I Want My Mother!

Gulab jamuns - I made them!
Gulab jamuns – I made them!

Two years already, since she moved on .  I’ve been old enough  for long enough to know you’re  never too old to want your mother when you don’t feel good. But in these two  years of  not being able to pick up the phone and call her, demanding the recipe for  Witches’ Brew, aka milagu kozhambu,  I’ve learnt  I’m  never going to be too old to want my mother when I’m feeling good.

But she has taught me well.  In the beginning they were 14, Seven brothers and seven sisters. Mother was the ninth child. And she always said 9 was her lucky number. She was born on a 9th. Exactly how this number worked for her is a mystery to all of us, but mostly it was enough that she thought so, and it was cited at all momentous occasions and one birthday, it did save the Big Brother from mother’s wrath  for forgetting to send her a card .When he remembered, it was too late to go out and buy one, so he fashioned a greeting card out of KG cardboard (Why is it called KG cardboard?) yellow, drew a little cuboid and a big cuboid, and a sun , and called his work of art “Mother and Child In Sunshine, and inside wrote out  this little mathematical formula-  1-9-1979

1+9+1+9+7+9= 36


Therefore, it’s a lucky year (QED)

Mother walked on air for several days, and showed it everyone,  and blamed the delay in its arrival on the Postal Department.

I digress. Mother told me stories about her 13 siblings , their spouses and the grandparents, and  her cousins., of whom there were, well, dozens. Growing up in Nellore, in the big house,  under the  gimlet eye of the grandfather, who wasn’t really as fearsome as he looked. It must have been magical and wondrous, like Mayabazar, with Grandmother  , the queen of the kitchen, where all the pots and pans were  king-size,  and  the coffee-filter made of brass  looked like it had been made for the Kaurava  household!    Grandfather’s clients and friends  were brought home for lunch without notice, but Grandmother could never be caught off-guard. She always came through, and Mother and her sisters served the guests sumptuous meals  and   super coffee.

The grandparents were both devout. In the large puja room dominated by the ornate mandasanam  (which now resides in A-5,) and the  24′ high idol of Hanuman standing with folded hands, I’m quite certain  Rama came down in person to receive  the puja and naivedhyam..Grandfather , who  radiated awesome authority with his great height and commanding presence,  could send his dozen offspring scurrying across the expanse of the hall and the inner courtyard  by merely walking in through the front door. He was addicted to the Ramayana,  giving lectures about it and explaining its wonders to friends and colleagues at the club where he played bridge, and every year the Ramanavami was celebrated grandly, over  ten days.  His daily pujas were no less elaborate.  His addiction  , ultimately led him to write the story down, in Telugu, and thanks to the book, I now have his wise counsel and  humorous observations about the epic, and about life, in general, and I have a sense of what kind of  man he had been.

Grandmother’s  domain was the Thulasi kotai, which too was extra large size. Though I barely remember Grandfather, I have memories of  Grandmother’s daily routine of  readying the puja room for  him, and then going into the backyard  with her little brass basket , to pick flowers and wash the  Thulasi (which happens to be my mother’s name)  mukham – which too now resides  in A-5,  sprinkle water around the kotai,  draw kolams, rub turmeric and kumkum along the corners, and  do the puja , reciting various shlokas. I remember begging to be allowed to handle the basket, and pick flowers and  be Grandmother’s little helper.

While I made my own memories. Mother added to the repertoire with many anecdotes, and  titbits about life with 13 siblings, and the consequence was that by the time i was ten, I felt I knew all of them very well, though it wasn’t often that I met them.

I had this thing about not finding mother at home when I came from school. I always  checked for her slippes, and if they were missing, I was quite put out. Of course, there were days when  events at schools warranted the hope that they would not be there, but that’s beside the point.

Somedays, I would find a strange pair of shoes or more .  That meant visitors.  An uncle come from Madras on work . And once I knew who it was. I  could guess what we were having for dinner. Kandipappu chintapandu pachadi ,  if it was AVN Chittappa. (  the husband of Rohini, my mom’s youngest sister)  He’s a lawyer, and in the 70s used to take a great many cases in Bangalore, which meant he came down often.  The aroma of minimula pachadi  meant Bheemu Chittappa ( my aunt Janaki’s huband) had arrived/was coming over.  When Kittu (her immediate elder brother) mixed hot rice, oil and avakkai,  you wanted to grab the plate and wolf down the whole thing yourself! – something i have witnessed for myself.

Dasharathram Mama, (her second older brother, right after Thambi Mama) loved the masala dosa that Mother made, and  never tired of telling everyone that he discovered bisi bele baath  thanks to her.  Lakshmi Periamma’s name was given to a koottu that she had learnt to make from her elder sister.

Not being a great fan of sweets, I mean, I can honestly say I never get a craving for sweets, although I relish a  gulab jamun , and the occasional paal payasam provided it’s made by my mother– doesn’t mean that I don’t miss the divine kozhakattais (kharam and sweet) that she used to make.

I’ve been thinking lately about  this I-want-my-mother thing.  Now,  what did she do when she had that moment? And how many of them were caused by me?  I  cringe with guilt about the time a few years ago, when I rejected the gulab jamuns she made for my birthday . I  mean,  who’d ever think Mother’s GJs could be anything but divine? Can an MS concert be a complete washout?

I told her exactly what i’d thought of the GJs, which didn’t smell quite right, and the  sugar had not really reached the centre of the golden-brown orb of  delight. they weren’t even  golden brown orbs of delight. Thye were crumbly, misshapen. They were like I’d made them.

She took it quite lightly, I think.    I made up for it later, by getting her a bottle of eau de cologne, something that she always loved to have around her, not that she ever used it.

