Spicy Rasam

Not a cooking or food blog! I just share what's cooking in my mind.

30 Kandyan figures ideas in 2021 | vintage india, ceylon sri lanka, vintage  postcard

Her husband liked filter coffee. He liked it with thick decoction and some milk. The lesser the sugar the better. “Coffee should be a little bitter, Hema,” he would say. Hema had hated the taste when she was young. She would add copious amounts of sugar in her brew to make it drinkable. With time, she acquired a taste for coffee; the bitterness, it was soothing. It was 5:30 in the morning and Hema woke up to make coffee. Brewing coffee had become a ritual. It made her hopeful.

She could hear the parrots in her balcony. They were wild parrots. They loved the ripe chillies in her garden. They would peel the chilli’s skin and eat the seeds. Hema’s husband hated the parrots. “Why are they so loud? A man can’t sleep in even on Saturdays,” he would complain. Hema loved them. They were not her pets; they were her guests. They were beautiful and loud. They lived in a neem tree and flew around the neighbourhood. She has seen them eating figs from the fig tree and custard apple from the tree near Mrs. Gautham’s house. They were free to do what they wanted to do.

Hema never slept in. She woke up with the parrots. They loved fruits. She would place sapota fruits in a bowl and sip cinnamon tea as she watched the parrots eat the fruit. It had been 4 years since her husband passed away. He had had heart problems all his life. He had peacefully passed away in his sleep. He slept that day despite the sounds of the parrots. That’s how Hema knew something was wrong. She had made two tumblers of coffee that day, as usual. She fed the parrots and cleaned the balcony so her husband can have his morning coffee as he read the newspaper. She had tried to wake him but in vain.


Hema poured hot water on the decoction maker. She had placed 2 tablespoons of ground coffee bean powder in the coffee maker. She took in the aroma and got three sapota fruits from the refrigerator for the parrots. She placed them in a bowl on the kitchen balcony and watched them eat for a few seconds. She took the broom and a mugful of water to clean the doorway. She had to draw a Kolam[1].


Muniyamma woke up before the alarm clock. She took a bath, swept the house, drew a beautiful lotus Kolam outside her house and cooked. The clock sounded as she boiled milk. She ignored the sound and cut vegetables. It was 5:30 in the morning. Her son angrily got up, turned the alarm off and promptly went back to sleep. Muniyamma smiled. She cut the vegetables and added them to the tamarind gravy. She was making sambar[2]. She had placed a rice cooker on another stove. The cooker whistled loudly, thrice. “Amma!!” yelled her son and she smiled at him. He reluctantly woke up and walked out the small asbestos-walled house.

“Kaaa… Kaaa…” called the crow that came in daily to her house. Muniyamma placed some fermented rice and snake guard fry in a bowl. She kept in near the crow. It ate with relish. She watched the crow eat. “Amma! Coffee!” said her son, took a towel, and went out the house to take a bath. Her house became very hot during summers, which inevitably pushed them to bathe multiple times to keep cool. Muniyamma poured milk into a ceramic cup and scooped a teaspoonful of instant coffee powder. She mixed both, added some sugar, mixed once and kept it beside the hot rice-cooker.

She checked the sambar on the stove and turned the gas off. “Mom! Coffee!” said her son as he dried himself with a towel and sat on the coir cot outside her house. Muniyamma brought her son his coffee.

“You are leaving?” he asked. Muniyamma nodded. She took her cloth purse, adjusted her saree and walked to her workplace. It has been 5 years since Muniyamma’s husband travelled abroad to make a living. He worked in building construction in UAE. It was good money. It helped pay her daughter’s dowry. It helped pay for her son’s college tuition. She even saved up for buying a house; one with brick walls and one that had separate rooms for cooking, washing and sleeping. That money was not enough, though. So, Muniyamma worked as a maid servant.


Hema showered, plucked jasmine and marigold flowers from her garden for morning prayers and prepared idlis[3]. Her husband had conducted prayers every day. He never allowed Hema to attend the prayers. She had to prepare food offerings and pluck flowers. Nowadays, she lit the oil lamp and offered flowers to her God. Her prayers were simple and less time consuming. She had a lot of time in her hands in the mornings.

