Vani’s Musings

Archive for October 2008

This was one visit I had been avoiding for the last six months…….I had dreaded visiting Sanjaynagar ever since we decided to permanently move from there, because of the utter grief I had experienced when we had taken the plunge to move. We had lived there for a quarter of a century and it was a part of our identity. I felt that a little bit of me had stayed back, while the remaining had moved on, saying, “This phase of life is over, it’s time to start afresh”.  I had been successful in not going there at all for all this time.

 

But then, it was time for me to actually face my demons, because a very dear friend of mine, R, who lives in the US, had come home to India, and yes, she too lived in Sanjaynagar before she got married and relocated there. R was quite concerned actually, knowing me, and wanted to know if she could come over to where I am, but I decided that I needed to make that particular journey and told her I’d go over to see her.

 

On one hand, I was very anxious to meet R whom I had not seen for the past couple of years, and the mail exchanges between us had become almost nil, but on the other, my mind started making excuses about why I must not go there, like R being not at home when I visited, the now on now off rains, all were making me think if I should actually go at all, if I could postpone it for some more time and things like that. It was Amma’s insistence and the thought that R was leaving in a week that gave me the courage to go there.

 

Through the whole journey, I saw myself trying to see if anything had changed, and was looking for some familiar thing or face, and yes, all of it was so familiar, I was feeling like I had not moved out of there at all. But I’m still not able to go anywhere near my old house. That’s something that will take a little more time, I feel. I had a good time with R, and everything was fine till the time I had to get back here, and it was then that the whole grieving process began to show up again. I had to come back home, and as the rickshaw started moving away from the area that was so familiar that it was actually me, I felt torn yet again, and the hurt and pain I had experienced six months ago came back, though less intensively. But I’m still wondering if six months away from a place is not enough for us to go back there without attaching any emotional significance to it. Why did I have to feel so disturbed about a short visit, though I very well knew that my life there was over? I’m clueless.

 

 

 

 

During one of my people-observation phases, I came across a peculiar habit of persons around me. It sort of showcases the culture of the people, and how in a single question, there is a wealth of concern about your well-being and contentment.

 

It goes like this. Each morning, as I enter the office premises, I am greeted by colleagues and sub-staff who usually ask me the same question each day, “Thindi Aaytha?”  Meaning “Did you have breakfast?” And it’s not just for me; each person is singularly asked the same question. I was intrigued about this, and it was just not breakfast, but any mealtime.

In the beginning, I felt that all these people were obsessed with food. After a while, I realized that it was their way of asking if the person they were speaking to was happy, and everything was alright in his/her world. The equation goes something like this; a hungry person usually looks like he’s upset, whereas, food signifies contentment. If a person has had food, he’s generally happy and considering that we work in a very stressful environment and tend to absorb others’ stress too, it becomes essential for each of us to be content.

 

Most stop at the “had your breakfast?” question and are happy receiving a nod. Yet others, who are now close, go on to ask what I had for breakfast. They wait for an answer from me and generally supply information about their own food. Initially I was unprepared for these sorts of questions because I felt they had nothing to do with what I ate; Nowadays, I’m used to it and don’t get ruffled up when people do ask me this.

 

Usually no comments are passed when one mentions stuff like Idlis or Dosas or Pongal, but mention “Uppittu” and you can see myriad expressions on people’s faces.

Usually a mention of “Uppittu” leads to comments like “Oh! Concrete!” “Oil Bath”! “Stupid”! etc. And usually Uppittu is the most often repeated breakfast item in most of the houses, basically because it is filling and easy to prepare.

Uppittu has many forms, like Neeru-Uppittu, Uduru-Uppittu etc, and can be prepared in different ways, without vegetables, with just onions, with or without vegetables, giving it a different name like “Khaara Bhaat”.

Uppittu’s cousins, the Avalakki Uppittu and Shaavige Uppittu do not get the same criticism as Uppittu does, but are not as popular with the masses either, though they also enjoy a prominent place on the breakfast table.

Uppittu, though a mass delicacy, enjoys an important place on the South Indian Table, as it is served as an evening snack at many weddings, and is the breakfast item at many small family occasions too.

In spite of everything, Uppittu still gets a wrinkled nose when mentioned. I have seen very few who actually relish Uppittu. And to pass derogatory remarks, many of my male colleagues feel their mothers / wives are being lazy and so serve them Uppittu for breakfast.

 

Since I do not associate any positive or negative feeling towards Uppittu, I’d like to know; Does Uppittu deserve all the bad credit it unfortunately gets? Is it so bad to eat or serve Uppittu? Answers? Anyone?