I grew up in a joint family so, whether I liked it or not there were always people around. My dad had 4 brothers and 2 sisters. We were living in the eldest uncle's house in Thiruvanmyur - Chennai. On the whole we had 13 people all living in 2 bedroom one hall + 1 kitchen house!! Those days Saturday used to be working day for the elders, kids had half a day at school. They made idly for dinner on all saturdays. We have more visitors on the weekend. The aunt's family who lives couple of street away and other cousins who come in the weekend to play cricket or shuttle cock. So cooking idly for many people is the easiest option. Plus the left over idly will be converted to breakfast upma next day :P
Sundays or any holiday starts with cleaning mela at home. The bunch of cousins and uncles all busy from early morning, cleaning the house every nook and corner like its a bride getting ready for groom in the evening. Purposefully I wake up late, because if I were awake I will be given a job. cleaning the windows and doors using soap water or scrap coconut for making chutney. Imagine you need to scrap at least 3 coconuts to prepare chutney for these many people. These both jobs I hate the most!
After waking up and taking my "own time" to drink Bornvita or milk, I sneak out to garden to be with my dad or my grandma. They generally do the garden work. We had 6 coconut trees, couple of mango, one sapota, one gooseberry, one neem, one badam tree and numerous plants around the house. My dad can even climb at the coconut tree to pluck the unwanted branch and/or coconuts. Gardening is something I enjoyed naturally - getting muddy or picking dirt is fine with me. I do scream occasionally at the garden lizard, frog or any small creature that I encounter. In seconds I would be in company of my saviours peeking through my shoulders, our two pet dogs, white and brown - fully grown - I had no idea what breed they were. I usually climb up the gooseberry tree with a handful of raw salt, these were small gooseberries and as much sour as it can be - but with raw salt it makes great snack anytime.
Cleaning the tank in the terrace is another job that I enjoyed doing. I get inside half full tank with my cousin, scrap the sides and make the water as dirty as possible then let it out to terrace area. Then it has to be bleached for which I am not allowed. I would join again for "water wash" phase . Then with the rest of water we clean the terrace too. Evening time we play cricket or shuttle cock or go to nearby beach to play Frisbees or ring. We also gather around the TV for simple yet wonderful shows like Chitrahaar, Shurabhi, Giant robot, Potli baba ki, Oliyum Oliyum, Jungle book or Ramayan. Sometimes I help my cousin sister wash the clothes near the well. Radio is our company, if they play a latest song which is usually one or two at the end of the program our joy knew no bounds. Sometimes we even match the rhythm of the song to beating of the clothes :P.
( This picture was taken with cousin's kids when I visited my uncle's place this feb, and do I need to say - its me in the middle ;P )
I also visit my other grandma's place (mom's mom). That is a similar house in the other end of chennai called Chrompet . I had 5 uncles and 4 aunties. Each had at least two offspring, now you do the math :) . We all meet during summer holidays. I had cousins from Chennai and Tirupathi. We all be good for a day or two with so much sharing and caring. Then comes the chocolate fights, game board fights, community fights, My dad is best fights, My language,shirt,pen,cinema,sticker - is the best fights, sometimes bloody fights!! and other numerous fights. But the good thing is that they all last only for few hours and then its happy time, movie time, ice cream time or beach time. The best I remember is playing "Dayakattai" its like dominos played with two metal dice. Usually it starts after lunch, few aunties would join us, while others attended to the chores or took a nap. Sometimes it goes till evening until my grandma shouts at us for rolling the dice after 6 pm (one of her superstition that money wont flow into the house if you play dice at 6 pm :P).
We also practiced amateur archery. We make bow using "C" shaped twigs , rubber band and arrows from broom sticks. Our main target is bottle guard in the garden or plantain tree. My grandma treated all plants like her kids and gets upset if this was found out. Then we get "our lessons" from our mom which usually involves a punishment like kneeling down for 1/2 an hour or 10 scale hits or imposition. We pose - "I am innocent, sad dog looks" which our mom knew well , but it works for grandma who usually prevents mom scolding or punishing us. Dinner time is always from grandma , we all sit around her in half circle. She mixes rice with curry in a large vessel and the mixed food is given on hand. It’s mostly for kids but my uncles and aunties also join us sometimes. Even the normal sambar or rasam tasted much delicious when fed like that.
I didn't realize how much fun I had back those days, someone was always available to talk to, to play, to fight or to care about. Now a days our cousins are all spread - we are all living in different cities, different countries each with our own little family and problems. We manage to meet during important festivals at the same house in Thiruvanmyur . It has gone several transformations since then and doesn't look the same, but most of the trees are still there. That place is like sanctuary to all of us and when we meet, even if for a short time it’s all laughter and fun time again!
Now I want to tag the following people to continue this thread,( in no specific order :P) Preethe , Preeti shenoy , Gils , Divya, Charissim Prats And anyone who likes to share about those good old days :)