She filled two idli moulds with fermented rice and skinned black gram batter. She took out a coconut and broke it in half with practised perfection. She looked at the small kitchen clock. It was 6:45 AM. She checked the coffee decoction maker. It was done. There was enough thick decoction to make two filter coffees.

Hema took a coconut scraper and started to work it on one half of the coconut. She could still hear the parrots. They were perched on the neem tree beside her apartment building. As she transferred the coconut into a mixer grinder jar, she heard the call, “Amma… milk!” Hema continued to transfer the coconut into the jar. She walked to the balcony, took the water tube and turned the tap on. Hema watered the plants. She had many chilli plants, one curry leaves plant, one aloe vera, a small lemon plant, a bitter guard creeper, and a small spinach tub. She harvested two chillies and some curry leaves. As she walked to her kitchen, she heard the steam from the idli cooker.

Hema placed the freshly collected chillies and curry leaves inside the jar. As she cleaned the kitchen counter, the doorbell rang. She smiled. It was Muniyamma. Hema opened the door and went back to adding ingredients for coconut chutney.

Muniyamma picked up the milk packets from the small bag on the door shelf. She carefully kept the packets on the kitchen counter and went to wash her hands.

Hema closed the mixer grinder jar and boiled the milk in a steel vessel. She took out two tumblers and two davaras[4]. Hema made coffee. The same warm feeling embraced her. She has been making coffee for more than 40 years. She got married to her husband at the age of 15 years. The fresh aroma lifted her senses. She placed just enough sugar on the davaras and poured milk on the decoction in the tumblers. Muniyamma swept the big, sit-out balcony and placed 2 chairs and patio table under the sunshade.

Hema brought the coffees and both the women sat down to drink coffee. Muniyamma took in the aroma and drank the expertly made brew. Hema smiled as she saw her friend enjoy the coffee she made. “Sooper!” said Muniyamma and took another sip.


Muniyamma has been working for Hema for last 17 years. She was married when she was 18 years old. She spent her childhood in a farming village, Krishnapuram, near Tirunelveli district in the state of Tamil Nadu. She was the third daughter in a household with 7 children. She was excited to move to Madras. She did not have to live with her in-laws. Her friends had told her that she was lucky. She had studied up to 5th std. in the local school. She stopped going to school after she got her first period. She moved into a small house; a hut. Her house in her village was vast. They even had a well and a cow shed. They fed their cows hay, cotton seeds and rice bran. Cows in Madras ate wall posters. Her husband was nice to her, but he drank liquor. He was abusive when he drank liquor.

When Hema’s husband was alive, Hema gave Muniyamma coffee in a small ceramic cup. Muniyamma was not allowed to enter the poojai room. There were many restrictions. Hema was never allowed self-thinking in her life, so she followed the rules that were laid out. Hema liked Muniyamma. She was a self-employed, dignified, self-thinking woman.

Hema was a good woman. Muniyamma got to know that the day her son was admitted in the hospital for an appendix operation. She had no money. Her husband spent all his money on liquor, and she hardly got to save any money. Hema had given Muniyamma her gold bangle. “I do not have any money with me. I must ask my husband,” she had said, “He will not give me, so take this bangle.” Muniyamma liked her boss. Hema has a tender heart and a non-judgemental disposition.


Muniyamma could see the parrots on the neem tree. “They ate the sapota fruits?” she asked. Hema nodded. Muniyamma smiled. Hema took another sip of the fresh coffee.


Hema moved from Kumbakonam district, in the state of Tamil Nadu, to Madras. Her father had fixed her wedding date 3 weeks after she turned 15. She was the eldest daughter. She had 2 younger brothers. Her brothers stayed with her Chithappa (father’s younger brother) in Madras. Schooling was good in Madras. She was never allowed to go to school. She spent her days learning to cook, clean, tailor and to do religious rituals. Her cousin brother accompanied her whenever she visited the temple. She was never allowed to go anywhere alone.

She was ecstatic when she got to know she will be going to Madras, the big city. Her brothers told her about Madras whenever they visited. “I have never seen so many cars, akka[5],” her youngest brother would say, “And there are beaches. Wow! The beaches.”

