Wings and Chirps

Wanderings of an Itchy Feet

Wings and Chirps

Tag: childhood

#MythicalMondays – Manjadikuru

Most of you now know that I hail from Palakkad District in Kerala. To be precise, a small village between Ottapalam and Shoranur, the two nearest railway stations. The infinite train journeys to Kerala on-board the Kerala Express or the Mangala Express remain a significant part of my childhood memories. We made a lot of friends. Even though most of those friendships lasted only for those 48-50 hours of journey, many a teenage love stories bloomed and died during this short period of time. Some of these had me as the supporting cast while a few others had me as one of the lead characters. But each one of these died within few minutes of getting off the train while a few others breathed their last only when we found a new crush.

There is another incident, a regular practice during our temple visits, especially Guruvayoor, which I hold very close to my heart. Stirring the manjadikuru at the Shree Guruvayoor Kshetram. The magical little red seeds. It is believed that the seed contains 12 tiny white elephants, considered lucky for a dozen wishes. At Guruvayoor temple, a large ‘ottu uruli‘, a heavy-bottomed vessel, is placed near the entrance to the sanctum of the temple and it is filled with bright red “manjadikuru” seeds. It is believed that the devotee who places his hands in the ‘uruli’ and ploughs or stirs through the seeds three times is cured of all diseases and attains prosperity.

Here’s a story that I read online. A Tale to Tell From Guruvayur
by Anjali MenonThe exact story that was narrated to me by my maternal aunt, Girija Mema.

The origin of this practice lies in folklore of the temple of Guruvayur. According to the story, a peasant woman who lived in the northern province of Kerala was an ardent devotee of Krishna and aspired to someday visit Guruvayur temple. It was customary to bring offerings to the temple, but she was too poor to afford any gifts. She knew of an old tree that shed beautiful shiny red seeds, so she gathered a handful of them. Leaving the safety of her home and loved ones, she set out on her quest to reach Guruvayur. It was a long, perilous journey on foot during which she had to traverse rivers and deep forests.

Four days later she arrived in Guruvayur. Apparently it was the first day of the month, and the local ruler or Naaduvazhi would visit the temple on the first of every month. To display his devotion, he would donate an elephant every month as an offering to Krishna. Officers of the Naaduvazhi cleared people away from the path to make room for the ruler and his elephant. During the procession the women was knocked to the ground, spilling her precious pouch of red seeds on the ground. Immediately the elephant went berserk and began to run wild. People ran for their lives as the mad elephant began to destroy everything in its path. Unable to control the elephant, the Naaduvazhi prayed to Krishna for a solution to this dangerous dilemma. Suddenly a voice was heard from within the temple: “Where is my Manjadikuru? Where is my devotee, who you have insulted and hurt? Where is my gift that she lovingly put together?”

As the story goes, the people apologized to the woman and gathered up her seeds that were scattered on the ground. With her pouch full of seeds she was escorted into the sanctum of the temple. After submission of her offering, the elephant returned to normal. In memory of her offering, even to this day, a large urn of shiny red seeds is kept within the temple.

These are called manjati in Tamil and Gulgangi in Kannada.

We used to have this tree at my paternal grandmother’s (Achamma’s) house and it was customary for us to spend our days at her house picking up Manjadikuru. Whoever managed to pick up the most was considered the richest. In fact, Achan who was always an angry young man too joined us in picking up these seeds, much to the annoyance of Achamma as she had to keep waiting for him to finish playing with me.

While most people land in Kerala to buy latest design gold jewellery or kasavu sarees or enjoy the famous delicacies like puttu kadala, kappa with meen curry, or a sumptuous sadya, I bought two packets of manjadikuru at rupees forty each from Guruvayoor temple on my last visit, about two years ago.

What do you think is on my list for purchasing on my next visit? It is an uruli. Uruli is a traditional cookware extensively used in Southern states of India. It is commonly made of clay, copper and bronze. Amma has inherited a huge Ottu Uruli from her mother and brought it to our house in Delhi. I want an ‘Ottu Uruli’. A bronze one to be kept inside my Pooja room with my collection of manjadikuru, kunnikkuru, kowdi and gomti chakra stones.

Do you know that astrologers across India and probably the world use kowdis for their calculations? Why?

