Thursday, April 29, 2010


...and we are young. Not afraid of sweat. Not bothered about tanning and wrinkles. Not aware of UVA and UVB and UVC and UVD (just kidding).

When we were young, the sun meant...

...squinting our eyes up at the blue-gold dazzle of the sky to test who could look at the sun without squinting.

...frolicking about the house and garden wearing only a thin white 'penny' or 'tepjama' (a white cotton camisole with - inevitably - birds and flowers shadow-embroidered around the hemline and torso).

...trying to catch and intensify the sun-rays through Baba's magnifying glass and make a piece of paper catch fire (just as the Enid Blyton kids seemed to do so easily do when they were lost in islands or mountains or valleys).

...watching impatiently as Ma and Barama (aunt) made circles of boiled and spice-added sabudana-dough (tapoica) on a large piece of cloth (usually an old saree) and put it out in the sun to dry. These would become Sabudana Papads in a few days, and we would crunch-munch them down after they were crisply fried in a kadai (wok) full of oil.

...endless rounds of splashing around and swimming about in our neighbour's pond, all in the name of 'cooling off'.

...waiting for Dida (grandmother) to doze off in the afternoon so that we could go up on the chhaad (roof-terrace) and steal our fill of mango, lemon and tamarind pickles left out to mature in the sunlight. The trick was to remove the thin white cloth covering the boyam (china jar), take out the pickles, eat, wash your hands and then to put back the cloth. If you tied the cloth back before washing your hands, it would leave tell-tale oil stains on the cloth. We even found out how to remove the oil-residue from our palms. Although there was no soap on the roof-terrace, we dug out soil from the flower pots and rubbed them all over our palms. That got rid of the oil pretty effectively.

Yes, sun was fun, once upon a time.


Monday, April 12, 2010


With summer on at full blast, memories naturally seem to turn towards cooler things.

Like refrigerators. Now we have monstrous 300/400/God-only-knows-how-many-hundred litre refrigerators, but when we were young, we had a small 100 litre single-door 'fridge' which sufficed for all the needs of our family of six (plus my uncle's family of five - as they did not have any fridge of their own, they would often put their leftovers in 'our' fridge - a matter that sometimes led to frissions of domestic tension over S-P-A-C-E).

But for us, that small fridge was an Alibaba's cave of goodies which we were strictly prohibited to touch without permission. From the outside, it was like any other white (fridges in the 1970s seemed to come in only one colour) Allwyn (where is that company now???) fridge, rather yellowed with age and use, rather rusty at the edges.

But once the doors swung open and the chilly foggy blast hit our faces like a blizzard, we could see a lot of goodies that made our mouths water. [The leftover rice or dal or curry never interested us. Neither did the dekchi (pan) of milk.]

We lusted after the slab of Amul butter (100 gms, if you please, not the large 500 gms that I buy for the family nowadays). Red sugar-syrup-dipped cherries and crinkly kismis (raisins) reserved for cake-baking days. Slabs of aamsatto (sweetened mango preserves) for making chutneys. A screw-topped bottle of Kissan Mixed Fruit Jam, which went on bread-slices every day for our school-tiffin-boxes. Ripe mangoes lending their gorgeous smell to the cloistered cold air, red watermelons with a chunk scooped out and sugar put in. Bottles of Rasna (an orange drink) severely rationed to greet guests. Sometimes, exotic stuff like caramel puddings or sponge cake-mixes that Maa and Didia would painstakingly cook from recipes in Chic (a women's magazine that tried to make us more Anglified and, presumably, 'chic').

And, when we opened the small door of the deep-freezer and poked about the powdery ice and boxes full of slices of raw fish, we would be sure to find trays of home-made (Maa-made) ice-cream. Milky and mango-flavoured with real, squeezy mangoes for Bhai (brother). Full of peanut-crunch and thickened milk for me. Maa often had to serve us ice-cream slabs that had clear (and deep) finger-poking marks on them.

Going by the sheer amount of food that it could hold, that fridge was a magic box!