Friday, August 18, 2006

Chevaththa puliyangaa (Red Tamarind)

We are going to see the chevaththa puliyanga tree today. Last week kutti brought us some chevaththa puliyanga. It was not sour at all. Very sweet and, my gawd sooo red. I applied on my lips. We all did. It did not stay, but we had it until we finished eating the puliyanga, which was until evening, btw by the way. We all were giggling and running all over the street. Kutti has promised us to show the tree today. So today we are going to see the chevaththa puliyamaram (Red Tamarind tree) and going to get sooo much chevaththa puliyanga for us. It will last for days. We all will have lipstick on for days, this time. Mother was complaining when she heard about our mission. Kutti took responsibility for all of us. She knows this area, she goes there to collect grass for the cattles her family owns. She goes to all farms/fields in the west. She said she saw this chevaththa puliyamaram one day, and, she brought some chevaththa puliyanga for us all. Since when our school is closed for summer holidays, I have been exploring east and west. Well, some north and some south too. But it is the east or it is the west, that the stretch is very interesting.

“Do you know about the seven virgins?, that one, is virigins’ woods, they say”. Kutti showed me the other bank of the gully. Looks ghostly to me. Scary. There are seven stones standing erect. “What is the story”?. “Well, I don’t know the complete story, but they say when there were heavy rains up in the mountains, water came roaring down the gully, which carried the girls who were harvesting and collecting grass for their cattles. They went straight to heaven. People from the village saw that and they erected stones here to remember them and to worship them". Hmm, I nod. Looks ghostly. I know the rains. They are capable of such thing. I have seen the gully full, washing away the huts and small houses that existed on the banks. Whenever it bore full we got holiday, as we have to cross the gully to go to school. It is the same gully there, by my school. Small but same water. In the west it looks magnificent. It is small and like a vaikkal close to school. But same water they say. “So, they worship the dead? Do they do puja here like in temple”? “No. They do puja alright, but not like in temples. Only once in a while”. Looks true. The stones have dried garlands.

“Ok, let us run for some distance”. “okKKEEEYYYYY”… we run. “Let us see who touches that tree first”. we are running, and hearing the instruction from kutti. “Which tree”?, we still are running…”that tree” we still are running..” which that tree”? we still are running… Kutti is athletic. She is running ahead of us all and she stopped by one tree and said, “this tree”.. huh u huh u huh u… breathing heavily.. “that is cheating”.. “No it is not, it was me in the front anyways”.. “I will be the one who decides next time, let us run baAACCKK”.. “you idiOOTT, COME BACK”, I stop running and listen. “The whole objective of running was to reach the west soon. Running back east, what are you trying to achieve”? Focussing on an objective is never my strong point is it? Anyway, we all follow kutti. "Look there is a shop. Let us buy some thenmittai”. After a long stretch, there is a shop. “This is the last shop, so we have to buy whatever we want before we go”, Kutti the knowledgeable behind the mission, lets us know the information at this point.

Oh boy, so many questions that woman asked. Last shop you see. We couldn’t afford to skip. We had to reply all her questions. We needed our thenmittai. I love thenmittai. It is juicy, semisolid and sticky inside, but crunchy outside. Pink in colour. We love it. I don’t like viral appalam (like hoola hoops) . Many like it. I don’t. We bought some anyway. We run again.