More on this in my next #MythicalMondays post next week, Kowdi and the Panikkar

Of Tamarind, Mangoes and Bananas

I read this beautiful piece by Nupur Roopa all along with a flood in my mouth and my heart longing for that jar of tamarind that Ammamma, my grandmother, used to hide inside the kalavara (the storeroom). For now I satisfied my craving by indulging in a sinful spoon of puli-inji, a ginger pickle made with fresh ginger, jaggery and chillies. It is one of the many dishes prepared for Onam.

How My Love Affair with Khatti-Meethi Tamarind Continues…

The kalavara was one of the places at my granny’s home from where most of my adventures began. For some reason all the switchboards at my granny’s place were located above six feet from ground and hence even though there used to be a bulb inside the kalavara, I could never manage to switch it on before sneaking in. Nevertheless, it also helped me a lot since no one ever got to know that I was inside. 

It used to be a dark, cluttered and haunted place with gunny sacks full of naalikeram/thenga (coconuts), fresh ones and dried ones, huge vessels that were only used when we had a sadya (feast) at home. Plus huge ‘urulis‘, the big traditional vessels, used to partially boil the rice with husk to make it parboiled rice. And then the farming tools. Large containers of rice grain. Pots filled with polished rice, parboiled rice and other varieties. Some pots were for manjal (dried turmeric), arecanuts, red chillies, coffee beans and chukku (dried ginger). And then there were sacks full of mangoes of different varieties that were saved for pickles, chutneys, squashes and other stuff. Then there were those large bunches of bananas that used to be hung from the ceiling.

Apart from all of these, there were geckos, spiders of all colours, sizes and shapes, including the deadly tarantulas. Ants. Black ones. Red ones. Small ones. Big ones. And the many varieties from the insect world that I never saw outside of that house. I should have actually taken up entomology. I could have excelled. And sometimes there were also snakes including cobras that used to sneak in from the paambu kaavu (snake shrine) and enter the room through the partially open window. With all of these inside, I still dared to enter this room not just once, but many many times. One day, our household help entered the kalavara and got the shock of her life as I jumped out of nowhere. She almost fainted and I remember begging her to not tell anyone of this secret hiding place of mine. Komalam chechi was so sweet that she agreed with a smile. 

I used to sneak into this space all alone till the little sister started joining me on my adventure trips. Every time she was about to scream out of fear or pain from an insect bite, I had to cover her mouth to avoid disasters or bribe her with a mango or a ball of tamarind that I took out from one of the many bharanis (ceramic jars).

We used to have this huge pulimaram (tamarind tree) close to our main gate. The house was at least 50 feet away from the main gate. The roots of the pulimaram used to be spread across a large area and at some parts of the front yard, the roots were outside of the soil. I used to sit on these for hours daydreaming, drawing or talking to the stars, Achan (Dad) or myself.

Since we used to frequent Ammamma‘s house only during our summer vacations, the only time I have seen this tree full of fruits is during one October when we were there to meet an ailing Muthachan (grandfather), who passed away without even talking to me one last time. I had just turned twelve and losing him on a Diwali day was another big blow to my young mind. And that’s when I started sitting under the Tamarind tree for hours talking to him, writing my journal entries and tending to the seven Ashoka trees that we both had planted together near the compound wall of the house. Muthachan had told me these were pendulum trees. And I had assumed that they will tell us the time in future.

It was during one of the vacations that I had a clash with Amma and was so upset that I got into the kalavara and hid myself. Muthchan was not home and hence Amma and everyone else realized my absence only when lunch was being served. I could hear the commotion outside but my anger kept me from coming out. The moment the kalavara bulb was lit, I got inside one of the empty gunny sacks. I came out only about an hour later when my entire body was swollen because of ants and other insect bites. I am sure I don’t have to describe the amount of beating I received from Amma that day for scaring everyone.

Another episode was during my maternal uncle’s wedding. There were three bunches of banana that were hung inside one of the rooms. They were supposed to be used during the many feasts that were part of the wedding. My people got a shock when they realized on the eleventh hour that there were only one banana left on each of the bunches. The culprits were the only two granddaughters available in the house. Thanks to Acha, we escaped unhurt.

