Friday, April 10, 2009

From the Pages of a Long Lost Book

It is curious how one thing can remind you of something completely unrelated--something that is from a different world all together. In the train today, suddenly we passed this stretch where they were burning weeds. The smell of smoke brought back the once-familiar smell of cashew nuts roasting. When we were kids, ma's tharavadu was this veritable haven of everyday wonders--of delightful sights and smells of unadulterated village life that held endless fascination for us city kids.

We would watch enchanted as our grand uncles, the formidable men of the house, would build the fire and toss the cashew nuts in heaps into its crackling goodness. This, of course, was done with great panache of seasoned showmen for the benefit of us impressionable kids. We would then watch enchanted, as the cashew nuts, with which we used to play a caroms till the day before, crackled and spluttered in the fire.

Occasionally, one of the more "grown-up" and hence, more adventurous, amongst us kids would dare thrown a small log into the fire, to be immediately chastised by the real grow-ups. But the immediate increase in respect and popularity amongst us lesser (and younger) mortals made it worth the mild reprimand.

The smell that rose from the fire--a heady mixture of smoke, cashew nuts, and a combination of firewood and dry leaves--was made more palpable with the collective excitement of us kids. And just about when we are about to lose our heads to the smell, someone in the grown-up party will declare that the cashews are just about done. The fire, if it was not breathing its last already, is killed.

And then begins the part that was my favourite in the grand ritual: cracking the nut, and of course, eating it. It used to be so much fun to watch the mighty men of the house go squirm squirm-twitch-twitch-and-jump trying to hold the hot cashews, while trying to get the outer (and now burnt) shell-like skin out, and get to the nicely roasted nutty bit inside. (This, of course, even the most adventurous amongst the kids never tried. The hot embers looked mean enough for all of us to stay away!). The whole house would smell of roasted cashews, and happiness.

Smells are such funny things. They are always lurking around the dark corners of your mind, waiting to jump at you at delightfully unexpected moments with equally unexpected memories. And I'm so glad :)