She did not get to see the Marina beach for a long time. Her husband took her to Marina beach on their 10th wedding anniversary. She thought it was okay. She was not allowed to enjoy the water. Her saree would have gotten wet. She saw the sea as she guarded her husband’s and children’s footwear.


Hema continued to make two sets of coffees even after her husband died. This continued for a month after his passing. Muniyamma was worried. She wanted to help her friend. Hema’s kids asked her to come and stay with them. Her daughter lived in London and her son in Gurugram. Hema denied the invitation. She stayed in her home of 30 years. Muniyamma knew Hema drank coffee with her husband on the sit-out balcony everyday in the mornings. She started to come early to work and offered to drink the extra tumbler of coffee, and this became a ritual. She also loved the coffee taste. It was much better than the instant coffee that she knew to make. When Muniyamma had started work in Hema’s house, she declined every time she was asked whether she wanted a tumbler of coffee. After a week, she tried it out of curiosity. The taste hit her taste buds and she had been flabbergasted. “No one can make coffee like Hema akka,” she would tell her children.

Muniyamma knocked on Hema’s door everyday between 6:45 to 7:00, and they had coffee. The coffee ritual slowly evolved to breakfast and prayer. She loved Hema’s conviction to rituals. Every day, both women drank coffee, ate breakfast, and prayed for half hour. Hema would then make lunch, and Muniyamma will clean the house and do the dishes. Hema liked the routine because it reassured her of life. Muniyamma liked the routine because it was soothing in her otherwise eventful life.


“I’ll get the idlis,” said Hema and got up from her chair. Muniyamma nodded and continued to sip her coffee. A man practised Surya namaskar in the adjacent building. A woman hung the clothes to dry in her terrace in another building. A mother tried make a child eat breakfast in the same terrace. The security guard was stretching after a good night’s work near the apartments’ gate. Muniyamma could hear the mixer grinder from the sit-out balcony. Hema was making chutney. She saw a small squirrel climb down the chimney pipe. It was carrying something in its mouth. She could not see what it was. “Here!” said Hema and handed a plate to Muniyamma. Hema cooked well. Muniyamma took a morsel of idli and scooped some chutney. She ate tastefully.

Hema smiled and sat down beside Muniyamma. “Want to go to Kabalishwarar temple this Saturday?” Hema asked.

“Why Saturday? We can go today too,” said Muniyamma.

“Your son?” asked Hema with a gasp.

Muniyamma smiled, “He is a man. He can take care of himself. What say? Today?”

“Yes!” said Hema laughingly. Muniyamma laughed too.

The two women talked as they ate. They talked about children, politics, people and themself.

“OK! Eat fast, Hema. Let us finish morning prayers. I must get to work. If we are going today, I need to finish work in all the other houses before 4:00 PM,” said Muniyamma and got up with her plate in hand.

Few parrots flew and sat on the small papaya tree in Hema’s terrace garden. They were loud. Hema watched them snack on a papaya fruit. For the first time since her husband’s death, it stuck her that she was free now. She could do anything she wants. She smiled and closed her eyes.

“Muniyamma!” she called.

“Ohhooo…” answered, Muniyamma from the kitchen.

“Let us go to the beach too from the temple,” said Hema.

[1] Kolam: a drawing of symbols or things using rice flour.

[2] Vegetable, tamarind, pulses gravy that is eaten with rice.

[3] Steamed rice and skinned black gram cake.

[4] Metal bowls inside which the tumblers are kept

[5] Elder sister

To read the part 6, click here

India, 1998

“Hey!” called Bright Eyes. Tivini, the snake, lifted his head up and looked around. ‘Hmmm’ he thought and started to move again. “Hey! You.. Tivini.. stop!” said Bright Eyes. Tivini took a defence stance and got ready to attack the owner of the intruding voice. “Who is there?” asked Tivini with anger.

Bright Eyes jumped down from the neem tree. Tivini looked at Bright Eyes with shock. ‘Did she just jump down a tree?’ thought Tivini. He looked at Bright Eyes’ blue dress and long, red bindi. ‘OK! She is not a monkey. How did she jump?’ thought Tivini.

“Look! Did you see a person with three eyes?” asked Bright Eyes as she hugged her knees and sat down on the ground. Tivini got back to the defence stance.

