There are very few things that I can hold up for show-and-tell when it comes to my past. Most of my memorabilia lies gathering dust in a dark cupboard about 9000 miles away. Even in that collection though, I don't have much by way of tangibles. What I do have are photographs. Photographs that were supposed to last through my lifetime, but have instead faded and come unhinged from the albums into which they were carefully pasted.
Not many people in that wedding picture are alive today and perhaps they, too, like my parents left behind rusting eyeglasses, fading pictures, and a few solitary possessions that their families hold on to.
When a nomadic life became ours through our calling, I took with me what I needed to sustain us for the next couple of months, at the most. A pressure cooker with its inserts was the only essential item in my suitcase. The rest I would do without or I would find suitable substitutes. If push came to shove, I would leave my pressure cooker behind, too. My memories, I knew, would go with me wherever I went. I did not need tangibles, show-and-tells.
It was only when we decided to grow some roots that I realized that I had left home with four suitcases, a pressure cooker and my memories. And, a void. I began to want to hold, to touch and to relate; more so as my child grew older, away from extended family who might have filled her in on her father's motorcycle escapades or her mother's exciting safaris, or brought to life the grandparents she never knew, including their travails and triumphs. I began to want those very things that I had shunned as unnecessary and I swore that I would bring them back with me on my next trip.
Priorities shift over time and it's a fine balance between want and need, as it was on that proverbial next trip home. There were six suitcases this time, more space that only proved to be amazingly inadequate because now every memory had not just a tangible form, but a measurable weight to go with it. Needless to say, I came back with fewer things than I wanted and a deeper void than before.
One of the blessings I brought back with me was a kitchen tool that had been gifted to my mother by my Dad's best friend. It has her name and his name engraved on it, that is how I know. Was it a wedding gift? I don't know. But what I do know is that this man was our only claim to fame for a very long time. He had worked with Kamal Amrohi in the making of the film, Pakeezah, or so the legend went. I can't find his name in any of the online references to Pakeezah but apparently his name is there in the credits. Suddenly, there is a need watch the tragedy queen Meena Kumari throw herself on her bed and lip-sync hauntingly mournful songs.
This kitchen tool is made of brass. It is heavy and becomes heavier when its cylinder is filled with dough. I can see my Dad standing by the stove, turning the handle to press the dough through the holes into hot oil. My sister and I did our share, too, as my mother could only supervise this part of the annual faraal preparation for Diwali.
My heirloom has four discs, the three pictured above and a fourth with a star-shaped hole. It can be used to make chakli, ganthia and sev of varying thickness. I don't have lymphedema nor do I have arthritis but already, it is too heavy for me because of other reasons. Medha will have memories of her Dad standing by the stove, turning the handle while her mother stands close by, giving instructions.
There are modern versions of this tool and then there are shinier, lighter remakes but for some reason, the faraal never tastes the same. Maybe because it lacks the invisible but vital ingredient: memories.
Oooh! Chakli, Mumma?
I hope so. Saturday morning, ok?
I can't wait
and she was gone.
Saturday morning had other plans for us and those who depended on us. There were no Belgaum-style chaklis made this weekend for IFR: Memories, just tylenol, ibuprofen and endless bowls of soup.