Tales her Red Diary tell.
Amma’s little red diary in the early seventies reveals how simple life was in the late sixties and mid seventies. How pleasurable it is now, to,peek into its yellowing pages, and see a Bangalore that has been lost to,us irretrievably. A Bangalore where we played “joot aata” around the circle at Madhavan Park, yes we did, IT’S TRUE! And chased each other al the way around Rani Sarala Devi school , past the pink Cooperative Society where we got rations from, and into the little ABC park which had one solitary cement slide and a broken swing in it.
Amma’s diary spans several years. I remember random entires being made when I was in college a decade later!!
Filled with knitting patterns – the little jersey and matching cap with the pom-pom that Appa says I left behind in an auto rickshaw. It was dark blue with a row of light blue dancing men at the yoke. Appa made the pom-pom, winding the wool around a cardboard disk with a hole in the middle, cutting it , securing it in the middle and fluffing it up. It was a collaborative effort.
There are entries of monthly expenses. I’m amazed at how little it cost to educate me, and my two big brothers, but soon realize it wasn’t “little” then. There were bills to be paid. Malik Stores, sometimes entered as Sabi, supplied our groceries for the month and got paid a princely Rs. 72!. His store,was just two,doors away on 7th Cross, I Block, Jayanagar. The maid’s salary was Rs. 10. Firewood 10 md( I think that stood for Mede) cost Rs 14. An auto ride cost Rs.3.
There’s the ubiquitous Gurkha, who, for some reason, was always made to come back tomorrow to collect 0.50 paise per month. Every mom knew enough Hindi to tell him “Kal Aao!”
Later, there is some “kanakku” or lekka from which I can see how she started the lemon yellow foreign nylex cross-stitch saree project. She has sent for the saree, embroidery thread, scissors and some other things, from Rohini, her sister in Madras, who is an award winning cross-stitch legend. There is also some plastic wire sent for, and that I think must be yellow crochet potli bag with colored beads she and Leela Periamma made in another project. Must check,with cousin Popy if she got it as a gift from Amma.
The saree is very much here with me, and so is the pink shawl she knitted ( the pattern is to be found in the red diary! )
Though she was no fan of North Indian food, I think she took at a shot at it because I had acquired a taste for it, and she has written down recipes for chole kurma, and cauliflower bajji and the like . I have no recollection of biting into the last item at all.
I find I have added my own childish scribbles to some of the entries, and I have no idea what she made of them. Was she annoyed? Or irritated? I suspect not, after all,as they say back in Nellore,, Amma is Amma!
However, I think there were times when she despaired of me. I have heard from quite a few aunts that she was quite sure that no other mother in the world had a daughter who didn’t confide in her. Which was true, but I’ve never been the confiding kind!
But she must concede that she was also the only mother who was actively encouraged(by said kid) to leave her kid in someone else’s care to go the movies with friends, cousins, nieces and nephews. I loved to play by myself, and I think I’ve always enjoyed my own company , and so I rarely complain of boredom.
Even the Mummest of Moms must admit a kid who recited her second prize-winning 8 stanzas of Suprabatham to scores of visitors for weeks is worth all the bother.
Of course she did.
A game was played
One page is filled with sums which all add up to 3958.
As in Thulasi 1937+1955+24+42= 3958 when you divided 3958 by 2, the answer was 1979. The current year.
It has been done for my aunts Mangala, Leela, Pandu(uncle) and my Dad, Sheshagiri. And my cousins Ashok and Girija. The answer for each was 1979
Clearly, Amma and Leela Periamma spent a fun afternoon, doing these sums for their sisters-in-law, their husbands and LP’s son and daughter, who were the only ones among the cousins to be married .
When I figured it out, I felt very smart. Until the Spouse , and the Big Brother said , when you add,your age and the year of birth , you have to get the current year as the answer. Jeez. Some people just can’t not suck the air out of a happy room!
I will just cherish the fact that my mom had fun doing these sums.
Mum’s the word. For today.