Feb 15, 2012

Chimney smoke

Warning: Something fishy about it!

Grandma had a wood burning stove that was built-in on a raised platform in her kitchen . Right on top of it was the chimney. I loved looking at the sun rays that came down just as the smoke rose up; where they met was a work of art, where you could see the particles dance in mid air.

I was convinced these were "molecules" but no one confirmed it. Papa said molecules won't be visible to naked eye. Then what were they? DNA? I guess that's what it was, because sometimes I could see some ladder like structure with a dot in the middle of each square that connects and this whole structure appears to be moving in the air. But nobody else saw it and so I couldn't continue my speculation any further... (At this Israel laughs saying DNA is microscopic, as if I don't know... didn't know it then!)

The chimney would be the highest point in the house back then and I guess even now. So I would run up the stairs to the terrace for a closer look. It was absolutely fun to see the dancing smoke, the mouthwatering aroma of Grandma's cooking and the smell of roasted chillies that would suddenly leave us with a coughing fit and burning eyes.

From the terrace we could see our neighbor's backyard. This neighbor was a shoe maker or butcher I couldn't possibly tell, but we got a glimpse of the animal skins and horns he would process for his trade. Mom always warned us not to look in that direction but that was enough reason to look. Couple of times I have gotten sight of the drying meat in his court yard and it would send chills through my spine. It was a huge relief for me years later when I heard they have moved out selling their piece of land to Mom.

Grandma occassionaly dried some fish on a string tied across her wood burning stove. For the first few days she would dry it in the shaded sun and bring it in afterwards. As the cooking smoke rose up the chimeny it would mix with the drying fish and reak the whole kitchen and terrace. I remember asking grandma once why she had to do it and she said that it was to preserve the fish for longer days. Though I hated the smell, I loved the curry she would make of it and so kind of learnt to get used to the smell. After all it was not everyday she would do that, only for a week or so and then we didn't see any sight of it till our next visit.

I cherished my visits to the fish market with Grandma. Grandma was a preacher's wife and so everybody called her Amma, including the fish ladies. Though I hated the smell of the fish market I loved to see the different kinds of fish and especially going out with my Grandma. To the few people who ask of me she would proudly say I was her grand daughter, visiting for the summer.

One thing different about the village market compared to the stores in the town (where we lived) was that here they would sell cut mango or cut coconut so you need not buy the whole thing but just enough for the day's cooking, which only means you would return to the market on a daily basis.

Towards the end of our trip, on the way out Grandma would buy me 'javvu muttai' a sticky squishy sugar candy. I loved it.

When we return home Grandma's assistant would set to clean the fish by the far end of the well. I would find a comfortable spot on the nearby tamarind tree, or for an upclose look might find a rock or piece of wood to sit on - close to the person cleaning the fish. I must say these observations came in handy the first time I had to clean the fish few years ago, fish that were caught by Israel and kids from our fishing adventure.

Before long food would be served with the most delicious fish curry and freshly made paruppu kulambu, rice and aviyal. I would happily eat it without any complaints and get back to my play on the terrace or more of my chimney watch!

Next thing cooking would be jaggery coffee... Hmmm those were the days - let loose and carefree...


18 comments:

kavita said...

Mom always warned us not to look in that direction but that was enough reason to look....Haaaa !My grandmother's house had a chimney and we were so scared at night thinking that ghosts enter the house through it.I know that smoky fish smell as it is very common in villages out here.And the sweet candy you talked about ,I think I have an idea what it is .I love my tea with jaggery but never tried it with coffee.May be today is the day.
Delightful read.

anilkurup said...

That was a delightful painting of a past .
Almost all the incidences that you noted seem to be universal. else how can I relate to the strands of DNA like thing in the air, and that I often wondered about? The short walk to the market place, the pearch by the maid near the well while she cleans the fish , with a couple of cats waiting impatiently whining for the waste chunks she throws.
That was a fascinating fall back and well expressed.

Bikramjit said...

Chimney.. I have one in my house and sometimes whe nthe wind is blowing the sound it makes .. can be frightening ...

We lived far from city so never had oppurtunity to go to market with my grandmother but I was always with my granddad visiting the shops and markets , the fun was because Grandpa was in a high post the shop people would try to bribe him by giving me sweets and I would take when he was not looking :) I was a bad boy ...

Bikram's

Rachna said...

Wow, those were such fun memories. I don't have any going to market memories with anyone :(. But, I remember going to the cow shed when I was a little girl with an old servant who would perch me on his shoulders. I carried my little tumbler in which he would give me fresh, sweet cow's milk to drink everyday!

NRIGirl said...

@Anil: You made my day - or can I say you made my life. No one had ever admitted seeing what I saw - the DNA strands!

Even as I wrote those lines I was hoping someone could identify with me; I am so glad you did!

This is proof I wasn't totally insane...

:)

NRIGirl said...

@Kavita: The candy was bright pink in color and leave your tongue pink. Let me know if you are thinking of the same one. Keep me posted on jaggery coffee please; Narasus coffee powder was the best. Grandma sometimes put a few seeds of corriander for added flavor. I must try sometime...

NRIGirl said...

Don't blame the little boy @Bikram; it was the bribing adults who were bad.

@Rachna: Interesting you enjoyed that; Joshua does the same when we visit Israel's village. Funny part is he doesn't speak Tamil but manages to get the cow keepers to meet his request. Also the cows are not ours.

....Petty Witter said...

A lovely walk down Memory Lane, I can smell that fish as I sit here.

gigihawaii said...

I love curry -- Indian curry, Thai curry, S&B Golden curry. In fact, just the other night, I made S&B Golden chicken curry. Delicious!

R.Ramakrishnan said...

Hi
Nice childhood memories well articulated. From the labels I saw "Koodankulam" - Presume you spent vacations there with grandparents.
Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a nice comment.
Warm Regards

R.Ramakrishnan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
eye in the sky said...

That was lovely. I wish I wrote stuff about my grandpa too. :)

sakha said...

That was fun reading. Both myself and my younger daughter read together...

NRIGirl said...

That's the biggest compliment Sakha - to know that you read it with your daughter. Thank you to daughter!

Tomz said...

Nice memories..it seems that u have many of such memories to cherish for a lifetime..

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading it.
When I read your blog,I was remembering my Grandma.

Rahul Bhatia said...

A lovely post reminiscing the times of childhood!

sm said...

beautiful memories

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