“Let us go to the Gounder thottam and drink some water”. Yep. We are in there now. There he is, shouting.. “We are just drinking some water goundare” Kutti shouted back. “Who is that?” “It is me, Kutti, goundare”. “Ah, you, is it. Ok. Who are they”? “My friends. We are going to see chevaththa puliyamaram”. “Oh no. That area is very lonely and you girls shouldn’t go there”. “I go there everyday goundare. The grass there is lust green and healthy. I get good harvest there. I go there everyday. That is how I know where the maram (tree) is”. “You poor girl” “We have many bulls and cows, you know that don’t you. We have to feed them you see. Poor those cows and bulls. If I don’t get good green grass they will have to eat rice-hay or cholam stalk. Very dry you see. They love it when I give them some green grass. One of our cows, the black one with white patches on its face, it has given birth to a calf you see. Small little fella. He just loves to eat green grass. I give him very young/tender grass. I keep it separate for him. I cannot let him eat dry straw or cholam stalk”. “Take care of yourself girl. Take some older women with you when you go there”. “Are you mad? If I go with other women, how will I get good harvest day after day? If those women who sell grass start going there, it won’t last for a day. Am I mad to let everyone know that area”? “Take your mother with you at least. Take care of yourself girl. It is a very lonely area”. “I know. But, my mother has to cook at home you see. If she comes with me then how will I get hot food when I go home”? “I can never win you, can I”? He laughs. We drink water. “Stay there. I will be back in a minute”. Gounder asks. OK. He disappears for a minute. When he comes back, he has few papayas. “Take it. Nice and ripe, take it”. “Thank you goundare”. We thank and depart.

The dreamy chevaththa puliyamaram is not exactly in a pradaise looking place. It is by the bank of a dry sandy gully. A farm on the other side. Thin, like a old lady. It looked sad to me. A lone tree. Well there are several karuvela trees there. But, only one chevaththa puliyamaram. Taller than all other puliyamarams I know. Little difficult to climb, but we have experts in our team.

We came back home with a bag full of chevaththapuliyanga and few papayas that was left after catering our hunger. We also brought few roses from another farm. Mother was complaining that I might get fever the next day. I thought it was worth it, even if it is typhoid that I am going to get tomorrow, it was worth it.

18 comments:

Syam said...

andha chevatha puliyaanka kooda brown sugar vechu grind panni indian lollypop saaptu irukeengala :-)

Premalatha said...

syamu,
illa. :)
brown sugar-aa? sarkkaraiya solriingalaa?

ammani said...

Very well written. You have an enviable knack for capturing the flavour of spoken tamizh in English.

One small suggestion. Please avoid short-cuts like btw as they take away from what is otherwise an excellent narrative.

The Visitor said...

மண் வாசனை கமழுகிறது - தங்கள் அஞ்சல்களில். :)

Anonymous said...

my bedhi's house had puliyamarams all around it,used to be very scary because of all the stories she used to tell of us of ghosts, plus the fact that there was a cemetery close by. but it had a dried river bed on the other side. awesome place. very old fashioned house, unchanged in ages. u can easily spot cobras hunting mice, etc. i vaguely remember learning how to get the kottai out of the puli one summer. 5 more months :D

~sudha

Premalatha said...

Ammani, ammu, :DDDD

@the_visitor
tanku.

@Sudha,
i vaguely remember learning how to get the kottai out of the puli one summer

only one summer?
you just learned just that time?
vaguely?

I am an expert in that. Obviously, evidently, your village life is less to do with village-life, lesser than who just visited villages for vacation. :(

The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

"The grasss there is lust green and healthy."

Lust green. Lovely

Madura said...

Beautiful writing Prems. Prax read this one first, when I asked him to read the Periyaachchi part which I loved reading recently. He kept saying that this recent one on "red puliyangkaa" is fantastic, fantastic, and finally I got to it now! Lovely lovely indeed. I know this is how I fell in love with your writing! :) Beautiful memories, wonderful expressions!

Prems, I think I have a problem with wordpress blog commenting - I sent a few nice comments to you when I enjoyed the "panNiyaaram", "suhasini" pieces but none of it showed up, I realized whatever I write for other wordpress blogs also doesnt show up - I kept thinking it is being moderated - but now I think may be not - because none of my wordpress blog comments to anybody's blog ever showed up!!! dont know why!
...
The point is to say here, since I cannot do it there, that I totally totally loved giggling through the writing on "apple saadham" ! God, great sense of humor.

Dadoji said...

Fantastic.

Normally your writing reminds me of swami and Malgudi Days but today I was reminded of a marathi book called Vanvaas. I wish you could read that book to really get what I am saying.

Premalatha said...

@Shoefi
Thank you. :)

@Madura,
:) tanku. do not know what to say. :)
(Got one comment in wordpress. have been checking spam filter since then).

