Spicy Rasam

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

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.

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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.

“Hmmmm”

“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.

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“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

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