Bright Eyes sighed. “Look Tivini! I am not here to scare or hurt you. I just want to know. And Please tell me exactly what happed that day,” said Bright Eyes. Tivini could not take his eyes off Bright Eyes. Her eyes were too bright. “She was glowing,” said Tivini, as the urge to talk overwhelmed him. “She had three eyes. One eye on her forehead. She was glowing,” he said.

“And?” asked Bright Eyes.

“She did not hurt me. She as not afraid of me. She…. She was different,” said Tivini.

“Hmmmm!” said Bright Eyes and disappeared.

Tivini searched all around him to find Bright Eyes. She was no where to be found. He lied down and tasted the air for possible danger. He found none. ‘Maybe I am becoming old,” thought Tivini and slithered way as fast as he can.


Bright Eyes walked Near Marina beach on the sea water. She could see fishes and other creatures swimming in sea water. She sat on the water and sighed. Waves splashed on her and she absently tried to beat water off. Her mind wandered off. She will be called up. Janani will be initiated. She always knew this day will come. She never thought it will be this tough. Janani was still a child. She had a big heart and was clueless of her powers. Bright Eyes has to find a way to make Janani and Rishi friends. Her kid, Janani, needs a person like Rishi to carry out the tasks. Without Rishi, Janani will invest more than what was required.

Bright Eyes sighed again. She could see a school of seer Fishes and pellonas swim the waters. A huge ray fish was gliding just beneath where Bright Eyes sat on the water. Bright Eyes smiled. The ray was curious. It could see her. She petted the big ray and promptly disappeared. The ray fish looked around and swiftly swam away startled by the experience.


Rishi stood near the kitchen where his mom was angrily cooking. She suddenly stopped cutting brinjal and turned towards Rishi. He steeped back a little, startled. She opened her mouth to speak, sighed and went back to cutting brinjals. The police had come to their house and applauded Rishi. Simran brought a huge fruit basket and Punjabi sweets to thank Rishi. These had not sat well with Rishi’s mom, Pournami. Rishi’s father and sister were pretending to be doing their normal chores around the house. His father, Dilip, was dusting the TV unit vigorously. His Sister, Rishitha, was cleaning the sofas with a used toothbrush; she had spilled grape juice on one of the cushions last week. She was terrified that her mother would anger-clean the house and find out.

“Mom!” called Rishi. Pournami continued to cut brinjal and mix the boiling drumstick sambar on the stove. “Mom! Please… look… mom…” called Rishi.

Rishitha and Dilip looked at each other as they continued to clean the already clean surfaces.

“Mo…” started Rishi and Pournami placed a metal plate on the granite kitchen counter with a big thud. She tuned to face Rishi. “Do you have a death wish boy?” she asked with seething anger, “You climbed onto the terrace? Jumped inside the kitchen window? What the hell were you thinking? For the love of god, why would you put yourself in danger?”

Rishi clenched his fist in dormant anger. He had told Sanjay, Baasi uncle and Simran to keep mum. He never expected the police sub-inspector to come to his house. Simran had said, ‘Hey! She already knows. Why can’t I show my gratitude too?’

“I have one boy!!” screamed his mother, “Is asking you to stay alive a crime? Can’t a mother even expect that?”

Rishi’s father could no longer keep mum, “Pournami!” he called from the kitchen’s entrance and got a seething stare form his wife. He mustered his courage and continued to talk. His son needed him. “Nami… Come on! The boy saved a life. He was brave. The police came personally to our house and wished him well. He is a local hero!” he said. Paurnami continued to mix the brinjal sabji and cleaned the kitchen counter.

“He saved Mr. Saxena. Please do not be angry! You should be proud of our boy,” said Dilip and rested his case. Rishitha smirked. Both Dilip and Rishi turned to look at her. She raised an eyebrow and shook her head.

“Dilip!” called Pournami, “Stop encouraging these acts. What will you do if he is put in danger? He is already so small..” Rishitha giggled, “…. He may get hurt. Rishi….” she said. “Yes ma?” said Rishi. “Come here!” said Pournami. Rishi went. Pournami took few chillies and salt in her palm. She rotated her hands in both clockwise and anti-clockwise directions in front of Rishi’s face. She asked him to spit on the chillies. She then proceeded to throw the chillies and salt mixture on a heated iron kadai. They cracked loudly. She took the kadai out back and dropped it near the coconut tree.

