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...