Milk and Cookies

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Milk with cookies is a personality. The milk – hot, cold, or sugared – and the choice of biscuits – are personal and meaningful choices. How soggy you like the cookies, the number of times you dunk them in the milk – these are little signs that make us. 

Back at home, everyone in my family had a different method. 

Mother liked sugary milk, and ate two biscuits at a time, dipping them all the way in. Dey, my young sister, only had salty biscuits with tea. And aunt Ella preferred plain milk with a single, decadent chocolate cookie. They’d eat these at their own times, in their personal favourite corners –  nudged on a chair late at night under the white tube-light, curled up on the swing when lonely, hunched before the television in the afternoon. 

You made milk and cookies something people did together. 

One summer, as we were crouched on the teapoy doing math sums, you brought in biscuits with two glasses of milk and put them between us, no questions asked. And here we are, years later on movie night, hands sticky with softened biscuit flour and mouths covered in cream-staches.  

This is simple, and quite nice. 

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Death, A To Do List

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No one talks about the meticulous chores that follow death, the seemingly vestigial arrangements that one must make without complaint, and without recollecting memories. How after one’s loved ones are gone, buried or burnt and prayed for, one must unsubscribe to the list of magazines and newsletters that keep making their way in through the letterbox. 

Someone must make calls or write letters to close family, and without losing their composure recite the date and time of the funeral. Those around you suddenly seem to look older than their age, wrinkled, sleep-deprived, and soap-smelling. An anonymous guest finds their feet in your kitchen and makes everyone tea, bereavers must eat. 

Often, the place where they once lived, laughed, moved with life in, comes to be settled with dust before someone remembers to clean and mop, contact a broker and sell the property. Things need to be given away, medical bills filed, insurances claimed and bank accounts closed. A police officer might visit to create a certificate of passing. An appropriate photograph is added to the mantlepiece, not one where they look too old, or too young, just right. What do you do with their coin collections and unopened box of assortment biscuits?    

Between the questions, the taxes, the law and the prayers, sometimes you forget that they are, after all, dead. Still made of skin and bones, but lesser in ways you cannot explain, even though all that is missing is breath. O2, Only Oxygen. It’s almost as if they left behind their papers and their home, unorganised and in need of caring, so that you can grieve without pain, live each day more easily than the last, and slowly heal yourself as you fall asleep tired and spent by dinnertime.  

Cookie-Dough

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I come back from work, worn out and spent. Each night, I wake up mid-sleep, as if I had never gone to bed.

I walk to the kitchen and start pulling out cans and jars. My eyes don’t even have to see where my hands are going anymore, I remember what bottle lies on which stack just as I know the alphabet.

I follow your recipe to the dot.

The same amount of flour, a cup full of sugar, little chips of chocolate hidden amidst the dough like gems in sand.

But I could never bake them like you did. So by the time I finish, the house starts to feel very empty again, without you and your sweet-smelling cookie dough.

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Raisin Ration

As a child, I never loved raisins. In fact, cherries and berries were never my favourite fruits.

Every time my aunt would cook vegetable rice with nuts in it, my raisins would quickly end up in my sister’s plate, with a trade in for cashews- her dislike. I would skip spoonsful of raisins in pineapple pudding, nitpicking the pineapples first to serve my taste for the tangy.

This escape at the dinner table was my only chance at skipping raisins. I would graciously offer the cherry of my vanilla pastry to my elder sister. Who would pop them in her mouth almost instantly, knowing how I dislike cherries very well. And only then would I heartily cut through the scrumptious baked yeast flour, and savour the thick cream.

I was never a fan of extra sweet and sappy. So raisins were a no-no. I never did like their puffy sappy surreal taste of sugar and syrup. But burnt raisin cookies I loved. It was like they had the fire I needed. You know?

The only place I liked my sugar, other than in my coffee, and on coconut cookies, was of course, the sugar jar.

I never hated the innocent raisins, do not get me wrong, but my love for them was, let’s say, undiscovered. The mere happiness of getting them out of my plate was filling enough to blow my heart.

So, this happened as a courtesy every time. Raisins out, cashews in. But I believe I never understood the deeper meaning of this sacred affair until now.

More important than not having to have raisins, was the understanding that someone will always be there to fall back on. To help me not do what I do not want to. A spree-a-liser. A friend. A make-me-happy with simple things. A Correct-me-right if something’s wrong. A help-me-get-through. My sister, was not just my rookie to raisin ration, but she saved everything else in my life as well.  Of course I didn’t realise this then. That this raisin quota was not just a trade in for dehydrated grapes.

It is only now that she is gone so far away; that I have developed a love for these raisins. For their sweetness, and their sap, and the little sour that I have manifested in them. I have learnt with time to appreciate them, now that my raisin allowance is gone. Eating them bit by bit with care, so that they do not miss their former eater as much as I do. But the anticipation of her returning isn’t gone. And she when she does come, I am sure, she will save us again.

 

Daily Post: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/09/27/daily-prompt-waiting/

Hair Oil and Other Bonds

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Tales have elucidated the divine, inseparable bond between the grandmother and her granddaughter since time immemorial. Everything from Red Riding Hood, the young girl in a red cape who had gone to give her grandmother some cheese, pie and honey when she was ill, to poetry talks about the strong love and affection which a grandmother has for her granddaughter, and the other way.

In the process, a few things have remained. The utopic Grandmother is the best person to oil her granddaughter’s hair. She takes all the time in the world to caress her granddaughter’s locks, untangling them with utter care and precision, and delicately combing through them. She uses her special secret perfect oil recipe on her young grandchild’s hair, whether it be coconut or almond, brushing and parting all along. Teaching her about being a lady all the while.

In all of this, this hair oil and this periodic ritual of getting one’s hair combed from granny, has strengthened other bonds.

I once read a poem by Grace Nicholls, titled Granny, Granny, Please Comb My Hair, wherein the poet says

“Granny, Granny

Please comb my hair

You always take your time

You always take such care.

You put me to sit on a cushion

Between your knees

You rub a little coconut oil

Parting gentle as a breeze.”

She goes on to say that her Granny is so much better than her mother, who is always in a rush, and often tugs her hair!  The idea has been adopted in modern day novels as well, like the famous chick flick series by Meg Cabot, called Princess Dairies, which trails a young girl’s journey to become a princess, guided by, of course, her royal paternal grandmother.

For all of us, the conformist position between granny’s knees has remained the ticket to listen to the tales of her young love with grandpa, the ever-fascinating tale of the axiom fox and the queens of Neverland, learning to play cards, eating her triangular pancakes, and sleeping in her lap. The cushion between her knees, has been the wormhole to all the world’s pamper and mollycoddle that a young granddaughter needs.

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It is this unflinching care that a grandmother has for her granddaughter and unending affection that she has for her granny which inspires so much literature, and has such precedence in our lives.

Why does a grandmother love her granddaughter’s hair so much? Does her locks remind her of the young girl she was? Is it her rookie to get her tireless grandchild to sleep? Or is it just to buy more time for her moral lessons?

I know not why, but I know that the young girl her grandchild grows to become is all because of this hair oiling ritual, and the many other bonds that this greases. The hair oiling, which buys the grandmother her time to talk of the old days, her time to shape the mind of her young grandchild, enough time to teach her about life, about its mannerisms, and just about enough time to bond well the beautiful lady with strong long locks which she grows into. It’s really, all just hair oil.

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