Chiseled Tang of Home-Made memoirs
A wise man once quoted that home is sometimes not a place but a person. When I think of home I can see a gaudy pinwheel that whirs together a flapping spell of memories, faintly chipped at the edges owing to tales of time, but otherwise adroitly intact, just like the dainty pink porcelain tea-cups that nestle smugly in the granite counters of amma’s scullery.
I remember the musky scent of a rainy day that Friday and my soiled bata school shoes bounding with fervour on little puddles that the monsoon showers left behind her trail.. each puddle had tiny wrinkles that stencilled a pretty kaleidoscopic design as I tread gingerly into them and in unfortunate cases, a tiny red ant stuck in the middle flapping her poles for all she’s worth ..that particular day random act of kindness , rather inspired by a story amma had read last night about rescuing an ant on a betal leaf made me pause in my steps and helping the now wheezing ant onto raft like foliage of a mango tree…the ramble relenting down the winding path as the raindrops pelted down, splattering the wide rimmed lens of my gargantuan spectacles…
All went awry
fade into a dining room daubed a solemn shade of browned sugar syrup, and snaring centre stage a teak table though veiled with plastic coating , blowing caution to the winds of us children scrawling on them with our crayon smeared fingers… A table groaning with the weight of lunch for the children traipsing in after clocking in long ink smeared hours at school. Wafting deliciously from the kitchen came the heady aroma of warm fluffy custard baking in Ninnima’s oven , a bouquet almost as welcoming as her beaming smile as she spots me lurking by the door, leaving a sloppy and muddy trail of raindrops behind my trail. Outlandish though it may seem to the world, the reminiscence of the custard cooking mulishly in the oven, burning a deep caramel shade , with crimson bubbling blotches and the green embroidered gloved hands that took them out lovingly, daubing them with caramel syrup from the white jug on the mantelpiece remained a specially dog eared yet battered memory from the leaves of childhood tucked away in a nook of my memoirs, just like the special bend reticent for mom’s tea cups in her cosy scullery .
Monsoons gave way to winters and summers that scorched the puddles , free-standing the house and made them go parched and gasping which gave the marching ants a gamble to build bridges and stride in single file to mossier commons . My soiled school shoes lay flung outside, derelict and sulking by the leafy rose apple tree behind my house in the sandpit where amma and I used to build mud pies together before the scorch of the summer in the city ; my last summer in the city weighed down hefty with dusky clouds and the city began to pour heaving tears down on us as the train careened out of the station taking along with it, amma and me to a different city for a dissimilar flavour of what was left of my childhood.
However the aftertaste of the custard filled rainy days lingered…
It is facetious but the memory of melting custard to me turned metaphorical to longing and belonging , 20 years later , the intensity of the aroma long gone from my nosetrills , the idea of the custard scented aroma as raindrops tumbled outside the window,s orchestrated with the dart of thunder as it whipped at the windows became a Julie Andrews memoir to me…. The best few of my favourite things. A comfort memory, almost just as good as comfort food by the fire or a hot mug of cocoa whipped up by mom and an Enid Blyton book.
Until two days ago, when my high heeled shoes made their way down the same crazy pavement that led to the house, into the same brown sugared walls that had the big teak table though without the plastic coating , as the kids who loved to stand on tiptoe and let the table be the canvas to their imagination , had long left the table to lay their imagination to rest and run a hasty race with the rest of the rats.
I sniffed the air that now reeked of freshly painted walls and the sleet from the AC. Tiptoeing toward the kitchen , the memory that smelled of home began to be blur out , as the unkind cold of the room tiptoed up to me …with a jolt , I realized that the house seemed to have grown up just like us kids, and there were no welcome hugs nor heady aromas that beckoned me further. What now stood was a hazy commemoration of it all, the cracked open shells of an egg shell that once held a warm sunshine buttery fur ball of belonging I once called home..
The dog eared memory slowly unfolded her creases and went back to being part of the rest of the leaves of the book… with time it grew chiselled and the tang of the tale thinned as seasons soared past…
Until this frosty afternoon in an unfriendly city tales away, hurriedly pushing open the glass doors of a patisserie, to fight the bite of the winters I was greeted with the wafting aroma of custard cooking in caramel , the same aroma that wafted out of ninima’s sugary kitchen and I could almost see her emerging from the kitchen , smile aloft beaming a warm welcome.
I beamed back , glad to be ‘home’ if only for a while.
*Ninnima- commonly referred to as an aunt, but to me spelt a warm warm memory almost as heady as the smell of caramel custards cooking on a rainy afternoon.