Aunt ‘s Jaunts

It was Varalakshmi Puja last week.  Memories of Manjula decorating the mantapam -covering the banana stems with samanthis= yellow and majenta chrysanthemums, making colorful kolam,  Amma getting the kalasham and the silver mukham of Lakshmi- with its own little ruby studs and nose ring, and a long hook which would go into the silver chombu, and all the stuff that goes intothe kalasham,

Being too little to be useful to Manjula or Amma, all I did was wander about the house,  from kitchen to the room where the puja was arranged,  eyeing the coconut-jaggery poornam that would go into the sweet kozhakattai, and my favorite, the kharam kozhakattai, the   daals for aamavadai ready to be ground. The kitchen smelled of  cardamom, nutmeg,  and chillies and hing.  From the  puja room (makeshift, to accommodate all the ladies who would come the next evening for manjai-kumkum.) wafted  the scents of camphor, ,  agarbathi, jasmine .

I suspect Amma and Varalakshmi had a conspiracy going. How else does one explain  the fact that the kozhakattais were perfect, the aamavadais crisp and golden on the outside and soft inside, and were all ready for naivedhyam in the morning, the puja done and all ladies in the house, Amma, Manjula, Dr Athey sporting the yellow thread with a samanthi flower (like a Rakhi, I think) on the right wrist to signify participation in the puja, and  have the most sumptuous spread read for the family.

I think one of the highlights of the day for her, was the arrival of Vimala Athey.  Appa’s younger sister, gentle,  niece-loving Vimala Athey whose  unexpected visits home ( she was a government school teacher, and  frequently her arrival at unusual hours when teachers and students ought to be at school-  heralded “good news” for  kids – someone died warranting the declaration of a holiday to mourn the loss to the nation, or at least to the State of  Karnataka. ) I  was an Athey-loving niece as well,  although a very quiet one, listening to Amma and Athey exchange news and gossip,  wondering when Athey’s vanity bag would open, and  treats like a  polly mango sliced into  finger-sized pieces with chilli powder and salt rubbed into them , which she had started to eat , or a packet of  glucose biscuits, or at lease a pair of Parry’s  toffee, would  tumble out .

On Varalakshmi day,  it was ordained , Vimala Athey of the divine voice  would sing  Sri Varalakshmi Namasthubhyam. Here is  MS Maami also of the divine voice, rendering  the song. (I wish I could google up Vimala Athey just as easily on youtube, but may be my cousin Anu (Vimala Athey’s daughter could help with that?)  For the nonce, let MS=Vimala Athey.

Since I have had  a nasty attack of nostalgia, and have successfully  passed on the  bug to Appa,  he let me in on his childhood days , growing up with Vimala Athey, his little sister.  Don’t get me wrong, but little girls are the best thing that ever happened to families,  I know, having been one myself, and being told by Amma how much she had wanted to have me long before I had been thought of.  So it was with Vimala Athey. and the Sardar High School  Headmaster’s household was hugely enriched and entertained by  little Vimala and her ceaseless chatter and endearing  attempts to be grown-up.

Her friends comprised an army of  kids from the servants quarters, all about her own age,  which she maintained with endless supply of
“putani”, from the kitchen, and occasionally  pieces of jaggery. They were all her yes-men  who could disappear like gnomes when they felt the coming of a   “grown-up” attack,  which usually manifested itself in the form of  her mother (my grandmother, Venkamma)  mildly asking, “what happened to all the putani?”

Cornered, the p-o-w,  deployed the ultimate weapon in a child’s armory-   a long wail  intended as a signal to any of the older siblings to rush to her defense,  and a loud lament “Ellam en thalai melai!”  — yeah, heap the blame on my head.. matching words with  action by tapping herself on the head- a tad too hard, as it happened,  and crying louder for the self-inflicted pain.

An amused mother,  brothers laughing till they got stitches in their sides,  didn’t help at all, and  calm prevailed for a short spell,  and the gnomes trickled back in one by one, and  a new  round of putani-chomping began.


  1. Phalguni says:

    Hey Akka,
    I read this. It is soo good…lovely! I think you should keep writing. Its nice to see the family pals [both Hindi (pal=moments) and English (pals = (here) friendly relatives)] through Jaya Sri Bye Scope!

    1. Jayasri says:

      Dear Phalguni, p(h)al p(h)al dil ke paaaaaas. !! I expect you to share chand Anand pals with sweetkharacoffee. as a guest writer. Please keep reading and commenting, as I write.

      1. shailesh says:

        When Phalguni mentioned PAL (moments),the song that came to my mind was pal pal dil ke paas too !!
        wow ! great minds think, sorry sing alike….!!!
        yes pal pal dil ke paas ..KA,VA,TM and Appa rehte hain…..always….it will be…:-) 🙂

      2. Jayasri says:

        Hehe, Shailesh, Arvind would remember TM’s Palli Lat ker maaro…….I hate lizards, and TM would go “palli lat ker………….Indeed they’ll all be dil ke paas. and in sweetkharacoffee!!

  2. shailesh says:

    Hi May be Var Mahalaxmi IS in July/Aug always and not April/May/ j
    June.when we came to blore for vacs….!!!! .

    otherwise I cud have been part of the experience in DR atheys (or kokila aunty to us) ‘s house… jayasri ! too bad….chalo gud to see the past thru AJ s eyes…..

    YA once when the keshavamurthys had come to abad in 1982..we played antakshari/names of movies,other games….VImala aunty did sing a few golden hits of 50s/60s ,,,very well……!……All had been to Mt ABU…too..except me/appa..keshavamurthys and amma , arvind…inspite of being cold in the hill station she had ice cream…!

    Vimal aunty was too good..SHE actually waited for the NEXT show haha when she did not get tickets..for 12 to 3 ,and SAW the movie.3 to 6 or so the story goes……!!

    Amma says the movie was haathi mere saathi in apsara !!! hehehe…

    1ST AUG yesterday was VAs BIRTHDAY and I will always recall her infectious laughter, joi de vivre. ,her attitude, full of beans//enthu etc,etc

    I run out of adjectives to describe her……..!!!!

    and ofcourse she n i liked Agatha Chrisite novels./….took murder of roger ackroyd from me !!

    may be my bollywood/hindi movies craze i inherited from vimala aunty,..i became a movie buff thanx to my dear aunt ,vimlaa who also saw most if not ALL the movies in her day…!!!

    you made VA s memories vivid jayasri…(and memories of Tmami and KA too.)..keep it rolling….fantastic piece..!

    Both I and Manisha and Shivani were regular visitors to 9th block till she left us in Jan 2007..17th or 18th ……!

    Though she was NOT well wrote a letter to me with great difficulty, when i was in Dubai..iand i Still have the letter and go thru it…sometimes…



    1. Jayasri says:

      Shailesh, thanks for this. Yes, I remember ,its her birthday on August 1, how serendipitous!! Your comments are too good. I am goin to put them up as posts. You will be a guest writer on SKC!!

  3. Kavitha Bhandary says:

    So nostalgic Jayasri…. Bhuli huyee yaadon ko taaza
    kar rahi ho…Accha hain

  4. nalini says:

    yes. i was lucky to be at dr. athey’s in august 1991 for varalakshmi. it was a beautiful gathering. your writeup brought back memories of that day. also remember vinay doing the namaaz-
    kaaram to varalaksmi with a white kerchief on his head. hehheheh.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s