“Don’t you have tuitions? Go!” said Pournami, washed her hands and continued to cook. Rishi hugged his mom, gave her a kiss and hopped away to get ready for tutions. Dilip walked near Pournami and back hugged her. Pournami sighed, “What are we going to do with him, Dilip?” she asked.

“Nothing! We just wish him well and be there to catch him when he falls,” said Dilp. Pournami smiled and rested her head on her husband’s shoulder.

To read the part 5, click here

India, 1998

Rishi played with a yoyo ball as he walked towards the grocery store. His mom had given him a big list. The chore was worth it though. He will get to buy 2 Bar One chocolates. Rishi walked past Mr. Saxena’s house. The front door was closed. Simran, Mr. Saxena’s granddaughter, always opens all doors and windows. They were even nicknamed the ‘open house’ in the neighbourhood. ‘Odd,’ he thought to himself as he walked away. “Hi!” he heard Angel’s distinct voice. He involuntarily smiled and creased his forehead with sudden realization. He turned to face Angel. As usual, she was wearing a blue dress. She smiled brightly.

“If you’re here, who is it this time?” Rishi stooped his shoulders and said, “Angel!! I have work. Come on! Mom will kill me. She thinks I am slacking away. Last time that girl did not even thank me.”

Angel smiled. “Come on!” she said and walked towards Mr. Saxena’s house. Saxena uncle was in his 80s. had been in the military. He stayed with his daughter and granddaughter. “Uncle!” called Rishi, “Aunty! Simran…..” he called. Angel was already inside. She gestured, ‘come inside.’ Rishi sighed and walked inside the compound.

He called again, “Uncle! Uncle, you there?” Rishi saw that the newspaper was near the shoe-flower plant. It was today’s newspaper. He turned to look at Angel. She was not there. He walked near the window and looked inside. The house was dark. No lights were on. Rishi pursed his lips. He looked at the big list in his hands. His mom will kill him if he goes empty handed. She has made carrot halwa. He was sure his share will go to his sister. He wet his lips and thought for a second. He walked around the house and reached the backyard. The house had a huge well in the backyard. He kept the bags near the mango tree and climbed on the well. He held a branch of the mango tree with one hand and swayed his way onto the sunshade. Once he was on the sunshade, he pushed himself up the terrace wall and jumped on the terrace floor.

Angel watched him with delight as she sat on top of the coconut tree. Rishi was resourceful. She knew that. He did not empathise with people, but he could be persuaded to care. “Whatcha doing?” Angel heard a voice. Without looking, she knew it was Bright eyes. “Shhhhh….” said Angel as she watched Rishi remove all the ropes that were used for drying clothes. He tied the ends and connected the ropes. He then tied one end to the huge pillar in the middle of the terrace. He proceeded to climb down to the first floor. Bright eyes nodded and said, “I am impressed.”

Rishi looked though the first-floor window that was Saxena uncle’s bedroom. He was not there. Simran was his tuition teacher, and he was well versed with the house. He went to the kitchen window and kicked the grill door. The screw came off a little. He swayed back and kicked it again with more force. He was lucky. Aunty had not yet fixed the door. It fell with a thud on the kitchen floor. Taking some utensils and the water cooler along with it. ‘I am dead if I don’t find anything wrong,’ he thought.

He jumped on the kitchen counter and walked on top of it to reach the door. He proceeded to search in the living room. Mr. Saxena was not there. He thought for a second and went inside the bathroom. He found Mr. Saxena on the floor. He immediately tried to lift him up in vain. He opened the main door and ran to the Nairs’ house. “Uncle!” he called. “Uncle!” he shouted with increased volume. “What?” asked Sanjay, Mr. Nair’s son, as he came out of the door. “Saxena uncle’s fell down. Help me!” said Rishi. Sanjay ran, along with Rishi, inside the Saxena house to help him.


“Want some?” asked Angel to bright eyes. She held out a piece of coconut. Bright eyes got it from her and started to eat. “When did he see you?” asked Bright eyes. “Some time back!” replied Angel, “The kid is different.”

