Tuesday, January 14, 2014

What the Festival in This City Smells Of

Nandini milk is the milk I grew up on after we sold our cattle and couldn't get fresh milk anymore. We used to have cattle, many cows that I could point out and many buffaloes that I couldn't tell one from the other. A cow named Jyothi, caramel brown and mild mannered, was my favourite. The other memory I have of her is that of her carcass lying by the small stream in the neighbour's unfarmed farmland. And eagles circling it and Amma leading me away. I wish she would still do that, shield me from the unpleasant parts of the day. There are times you wish you weren't let out into the wide world, to draw your own path, away from the nest, the warm, safe, white coffee flowers and cozy blankets nest. Do you feel that? For innocent, safer times?

The milk smells of the city, as does everything you touch here. The grim and the sweat of those that seek to be chewed up and spit out by this unforgiving city. That is what the milk smells of. Just like the rest of me.

The strands of vermicelli smell like lifelessness, pale and broken down. You could arrange them into a boulevard of broken dreams that the millions on these streets can trample on. They would do unto it what the city would have done to them, to their illusions. Hope dies everyday. Just like it is born everyday. The crackle of strands of vermicelli like the sound of the marching band announcing the deaths, the births. 

There are small, thin strands of saffron. They are the colour red but in milk they bleed yellow and smell of what I imagine the Valley must have tasted like before the guns and bombs and tears and cries began screaming out at the rest of the world. It smells of happy memories with the dear friend who brought that saffron box back. A whiff emanates also of the guns and arguments inside the heads of us that try to call this home, these people family, this life ours. Dirty secrets that we coat with red and yellow saffron strands, hoping the fragrance it collected from the Valley will mask the stench of unfairnesses. Red and yellow, dirty fellow. We used to say that as children. 

I add sugar, white sugar from a small tin box that once held white tea. And cardamom, the one thing that smells of the sweet mythologies of home. 

I bring all these complications to boil. A hot bowl of this payasa, on the day of this festival that decides spring has begun, has whirled together atop the fire to smell finally of melancholia. 

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