Blog post by Hema Narayana
Summer months during my childhood days were similar to the ones from Malgudi days. It used to be filled with activities from dawn till dusk… My family bought lot of stuff that would last for a year… One such thing was Puli the quintessential part of our day to day cooking. Puli has to be good to make the kuyambu, satruamudhu (rasam) and puliyodharai yummy. Around March-April (around Sivarathri time the new tamarind hits the market) the quest for buying good tamarind starts… Tumkur (a place near in Bangalore) puli is the best… So we find some link/person in Bangalore to procure it. Tambrahms are adept at maintaining links! The dutiful relatives send it on the train with xyz traveling back to Madras or through our Dear TVS parcel service (it’s cheaper to buy in bulk even after meeting the consignment expenses)… The much awaited puli lands in Madras and gets in our hands. Then batwada (splitting it among folk here… It’s precious you see tumkur puli) happens among the relatives in Chennai… Sometimes it travels beyond! Now that puli has reached our hand… now the processing starts! It first starts with taking the seeds away from it (never throw the seeds away, they worked well for playing pallankuyi and also for dayakattai) drying them in the sun and then rolling them into balls. They go into the peengan jadis (porcelain jars) and gets used all year long until the next Sivarathri… By the time this gets done…The next thing starts!
By Tamizh varushapirappu… Vepamaram (neem tree) is in full bloom….Patti will wait for all the office goers to leave… She didn’t want anybody stamping on it. Then she would spread a big plastic sheet (which is used year after year) on our driveway because it’s easier to collect the vepampoo that way… After collecting, it was dried and stored for making yummy vepampoo satru amudhu (as we Iyengars call the good old rasam). Some get packed for the relatives who do not have neem tree in their yard… This was the time to give back to the relatives who supplied us puli because in Bangalore it is hard to find vepampoo in their backyard!
By the time … We put the vepampoo in the containers… It’s time for mavadu, avakkai, vethals and vadams. Even though we had mango trees at home … They were good only for thokku so procurement of mavadu mangai and avakkai mangai from the famous thannithorai market or from the madaveedis of Mylai… at times Pankajam Mami gets generous enough to offer it to the people around the block. So all these mangai (raw mango) find a way to be turned into some pickle, mangai sadam, pachadi or just ‘as is’ with some chili powder and salt. When perimas, pattis and amma are getting the manga cut for oorukai and getting the kooyu ready (batter for vethals and vadams) … We cousins get ready to kakaottify –“acting as scarecrows” (prevent the birds from getting the items that are getting dried in the sun) …. In the pretext of kakaottifying also gobble up the yummy mangai (though it comes with a warning – not to touch them… Yechai panneedadeengo) and the half dried vethal… Kooyu is yet another yummy item we savored …yum yum.
The vethals and vadams have to find a way inside by 4 pm..illana namuthu poidum (or chill kaathu from beach vandudum…. Eppo summerla chill kaathu), so that they can be dried the next day and with prayers to continue the sunshine until they dry. The next thing was to hit the garden. Now it was time to adorn ourselves with flowers. Getting the nithyamalli from the garden (pengalukku poo thoduka theriyanum.. pukkathulapoi ketta enna solluva)..nithyamalli is best to string when it’s still a bud before it bloomed fully. Athai taught me different techniques of stringing it (I remember only couple of them now). The gundu malli and mullai were bought from the pookaran/pookari who used to bring them all the way from kothwalchawadi (Parrys corner) and we use to string them with vaazhai naru (these days it’s thread). We used to adorn them after offering it to Perumal.
The summer went like this in a jiffy with the house buzzing with such activities (there was nothing called boredom) and cousins around… Not to forget the stories that were told, the slokas that were learnt and the best part was nila choru in mottaimadi. Athai used to mix a big bowl of sambhar sadam and Thayir sadam (Now I just wonder when they had time to cook amidst so many activities and for so many people). We all sat in a circle and she will place the food on our palm (nanna kaiya kuzhichikanum… chotta vida koodadhu) and we had to gobble it down before our next turn came…. Fun days!
In between we found time to play a game of dayakattai, adu puliattam, chozhi, and trade. Pattis, Athais were adept at playing especially pallankuzhi..,, kasi adikardhula bade kiladi (people who have played this game can relate to that).
The days were filled with so many activities that summer whizzed past in a jiffy and it was back to school time. By then the pickles, vethals and vadams are done and packed to be sent with athais, mamis and chittis visting us for summer.
It will be time to say goodbye. Eagerly waiting for the next summer to meet the cousins and have fun.
Bless that generation of people… Nowadays we just buy these from store… What a sad plight.
I may not be able to give the same experience to my kids but am trying every possible way.