Friday, February 20, 2009

My grandmother, her skills and some of her




Grandmothers are normally interesting old ladies with lots of talent and knowledge. I had the good fortune to be with mine for a donkey's life-span. They say it is 20. Her talent in many things was famous and some of them unique. Her handicrafts with rice and paddy stand out. The decorative pictures and objects she created stand testimony. A couple of them she made in 1935 out of rice is amazing. She had learnt a rare art of tying the tiny grains, of the same size which she carefully chose, on to thin bamboo strips and made lovely objects like Clock Tower [model of the one that stands near the palace], a fruit basket model and a house model with paddy grains, a chariot, a cradle, a lady's purse, a few decorative designs for a wall hanging using rice grains that still survive in nearly the same conditon. Some poorly protected models are eaten away by Nature's elements.

The works won many prizes at the famous Dasara Exhibition in the Ladies' Section for many years and was one of the most unique works of art. Preparing and exhibiting them there gave plenty of joy to her, esp. when people conveyed the feedback!
These two are popular images of paintings of Raja Ravi Varma. My grandmother has ornately decorated the pictures with jewelry and attire!

Aside from crafts, she excelled in the culinary field too, more popularly and almost obviously. Dishes prepared by her were a treat to the palates! I can vouch for that quality. Her participation in the Exhibition's Cooking Section also won many prizes. Traditional foods like Muchore, Kodubale, Chakli and Badami/khova Obbattu were her specialities. The food she prepared at home was a daily treat, be it anything. The visitors and guests remember the special taste they relished, even today. She had no measuring cups, spoons or weighing scales. The quantity was decided by the feel in her gifted hands and a mere look. That was the secret. In her days, the cooking was done on fire. Charcoal. Kerosene stove was there but that was for boiling milk, mostly. Gas was taboo. It did not satisfy the 'madi norms'! We had no cooking platform either, for the same reason. She squatted on the floor and cooked. The cooking area was neatly wiped with cowdung paste. Since she belonged to the old school, she did not have much idea about hygeine in her operations. I was reaching college at that time and was getting to know a little bit about hygeine and was beginning to ask many questions regarding her washing hands frequently. She used to get irked because she did not know the answer! Whatever it was, we never had any stomach upsets at all! Those were days when the intestines were periodically and forcibly cleaned with raw castor oil consumed orally -- yuck, yuck! Only those who have taken it know how awful it tastes!!

Award Certificates from 1931, 1956 and 1967.

The 'gojju' [sweet pickle] from bitter lime was a great favourite. Onion, tomato, beetroot and papaya were in her 'untouchables' list. So were bakery products. It was a special occasion when she prepared a 'sambar' with onion-potato [she never tasted it because of the onion] and served at the 'moonlight dinner'. That meant the accompaniment of Papads, Sandige, Peni and salted chillies, much to our joy. The daily Rasam [saaru] was her best though! Sandige [made out of popped rice] somehow came out beautifully from her special hands. Another dish was 'Brinjal Yennegai'. It was sometimes taken to the Ladies Club and many members snatched the item lest they missed the delicacy that it really was!

It is the grandmother who will stand by in case of pregnancy and confinement that takes place at homes. Her experience and knowledge always comes in handy. She will have skill and knowledge to handle health situations with her home remedies for which she had many opportunities.

Grandmothers reading English was seen as something great in those days. We made her read the English newspaper or some lines of the text book loudly and that thrilled us! She read the Kannada daily regularly.

I have seen my mother assisting my grandmother in her various handicrafts she did and they were all works of great patience, neatness and elegance. Those were calm days with no noise except the birds chirping or the monkeys that visited the premises jumping from branch to branch and creating a nuisance. The monkey menace is another story altogether. In such an environment her work used to be created and she was in no hurry to finish, except when she had to run out to see if monkeys spoiled any of the food items kept out for sun drying. Precision was of utmost importance. We miss those calm days when I used to observe her deft fingers at work.

There may be more educated grandmothers with more skill and legend, but a grandmother is a grandmother, despite the fact that menopausal changes reflect on occasional weird behaviour at times . She was married at 6, widowed for two years in the end and she died in her 70th year after a brief coma which was so sad to see. Fortunately, some of her skills, esp. the culinary part, are transferred to my mother. Talent-wise, she has her own.

1 comment:

Abraham Tharakan said...

Amazing person, your grandmother was!.
I look forward to reading more of the past in Mysorean musings.