talk...
mom had passed away..a few weeks ago.

this time, he offered his condolence in near silence and asked if we could pray..i said yes and we prayed ..he on the other side of our big gate and me inside our small courtyard..
i couldnt stop these damn be seen like this before the Pappadakaaran...but it was okay...
If mom could oblige to pray with an itinerant Pappadakaran, so could Crispus...

Now gone are the attention givers and the attention seeker, but Crispus is the quietest soul in the family - given to bouts of eloquence and spewing knowledge..baffling, and impressing the listener - usually Mummy and the rest of the immediate family. Come Cousins, now all grown up in half saree and full skirts and the occasional 'dubai dresses' Crispus fell into a trickle of bare conversation and hid behind the tomes and volumes of which Crispus' pride had no end.

i said bye and then i didnt see him much more...

I remember his call in the lazy blazing hot afternoons..."Appallam, Pappadaiiiiii, Appallam, Pappadaiii"...