“How?” asked Bright eyes.

“He has a knack for getting things done,” said Angel.

“Hmmmm…” said bright eyes, “So! He is the one for Janani?”

“I think so,” said Angel.

“He looks so small, though. He’s really 15?” asked bright eyes and Angel nodded. Both looked at the boys helping Mr. Saxena. Sanjay, who was much older than Rishi, effortlessly lifted Mr. Saxena by holding his shoulders. Rishi was talking on the phone. He kept the phone down and went to the kitchen to get some water. Sanjay lay down Mr. Saxena on the sofa and started to rub his soles. The walls were not there. Bright eyes and Angel could see what was happening inside. “And! Hey!” said Angel to bright eyes, “The snake near the lake, the one that eats rats. It saw Janani’s third eye.”

Bright eyes stopped eating and looked at Angel with a startled expression.

“She’s just 12, right?” asked Angel and bright eyes nodded. “All the best,” said Angel and turned to look at bright eyes with a smirky smile, “You’ll be called up soon.”

India, 1998

Parimala looked at the clock eagerly. She worked in a local wholesale rice shop as an accountant. The work was good and it paid well. The best part was she got discount on rice. “Annachi, I am leaving,” said Parimala and took her handbag.

“OK!” said Annachi and got back to counting money. “Wait! Parimala,” he said.


“How much was the money Dilip stores deposited this month?” asked Annachi.

Parimala thought for a few seconds, “hmmmmm…. 2000. They deposited Rs. 2000.”

“OK! OK then! We can give them rice tomorrow. OK, see you tomorrow,” said Annachi.

Parimala smiled and walked outside. “Bye Mani,” she said to the store helper. “Bye!” replied Mani.

Parimala walked to the Aavin milk centre and bought milk sweets for Janani. She loved to walk home, even though there was a bus to the locality she lived at 6:15.

She placed the sweets inside her bag and started to walk. She loved the evenings. The orange sky was beautiful, and the greens were greener. She could see people everywhere. Some were leaving work. Some were buying vegetables from the street vendor, and some were gathered in the local Ganesh temple for evening pooja. She kept walking, taking in the liveliness.


Saravanan walked silently behind Parimala. She always walked. Why can’t she take the bus? It is definitely safer. He sighed. He had to walk everyday because of her. Saravaran worked in the medical shop opposite the rice shop. He loved Parimla. He knew she was a widow and has a child. He could not help but love her. She was sincere, intelligent, and simple. Annachi could not stop praising her when she had joined as an accountant. She organised the books and eased book-keeping within a month. For some reason, whenever he praised Parimala, Saravanan felt proud. It took him a whole year to figure out that he liked her. And another year to figure out that he loved her. His assistant thought he was crazy. He understood why. He was a good 5 to 6 years younger than her and she had a child.

Parimala wore a bright maroon saree today. Her hair was always plaited. She never wore earrings. She had a dark complexion, with tiny pimple marks on her cheeks. She always wore a red, round bindi, a thin gold chain, and one bangle on each hand. She never wore synthetic material sarees and she loved cotton sarees. The way she wears her saree makes someone wonder if she ironed the cloth after wearing it. It was perfect. She was perfect.

Parimala walked in a steady pace. He sometimes felt like she was dance walking. Saravanan smiled. This was her only indulgence. She was a frugal woman, so of course her indulgence did not cost money. Everyday, Saravanan will follow her till she entered her apartment building, and he will board a bus back to his shop. His assistant knew, Annachi knew, and Mani knew. Even the lady who sold flower garlands near his shop know this. She would pester him to profess his love and give him jasmine flower garlands then and now. ‘Everyone knew, except Parimala’, he thought.


Parimala stopped to buy some fruits. As she bargained and paid the amount, she could see in her peripheral that Saravanan was following her. She was used to him by now. He did that every day. He was a good man. He never tried to talk to her or misbehave. “He just wants to make sure you go home safe, akka,” Mani would say with a mischievous glint in his eyes. She had a fondness for Saravanan. She was not sure if it was worth redesigning her life. Anyway, Saravanan has never told her that he loved her. So, no point letting her imagination go further. She distracted herself with the mother and kids trio who walked in front of her. The two kids were fighting to hold their mother’s hand. The mother was walking slowly so that the kids did not trip and fall. She was holding a heavy bag on her left hand. Parimala smiled and went near the mother. “Want me to hold the bag?” she asked with a smile.

