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 :)


asmita said...

Hmmm... liked it.
Very personal and yet not the usual your kind of writing... until i reached the last paragraph.
Good that you can actually change the mode of writing for something as personal as this... :)

abhilash b said...

:) i like this

crumbs said...

@ asmita

I find it weird when someone says something that I have written is not "my kind of writing" or "my style" :)
Because for everything that I write is my's just that I don't consciously decide to write this way or that...whatever feels right, is what I put on paper
Glad that you liked this.

@ abhi actually do? I think I'm having a heart attack :D

narendra shenoy said...

Nicely written! I enjoyed it

crumbs said...

@ narendra

Thanks! :)

Id it is said...

Smells are special indeed, especially if they are associated with people and places that hold meaning. However, they are harbingers of both joy and sadness simultaneously as they are an integral part of the experience of nostalgia which stems from the joy of the past that makes us want to go back to it if only in thought, and it's the latter that leaves us with an aftertaste which is often accompanied by tears.

My favorite smell: smell that emanates from dry and arid earth in the heart of summer immediately after the first downpour; reminds me of places that I grew up in during my childhood.

Tsu said...

I like this and hot cashews huh? nice!!! I havent done that before ever! :) sounds like fun... thats why I love perfumes!!!

crumbs said...

@ id,

smell of wet earth is just heaven.
but if a thing of past brings us joy, then why ruin it by attaching wishfulness to it? We can just be happy that it happened and enjoy it for what it is/was, right? At any rate, I think the part of that joy stems from the knowledge that it is not replicable. If it were, it wouldn't be that special, would it?

@ Tsu

Perfumes and hot roasted cashews? I'd go for the latter ;)

mathew said...

delightfully being a cashewnut lover helped a lot too.....:-)

very much agree...something as simple as a smell can bring a flood of memories..

mrudhu said...

u hav perfectly encapsulated ur childhood memories..nice post!!:)

Amu said...

loved it. the first word that came to my mind was yummy. thanks.

crumbs said...

@ mathew


@ mrudhu


@ Amu

=) you are back. yay! now go post something. fast, fast!

D said...


crumbs said...

@ D

not quite. but well :)

wapscallion said...

Hey I liked this! it was very vivid. enjoyed it.
Now dont you write useless comments for me. he he :P

So said...

gives one a sense of happy nostalgia...whether they have experienced hot cashews or not:)