Friday, August 03, 2012

Smell of love

My high school chemistry teacher, did not believe in love or celebrating festivals. He said love is merely an attraction and festivals are waste of time. That the sun rises and nature doesn't change, even if it were Christmas or Deepavali. Through his constant reminder, I was totally convinced about love being a mere attraction. Looking back now, I see why he said that to the 'hormone-haunted-biologically-charged' us.

I loved the festivals though.I secretly wished every week had one, so I can visit my mother's mom.  She is the perfect grandmother one could have. No matter how naughty I behaved, she always took my side and pampered me like a prince. She had a well maintained garden where I practised my archery skills on her bottle gourd and plantain trees.She loved feeding me with her hands.
This is the only photo I have of my grandmother, at my aunt's marriage.

She even baked cakes and biscuits using kitchen stove. She fills the pan with beach sand and keeps the baking tray on top of it and does some magic, which apparently we were not allowed to see. The whole home fills up with scent of baking cake combined with smell of burnt sand. And when its time to leave, we would have a personal conversation, sitting on the stone by the well . She would ask me to be a good boy, do well in my studies and always take care of my mom. Then she would give me a handshake, which would always involve a transfer of 10 rupee note into my palm. It was our secret.

I never realised her worth while she was alive. She passed away during my second year in college. My mom left in the morning after a phone call that said she was admitted in the hospital due to a failed liver.  Before noon the next call came. And I knew, I knew something bad has happened before the news reached me. Later I learnt that one of her last words were  "Srivats dont put your leg on me, sleep close to me". I figured she spoke under the influence of medicine.

In the last 14 years I saw her in every old lady I met. Few months back,on the way home from train station, I met a 90 plus year old Chinese lady, who sits by the McDonald from noon till night. She folds the cardboard boxes from McDonald and sells them to recycle shop. Out of love I brought her a pineapple cake, and she shook my hand saying "kamsia" (thank you in hokkien) several times. And so our friendship began and our meeting became regular. I say hi, sit next to her by the pavement and give her the bread, and she says "kamsia" for several times holding my hand and I say bye bye.

Few weeks back I shaved my head in support of cancer patients. The next time I went to meet her she couldn't identify me at first. After a second she started laughing out loud pointing to my shiny scalp. After several minutes of laughter we settled down. She was having her dinner which looked like rice porridge. She took a spoon full of porridge and signalled me to eat. I took the box from her and played with the spoon. I could clearly see its not vegetarian, nevertheless I took a spoonful and then one more.

Perhaps its worst food for my palette. But it felt lovely. Its true that there are no festivals or special days in nature. For rivers keep flowing into ocean and clouds keep moving. However on that night,while the florescent light of McDonald bounced off my shiny head, a festival was born. A festival where Chinese grandmother and her Indian grandson shared a fish porridge over laughter. And I swear, It almost smelled like baking cake and burnt sand.