The mother looked at her two angry kids, one of whom was at the verge of tears. “Yes, please!” she said and Parimala got the bag from her. “I can carry it till Mullai flats,” said Parimala.

“Till Apu Flats will do,” said the mother and held both the kids’ hands.


Saravanan looked at the scene proudly. ‘I wish she was younger’, he thought, ‘Maybe I can change her birth certificate.’ He then smiled at his silliness. He suddenly realised that his legs hurt. ‘God! Why can’t she take the bus?’ he thought.

To read the part 7, click here

To read the part 4, click here

India, 1987

Parimala sat near the homam (sacred fire) as the Pandit performed ayush homam. The father was required to perform the ritual, but Parimala had requested that she do it. She missed Ashokan. It has been 6 months since his death. She adjusted Janani’s hair and her dress as she continued to do the ritual with the Pandit’s guidance.

Janani looked like Ashokan; his photocopy. Parimala’s eyes brimmed as she looked at her baby daughter who was trying to wriggle her way out of her mother’s grasp. “Amma! Play..” said Janani in a frustrated tone.

Parimala smiled and lifted her up to seat her comfortably on her lap. She took a banana and gave it to Janani. The child’s eyes sparkled. Janani took the banana and started to peel it. The assistant pandit looked at the child with amazement.

The pandit who was performing the pooja smiled. He was used to Janani’s differentness now. She was born on a very impossible star alignment. Her parents do not believe in astrology, so he kept the information to himself. He loved the chubby, quirky child. He asked Parimala to lift the child so he can place the small garland on her. Janani looked at the Pandit’s eyes and smiled as he did that. He secretly bowed a little and sat back.


Ayush homam was finished and the guests had left. Parimala and Shetawari were cleaning up in the kitchen. Shetawari’s husband, Sunil, was cleaning the living room. Ambujam had taken Janani to the paly area.

Shetawari finished cleaning the vessels in the sink and sat down on the inverted water-storing container. She sighed heavily, “Pari! Well-done!” she said, “It was a good ceremony.”

Parimala stopped scrubbing the stove and looked at Shetawari, “Tai! Was it? Really?” she asked with distrust.

Shetawari smiled. “YES! It was a good ceremony. The guests loved the food. The homam went well. Janani did not cry and was a doll. If Ashokan would have been here, he would be proud of you,” said Shetawari.

Tears rolled down Parimala’s eyes. She leaned on the kitchen counter. “Yes! Yes, he would be,” she said. Shetawari went near her and hugged her friend. Parimala started to cry.

“Pari!,” said Shetawari, “Janu looks like him more and more.”

“Right?” said Parimala as she released herself from Shetawari’s embrace, “I felt so more today than other days. She has his eyes, his nose, same smile….” Parimala cried on her friend’s shoulders. Shetawari cried with her. Shetawari and Ashokan had been best of friends. They had connected well, and their common interest was cricket. She knew how much Ashokan loved Parimala. God is cruel, she thought.

India; 1998

Janani walked inside her home and threw her bag near the TV stand. She kicked one shoe inside the bedroom and the other one near the dining table. She walked to the bedroom and fell on the bed.

Ambujam kept working in the kitchen but knew something was wrong by the daad… tuddd.. tadaddd… sounds from the living room. Ambujam sighed. Teenage is coming, she thought.

“Paaatiiiiiii………….” She heard Janani yell.

“Your mom’s home!” said Ambujam in a calm voice. She heard Janani hastily coming to the living room. Clear sounds of her placing her school bag on the shelf and retrieving her shoes from wherever she threw them. After some seconds, “Mom’s not home. Is she?” asked Janani in a stern voice.

“Well! You better fall for it every time. What if I was telling the truth?” asked Ambujam as she placed freshly fried Bajji on a plate. She turned with a naughty smile to face her granddaughter. “Here!” she said, holding the plate of bajjis out.