Last year, I made kozhakattai for Ganesha Chaturthi. They came out perfectly, and I believe it was really her hand that did it.  And when I make akki rotti, or adai, I make five little holes, one in the middle, and 4 around it, just like I remember her doing it.  On the 9th, I made  cluster beans pindimiryam, it smelled like Amma’s.

Oh! I finally made gulab jamuns. They were awesome. They were like Mother’s.  Golden brown orbs of delight, sloshing about in the sugar syrup, smelling of rose essence and cardomom. Not crumbly or doughy. Of course, Mother was there. She’s always there, even when I’m feeling good. Next time I find those green brinjals at the Korean store, I’m getting abunch of them to make sambhar. Whenever she returned from a trip to Nellore, or Madras, she liked arrive  home to a lunch of brinjal sambhar  and rice. She’ll love that. She always did. And she never complained about it’s taste, or color, or consistency.


  1. Sharmila Siddartha says:

    Your narrative is as sweet as your mother’s golden orbs of delight. She must be so proud of you. Happy Pongal and have a great 2014

    1. Jayasri says:

      Thanks Sharmila! Wish you a happy Pongal too!

  2. Srikala Bharathi Mamidipudi says:

    Hey jaysri.. I like attai’s podis as well. She used to make tengayi podi which was unique and my all time favorite. Also, like how you knew 14 brothers and sisters through those stories which she told you… I got to appa from her stories as well ( that’s only after he passed away).. I still remember one of many stories that there was little poem ” sankaile body salimi barita.. 40 pages.. Nanu samelu” which appa used to say only through Tulasi ( or as we call Tolasi) attai :):) I wonder if it had any meaning.

    We all want her:) hopefully she is making GJs and all other dishes for Bunty and all her siblings in heaven.

  3. sheeli says:

    a v.good tribute to ur mom,our thulsi.i wd like to add this…..our laughter sessions over silly jokes!!

  4. Phalguni says:

    Yes, I miss her too. Particularly on 9th Jan. Often, she used to be the first one to wish Anand. Lots of love!

  5. Shailesh Venkatadri says:

    Yes I miss her too as Phalguni says and for many other reasons..too….

    She was the only one to greet me with a YENNADA..never a Hi/Helo/Yeppdi irrken…..?
    It was a given i would have coffee irrespective of the time…..i used to tell i had one now..we stayed those days in NrColony …which is a stones throw from Laxmi Vilas where she stayed….

    She told me to see Thirudaa Thirudaa (mani Ratnam)..when I and Cousin Seenu went to see/visit her in March 94….when i came from Delhi/Faridabad…Urvashi le irrku….I said we are leaving….innu time irrku show time ku..
    ukkar..well??? Naturally had Coffee..what else?…..haha…..told me ARRahman Paatu soongs were good hummed the chanddralekkhaaaaaa…appdi voru paat irrku…hehe..

    She GAVE US a Great Holiday when she came to Ahmedabad in oct 1978 and left Dec 1978….I actually asked her are you going back? She said she s got 3 kids of her own!!
    Once in Abad early morning we went out for a walk…A guy wwalked up to us took a U trun and went away…..panting……walking briskly..Mamis comment…Yenne paatutttu vodi ponna..haha making a joke of her weight…I and Sudha assured her she was not fat but just pleasantly plump as all Mamis should and ought to be..
    I may have seen a zillion movies with friends/colleagues/cousins/wife/daughter but the BEST was with Mami aptly name after her..Main TULSI tere Angan Ki..in Ahmedabad……Its always a memory I and Sister Sudha recall…And Sudha who ofcourse Saw Daag (1973) with Mami!

    She made me my FIRST Motte( Egg) and Omelette in 1978 when i was 13….shaapdu yenna ipdi valli kuchi maadri irke…(You are so reed thin ! Eat!)
    I did…and How !…after she left in Dec 78 somehow I didnt feel like eating Egg or Omelette…;(

    We I Appa,Arvind (brother) and Tulasi Mami had a nice time in Mt Abu in Nov 78 and also in Dakor and had great Darshan of Amba Mata (Durga) in Ambaji and had a field day buying the trinklets and seeing the stalls/bazaars in Dakor (Gujarat)….and bought a Kaftaan for Jayasri from Mt Abu…

    She exchanged a kanjeevaram saree with my mom..she asked me which was better I told her my mom had a better deal the cream brown saree which amma has is cos of Tulasi mami..she exchanged one with Amma in 82 I think in Manjula s wedding…..Its still there and still Amma says iddu tulasi mami poddave exchange pannindo…I must have heard this story N no of times….

    She used to hum…the Old song sometimes chaahonga main tumhe saanj sawere…..e shailesh aadu yendu paatu??? awaaaaaa…..zzzz main na doonga..appdi cholli aunne kattindirkaan…((he (singer) says i wont shout but is shouting himself ))…..haha thats Mami for you…..

    Like I said Lots of memories come flooding but I would run out of space….

    I end by saying a line from a story book that i have…””” There Never Was and There will be be and there can be a Mami like Tulasi Mami ” again………In the book its about a friend…..
    Rest In Peace Mami and drink your coffee….Sadly like Omelettes after you left ,NOW I also dont drink coffee only CHA,..(Tea)
    SIgh !!!!

    1. Jayasri says:

      That’s beautiful Shailesh. Never knew about chahoonga mein tujhe! And in 1994, I was so busy, never at home and I think I had gone away without living home!

  6. Shailesh Venkatadri says:

    There Never Was and There will Never Be and There cant be another Mami like Tulasi Mami….(sorry )..

  7. Chandrika says:

    Touching… makes me love my mother even more, she is 79, just feel a bit sad that I am here and not able to spend time with her.

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