My Echil Itta Redemption by Pavithra

Blog post by Pavithra Varadharajan

Growing up, a sight that I was privy to, in all its non-dining table glory, during our visits to my father’s side of the family was the process of Echil Ittufication (cleaning-up the floor after a meal- for dummies). Echil Ittufication is a perfect amalgamation of art and science conceived, tested and implemented over centuries in Tam-Brahm households, that is sure to give your Scotch Brite Sponge Wipes (substitute with favorite brand) a run for its money. Now let me walk you through this enchanting ordeal, if you will.

Step one: Thelichafy the right amount of water (not too much, mind you!) on the Echil. This will provide the right amount of lubrication required for step 2. (All you dirty minded Abishtoos out there; I know what you’re thinking!)

Step two: Agathify  your legs and bend right over, and with your right hand at a slight angle keeping pushing the food debris forward (the word crumbs just doesn’t justify the gooey mess that needs to be cleaned up) from the bottom end of the floor, in forward car-wiper like movements as you walk ahead, bent-over. If you’ve followed Step 1 to the T, this step should be a breeze. And don’t you dare sit on your haunches when following this step – Vagadharava, nanna kuninju echil idanam.

Step three: Once you’ve managed to successfully car wiper and push all that icky mess to the farthest part of the floor that needs to be cleaned, here comes the tricky part – with one swish of your right hand, grab all that mess you’ve just managed to so meticulously collect and don’t you dare use both hands! You shall discover the reason soon.

Step Four: Using the other hand under the right one as a catchment basin to catch any drippings (told ya), walk away to dispose the debris into the kuppathotti especially reserved for Echil collection.

Step Five: The final step and one that employs ultimate technique is when you would then take a dry Chaana-choornai (waste cloth) and walk over to the farthest portion of the floor you’ve just cleaned, bending over, yet again, walk backwards while employing the car-wiping motion to wipe dry the surface with the aforementioned waste cloth. Walking backwards during this step is the Cardinal rule of the Echil ittufication process as it will ensure your foot prints on the wet floor get wiped out as well. (Please note the point, Your Honor!)

Apaada! Oru Vazhiya Mudinjidhu! Room poattu yosinpaangyalo?! (Oh Common! An occasional  Non-Brahm, Kollywood inspired mind voice should be allowed!)

My cool, Bangalore bred, TamBrahm mom albeit lenient with regard to Patthu, Pathinonnu and a bunch of other TamBrahm pet peeves when Paati wasn’t visiting us, always insisted that I learn the wondrous art of Echil idafying. She believed this would be the test my Pukaathu manisha would use to determine if I would make a good Maattuponnu. And boy did that day come!

Scene: First post-wedding Sumangali Pondugal at Pukkaam. Yours truly, in my Ombodhu Gajam (madisaar), Adakkam odhukkama trying to impress all the Athais-in law, Perimmas and Chittis in-law and pakkathaathu, edhirthaatha maamis and their respective mama’s thrown in for good measure. Burly, pot- bellied Vadhiyaars squatting on the floor eating Sadhya post poojai, promptly letting out satisfied burps after every course.  I ask my new found Amma (Maamiyaar) if I could help out with Valambafying the Vaadhiyaars and she very generously replies “ Nee Pudhu Ponnaakkum, idhelaam onnum nee pannanda ………..(hope inducing pause) Aana Echil mattum ittoodu kettaiya (and crash!). Really?

Time freezes and all those instances of Echil ittufication training my very wise mother put me through despite all my protests, flash before my mind’s eye (with opera-ish background music playing). Silently thanking my mom, I put Veera nadai with a glass half-filled with water to start Step 1 of the process, only to realize … my mom hadn’t quite prepared me to clean up what looked like a war-zone after a Sadhya fight.  The sheer amount of debris lying on that floor would require me to use not only 2 but 4 hands if I had them, thus rendering Step 4 impossible to implement to perfection.

Deciding to play it by ear and mumbling a Bhagavaane kaapaathu under my breath, I start with Step 1 under the unflinching gaze of my audience. I move on to the Car-wiper step and just as I wonder how on earth I was going to collect all that mess with one hand without making multiple trips to the kuppathotti and looking like a clumsy amateur, hope knocks on my behind (literally). My Onnu-vitta Oarpodi (cousin co-sister :D), also a Pudhu Maatuponnu, in her Aarva Koalaaru to do her share of impressing  fetches a Chaana-choornai to embark on Step 4, right after me, in the wrong direction! Thus breaking the cardinal rule of the Echil Ittufication process and making me look, well… not so bad after all!

As she enthusiastically wiped the floor dry after me, I heard the Athais gasp in shock, as they had, for some odd reason, decided to put their money on her to begin with. And then, this Miss know-it-all Athai goes “ Appadi alla Idanam…”.

Although my heart went out to the poor girl, I managed to get away with my share of Echil-ittufication faux pas, which paled in comparison, and emerge redeemed!

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15 thoughts on “My Echil Itta Redemption by Pavithra

  1. Lovely post,Pavithra and a hilarious one.I went on giggling as I read it.How I have resisted to do all this but
    ended up doing every thing.Enjoyed reading every bit,but what makes me happy is to know that I am not
    the only Tambrahm woman to undergo all these torturous practices.But now I have started accepting all this.

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  2. Very well written Pavithra. My mother was not a big task master and my wife managed to do whatever work was allotted to her.
    You have a very good flair for writing!

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  3. This so true, I’ve seen everyone from Amma to manni, periamma everyone doing this. At home even the guys we had to do echil ittufying, one side we learned to clean our plates and keeping the floor clean but on the other end it’s ritualistic to see mum or anyone echil ittufying for everyone in the hallway. I always push away mum or anyone who intends to do that in front of me and when I do it my uncles will call on my cousins and tell them “anga parunga avan echil iduran neengulam daan irrukinglae” I tell them that I was the one who stopped them from doing so.

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  4. Oh I can totally relate.. My 1st pondugal in pukkam also went in the exact way, and I did echil ittufying! Was praying under my breath that i shouldnt skid on the mess that Vaadhyars made 🙂

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  5. Super pavithra.. We too belong to echil itta gen only after marriage did we use dining table. Your narration was meticulous, spontaneous and numerous. But dear you left out one crucial point. May be you didn’t have to do. We had to take a little chanaam.. Cowdung. Because luckily we didn’t have any cow. So varali ( dried flattened cowdung cakes) was the nearest option..

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  6. The most important thing which Pavithra forgot to mention whilst describing Echil Itta was the abnoxious insistence of women like my grandmother who would insist that we use cowdung while perutufying echill and the only concession she gave us was we could use dry cowdung verati. So the trick was we would just wait for her to go to dispose of her ellai after eating and while she was at it we would quickly perutufy the echill without cowdung before she makes an appearance otherwise we had to use dry cowdung yuk.

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  7. Pavithra, i happened to read the blog from the link your mom had posted on her facebook page, and i being an ardent reader, was curious to read the blog and in fact found that the blog was interesting,
    I appreciate the way the sequence had been laid out, and can also be used as a coaching manual for all “pudhu ponnugal” at her maamiyaar’s place (atleast for this part of her rituals there), and the slang used appropriately wherever it was necessary was good.
    But i would like to put a small suggestion, which i may have derived from reading similar multi lingual reads, that the English alternative words has to be used extensively to gain the number of views for your blogs (a small humble suggestion).
    Finally ALL THE BEST and will wait for many many more blogs from an aspiring author in you…….

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  8. Very nice . I went through the same before marriage and after marriage all use to call me for cleaning being kadaisi naatupenn and nalla echi thodaipanu.

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