@Dadoji,
thank you. What a compliment to get.Please translate his writings in your blog.

WA said...

Nicely written Premalatha, very nicely written

phantom363 said...

hi,

i have been a visitor to your blogs regularly for the past little while. it has been among the most pleasurable stops in my journeys through the blogworld. :0

i grew up in chennai during the 50s and 60s and have always wondered about what it would be to grow up in the districts. theni, through your eyes and pen :), appears like an exotic xanadu.

not since r.k. narayan, have i seen someone translate the sounds and smell of the small tamil town into a tightly knit presentation of aromatic prose (puliyodharai anyone?)

cheers and hope to see more of yours. :) good stuff :)

Premalatha said...

@WA,
danku. :)

Hi phantom363,

Thank you for all your comments. I am very pleased to see many people referring RKN but I honestly beleive it is bit too much. I think it is just the use of tamil words as such transliterated into English is what that makes you all remember his writings. I AM happy to recieve such comments, I don't deny that. It certainly makes my day, everytime, every single time :).

Sure will write more.

phantom363 said...

hi, re-read this one. some more thoughts.

did nobody ever talk of pisaasus when you went by the puliamaram? in chennai, mention a puliamaram or a veppamaram, and there is always the proverbial pisaasu story associated with it. :)

another interesting thing: you use the word chevutha, to signify red. that is more a malayali tone. the chennai equivalent is probably sivantha or semm (like semm-maNN) :)

i think the southern dialects are more musical. people in chennai always say that the southern tamil is respectful in its diction. i won't go into the chennai tamil. it is jarring to the ear and a challenge to any tamil linguist (such is the mix of telugu in it - no insult to telugu meant here).

just out of curiosity, and you don't have to answer this if you don't feel like it .. being a city brought up person, who had seen the worst of crimes committed against dalits in kerala, how did it impact your town? would gounder have objected if one of your gang was a dalit? just curious, and absolutely no insult meant. sorry if it touches any raw nerves...

what is the tamil for virgins? chennai equivalent, you don't want to hear, and neither is pennable!

great rural stories. you can put them together into a book when you have the time away from your phd. (i did look up on your pix as i am sooo impressed). but there IS a story. it is putting together all your tales. :)

Premalatha said...

did nobody ever talk of pisaasus when you went by the puliamaram?

Read some Pissasus story here

another interesting thing: you use the word chevutha, to signify red. that is more a malayali tone. the chennai equivalent is probably sivantha or semm (like semm-maNN) :)

We use 'Semman' or 'chemman' for red soil. 'sevantha' (but not chevantha) for reddish. both s and ch are used almost equally. Also, malayala influence is there too, as Kombai is in the border with Kerala.


just out of curiosity, and you don't have to answer this if you don't feel like it .. being a city brought up person, who had seen the worst of crimes committed against dalits in kerala, how did it impact your town? would gounder have objected if one of your gang was a dalit? just curious, and absolutely no insult meant. sorry if it touches any raw nerves...

No I am fine. :) Probably Gounder would not have allowed a dalit girl/boy to touch water. True. Ilayaraja is from Pannaipuram which is a small village near Kombai. He studied in Kombai. His stories about how he was illtreated when he was growing up are all about my hown town. :)


what is the tamil for virgins?

Kanni.


chennai equivalent, you don't want to hear, and neither is pennable!

really? what is it?


you have the time away from your phd. (i did look up on your pix as i am sooo impressed).

Got that phd done a long time ago. :) If you read the comments in the comment section of Princess Syndrome, the whole story is there. :)

phantom363 said...

thanks. i will do a visit to the puliyamaram story now. :)

but you have to excuse me if i do not want to answer your query. i think it might be derived from hindi too. instances of chennai language is nothing to boast about :(

phantom363 said...

hi prema,

isn't it time for the new posting? :):)

Anonymous said...

Dear premalatha
Nice writings by u. u can add me in ur blog.
I am a visiting scientist from SA. Its very interesting to see different things in webs.
Bye
Jawahar
jawaherp@dut.ac.za