Once I had requested  Ammamma for one more mango after having almost five or six mangoes. That year the mango produce was less and she had hidden some for us. She refused me saying I was overeating and that she would give me more the very next day. ‘No’ was something that triggered the little monster inside me. I knew she had hidden them somewhere inside the kalavara. I sneaked in to get a few mangoes. But it seems Ammamma  was cleverer than me. She had hid the mangoes in a polythene and kept them inside the rice container. I tried everywhere except inside those containers. That was the day that I happened to encounter a cobra that was getting in through the window. As it hissed, I felt a chill run down my spine and my pyjamas getting wet. After a few nanoseconds of eye-to-eye glares, I rushed out. I think that was the last time I got into the kalavara on my own.  Ammamma gave me three mangoes instead of one to make me feel better. And I still remember that I just kept them aside and went on shivering for a while.

Childhood memories are treasures that I value much more than everything else that I have gained in my life. My inter-regional marriage and the subsequent distancing from the family ended my affair with the kalavara, pulimaram and mangoes from our orchards. During partition, the house that Muthachan used to say was mine went to my maternal uncle and family. The last time I went to this place was in November 2013 and I saw the kalavara had made space for a lavish bathroom, and the pulimaram was nowhere to be seen. Three of the pendulum trees remain as a sign of the good times I had spent in that house and of people I loved. No more reason to go there. I am glad that no partition can ever take away the beautiful memories that my heart and mind holds of a place I lovingly called home.

What’s you best memory from your childhood vacations at your grandparents?

Recommended Reading:

Withered Dreams Revisited | Dew Drops

Miss you Muthacha… | Dew Drops

Pathayapura – The Granary | Dew Drops

Myths and Beliefs: Inherited | Dew Drops

Banished for Menstruating – #PeriodPride | Dew Drops

 

#QuoteCafe #1 – Innocence

Picture clicked at Golden Creepers Farm Retreat on #Nikon #P900.

My love for words dates back to the 1980s when Dad left for the Mid-East for a decade long assignment. The letters soaked in bucketfuls of tears would reach him and the eternal wait for his response would continue. No amount of words could heal the wounded heart of that five-year-old or bridge the physical gap between us. But solace of some kind it provided. I was an avid reader back then. With life meddling with the daily affairs my reading has taken a backseat. However much I try I am unable to finish a book before weeks. Need to work hard on this. May be after the examinations are over.

I am mad about Quotes and Sayings. So much that most of my journal entries begin and end with quotes. The man and I fell in love not because of our looks but because of our shared love for words. I take pride in admitting that ours was a love affair that bloomed behind the curtains of emails (read Rediffmail) and exchanging books. We are both not very outgoing types and I guess that’s why we clicked after three years of acquaintance. If ever we happened to be in office at the same time, we would greet each other on WinPopUp (love finds its own way without announcing it to the world) with one beautiful quote. His first and the most beautiful gift to me till date is one such book, Wake-Up Calls: Making The Most Out Of Every Day (Regardless Of What Life Throws You) by Joan Lunden. 

Looking back at life, I am thankful for every single person, every single moment, every single happening in my life. Grateful from the depth of my heart. Life lessons.

#QuoteCafe is that one series which has been on my mind since a long time now. It will help me share my choicest clicks with a collection of the best quotes I read through the week. Hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed planning it.

“There’s nothing more contagious than the laughter of young children; it doesn’t even have to matter what they’re laughing about.”
Criss Jami, Killosophy

“And that’s what innocence is. It’s simple and trusting like a child, not judgmental and committed to one narrow point of view. If you are locked into a pattern of thinking and responding, your creativity gets blocked. You miss the freshness and magic of the moment. Learn to be innocent again, and that freshness never fades.”
Michael Jackson

“He stood at the window of the empty cafe and watched the activities in the square and he said that it was good that God kept the truths of life from the young as they were starting out or else they’d have no heart to start at all.”
Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses

“When we are children we seldom think of the future. This innocence leaves us free to enjoy ourselves as few adults can. The day we fret about the future is the day we leave our childhood behind.”
Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind

“For children are innocent and love justice, while most of us are wicked and naturally prefer mercy.”
G.K. Chesterton

So, which one is your favourite quote(s)? Do share for I can eat, drink and breathe quotes.

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