Janani took the plate and started to eat. She sat on the low table in the kitchen. “Paati!” called Janani.


“Do you believe in fate?” asked Janani.

“Hmmm… Not sure!”

“Do you believe that a person will die in a predetermined moment?” asked Janani as she absently played with the bajjis on the plate.

Ambujam startled momentarily and resumed to fry the bajjis. “Why the sudden deep discussion, sweetie?”

“I could have saved someone today. Bright eyes did not help me!” said Janani in a low voice.

Ambujam sighed. She had become accustomed to bright eyes. Janani had been talking about her for a long time now. Ambujam had initially thought it was an imaginary friend. She eventually understood that bright eyes was alike a guardian angel.

“Why? Why did bright eyes do that?” asked Ambujam, as she dipped an onion ring inside the bajji batter.

“Don’t know! She said it was their fate. Then, why is she saving me? Is it not my fate too? To suffer?” asked Janani, matter-of-factly.

Ambujam stopped mixing the batter and onion rings. She sometimes wondered if Janani was an adult in a kid’s form. Her questions were not simple.

“Hmmmm….” said Ambujam and slowly dropped the batter-coated inion rings inside the kadai. “So, you do not want bright eyes to save you?”

Janani sighed. “I don’t know! I do, but why only me? You’ve told me I’ve been seeing bright eyes from when I was a baby, right?” asked Janani.

“Mmmmmhmmmm” replied Ambujam as she fried the onion rings.

“So! Why can only I see her? What is she?” asked Janani.

“Chat later! Move out the kitchen and ask your grand mom to move too,” said bright eyes, suddenly, in a stern voice. She was standing near Janani.

Janani stood up without a word, pulled her grandmother and swiftly moved out the kitchen.

The burner promptly burnt with long flames and the oil kadai caught fire.

Ambujam turned to Janani with a calm expression. “Bright eyes?” she asked. Janani nodded. Ambujam sighed, took a huge lid, turned the burner off, turned the LPG gas off and placed the big lid on the kadai to cut off oxygen.

Janani turned to look for bright eyes. She was gone.

India, 1988

Parimala placed a bowl of raisins near Janani who was busy building a structure with her building blocks. Janani stopped, took the bowl and started to eat. She took a raisin and gave one to bright eyes, “Here!” said Janani, “You do not eat anything.”

Parimala saw this and sighed. She had gotten used to her daughter’s imaginary friend by now. This worried her. Janani frantically got up and ran towards Parimala. “What? What happened, baby?” asked Parimala and heard a loud thud. The ceiling fan had fallen where Janani had sat. “Bright eyes told me to run to you, mom. She said, ‘Run… get up and run to your mom. Fast.. fast…’. I thought she wanted to play,” said Janani as she hugged her mom. Parimala hugged her daughter and silently thanked bright eyes. It was a name her daughter had playfully given this friend who had very bright eyes. She looked at the space where Janani had looked when she talked to her friend.

“Bye baby!” said bright eyes who was now near Parimala now.

“Bye!” replied Janani.


“So! She can see you?” asked bright eyes’s friend.

“Yup!” replied bright eyes with glee.

“WOW!” said the friend. They were sitting on one of the kopurams of Meenakshi amman temple in Madurai. “How come? She is just a baby. How can she see you?”

“I don’t know. She can. She could see me sitting on the Naga Linga tree in the hospital she was born in. Her friend creased her forehead.

“This is odd,” said her friend, “Mine does not see me even now. Wait! Could she be the one?”

Bright eyes smiled. She was sure Janani was the one. She just had to check if she had the third eye. She must wait. She must wait till she was over 10 years.

“Want some?” aske bright eyes’s friend as she held out a piece of coconut. Bright eyes got the coconut from her and both ate. There was a huge crowd of devotees in the temple. It was the month of Navratri.

To read the part 6, click here

Road in the Forest 4K Wallpapers | HD Wallpapers | ID #28514

In a path that’s closed,

In a road that’s broken,

I see a sign that says, “STOP”

I go till the sign,

I peek a little,

There is a path further.

Should I go further?

Should I not stop?


The path does not scare me.

The road seems fine.

Because I see you.

I saw you when I peeked a little!

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