Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Four and Twenty Blackbirds...

The heat in Delhi is killing. More so when I have just returned from Bangalore. Physically here (and enduring the heat), but mentally roaming in what is supposed to be my native state: Karnataka. S and I took a trip to Shirali with my parents and brother.

Shirali is a small nondescript coastal town in the Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka. Most people haven't even heard of it. I have a colleague whose last name is Shirali and even she had no idea where it was. Shirali or Srivalli is home to the Sri Chitrapur Math, the spiritual headquarters of the Chitrapur Saraswats. I'm one half Chitrapur Saraswat and when my cousin decided to have his son's thread ceremony at the Math, we decided to go. I could spend time with my parents and brother, show S the Math and meet my cousins, aunts, uncle, nephews and niece. The cherry on the cake was the ride in my brother's brand new Safari Dicor. (Incidentally, we got our cars delivered on the same day. And he drove my parents to the airport in the new car and we picked them up at Delhi in our new car.)

We were traveling, as a family, for the first time in a decade. The last time we went anywhere together was in the 90s. It was fun. I realized that even if I have grown up, am independent and all that, I will remain my parents' little girl. And my brother's baby sister. H, my brother, teased me all the way from the time he saw me in Bangalore till the time he dropped us off at the airport. All of us grow up, but the key is to not grow apart I think. For a while in between, I thought I'd lost my brother... to marriage,to life, to work. Different cities, different lives... and then the lesson, that all you have to do is reach out. I remember asking him as a child, "I'm your favorite sister, no?" and his response never changed, "I don't have a choice." For as long as I could remember, I wanted to be like him... to wear his clothes... to go to his school... to hang out with his friends... and suddenly, a few years later, I wanted to be nothing like him. Life!

This isn't just about my brother, but about my parents too. There was a time when I just didn't get along with them. Everything I did was just so wrong. I couldn't make the right decisions, about friends, about academics, about interests. Then, I left home. Under the pretext of getting my higher education.That was the turning point I guess. From then on, things changed rapidly. I became a lot closer to them. I could talk to them on a level that they didn't even know I could manage. Absence must have made the heart grow fonder. Maybe I grew up a little too. We don't fight as much these days. And I cherish every moment that I get to spend with them. There's so much to learn if I just listen, observe and watch. I have come a long way from my "know-it-all" days and realize that there is so much to learn. They're the cutest set of parents any child could ever have. The ones who saved so we could have a good life. The ones who, despite the huge age difference between us, didn't let a generation gap seep in. They rank among my closest friends and confidantes today.

When I'm home, I always look at them and remember this from the nursery rhyme:

The King was in his counting house, counting all his money
The Queen was in her parlour, eating bread and honey

Appa's always been the finance manager of the household. Many of my fixations about income and income tax, I inherited from him. I also inherited my diverse music tastes and reading habits from him. How did one man, in one lifetime, manage to gather so much knowledge... it is beyond me. My thirst for knowledge and new things comes from him. According to him, I'm the biggest spendthrift in this world and I have taken after my mother (and overtaken her as well).

Amma's lessons on life continue... even today. About how to make dal or how to make the perfect pulao... about men and bosses and mothers in law. About mothers and siblings and how I must be there for my brother come what may... because he is all I will have left in this world when they're gone. About enjoying life today because if you save up for later, you won't be left with the energy to enjoy it. She instilled the love for singing in me. And she's the best cook in the entire world. I have yet to come across someone who makes the yummiest of Saraswat food, the tastiest Iyengar dishes, pizza that is almost world famous, pasta... and cakes, pastries, and the most sinful cheesecake. When I'm going home, I call in advance and place my order... is it Chinese or Moghlai this time?

I miss my parents very much when they aren't with me and am thankful for the unconditional love that only parents can give. How do they manage that? As always, I realize that there will some things that will always remain beyond my understanding.


Pretty Woman said...

Raaga, Its funny how we tend to think about the same things in life sometimes, the orkut snap is something I did from nostalgia and cant stop thinking about Amma, appa and Anna! I couldnt agree more with what you have described about your parents and brother! I am forever thankful for such wonderful parents and the wonderful relationship I share with them....and such a caring and devoted struck a chord there...I have a big lump in my throat! Parents are the epitome of unconditional love, indeed...lovely post! I love you for this!

Raaga said...


Aaarti said...

That was so touching.. so true, at times the people we care abt deeply become those we cant stand, guess thats why they life comes a full circle..

felt very very nice reading it girl...


methodactor said...

Oh my God. DAL!!! and MOMs!!! You see it too.....WOW. Dal and mom.

Raaga said...

@Method Actor: Oh yes! How many whistles in the cooker... if using vessels inside the cooker, at what level the dal must be... what tempering... oil/ghee... it is endless. The basic konkani dal, what we call daali saar, is a watery dal and has, over the years, become comfort food for me. All thanks to her, I'm sure.