I loved to play house with Muthu. Muthu helped Mom with household errands. She was from a nearby village and would visit her home may be once or twice a month. Other days she was ours to keep. Her real name was Muppidathi but Mom named her Muthu which means pearl.
I guess I was in 4th grade when Muthu joined our family. Delight was only a few months old. Muthu was may be two or three years older than me. She refused to go to school but while with us learned to read and write. By the time she left our home for settling down she was reading Bible very fluently.
Delight was a baby still and Akka didn't care for any play so Muthu turned out to be my best playmate. When Muthu is done with her chores we would play our favorite game of 'House'. Our spot was the shade under our coconut trees in the back yard.
First thing we do is build our house. We gather sand with both hands to run a small heap along the edges of the house - a big rectangle. Then we would part it into rooms with kitchen always being our main focus. Muthu was good with ideas as house keeping was her profession. I would copy most of her ideas and then will demand her house shouldn't be exactly like mine. Quickly she would erase her wall and build it a different way and without doubt I would like that model. She would let me have it generously.
I would pick my spot first and will find a big shaded area. But if during the play the sun shifts giving her more shade than me, I would demand we move our house... she would oblige.
When our house is built, we would go find vessels to cook. Mostly it would be coconut shells of different shapes and sizes. Since Muthu helped in the kitchen she knew how to break the coconut differently each time to make differently shaped 'vessels' for our later play. Again I would ask for every good one and she won't argue. We also had tons of plastic toy cooking set that Mom bought for me from exhibitions at Tirunelveli or Madurai when she goes there for paper valuation.
One of us would play shopkeeper selling mud for rice and water for oil and the like. We would have a handmade balance - made of two equal size coconut shells hanging from a stick. When I play the shopkeeper I would insist Muthu comes shopping all the time. But when she plays the shopkeeper I would not go shopping but would go and collect all the stuff myself. When she asks how come I started cooking without doing any shopping, I would say, 'we got rice and oil from our native place'.
Then our 'cooking' would start. Muthu was a treasure box when it came to ideas. Different kinds of leaves and flowers and seeds and even some rocks she would find, calling it a different vegetable. But rice was always mud. We would pretend to season it, fry it and cook it and soon lunch would be ready. We would invite each other to our homes to eat.
When Muthu comes over she would 'eat' nicely asking for seconds, complimenting the 'dishes', asking for 'recipe' and even making a burping sound. But when I go over I would refuse to eat saying, 'I am not hungry; I just ate'. Muthu would insist I eat or she would quit playing (that is the only time she would blackmail to quit) and hesitantly I would oblige - but 'eat' only a little. Once again that was the meanest me at work there.
Then we would wash our vessels; for that we need water. Muthu would build a well with a bucket and we tie teeny tiny plastic bucket in a rope to carry water out of the well. We would gather dry neem leaves and remove the leaves to get the center stick, which we would then tie together to make a broom. We would soon be sweeping our house and planting some garden and the like.
Before long Grandma would call Muthu for some errands and she would run inside. Before Grandma finds a chore for me, I would run outside...
P.S: Muthu is now married and has four children of her own. If she hears I am in town without fail she would come visit me. However she didn't come last time and I believe it is now my turn to visit her next time - and of course eat whatever she gives me. I am not that mean anymore you see...