Day-5, Madurai

We were now on our way back to Chennai and stopped at Madurai to meet up with my cousin sister’s family. Her name is Selvi. Selvam is Tamil means wealth and the name is derived from that root. She is my father’s elder brother’s daughter and she is married to a person from the village adjoining my native village.

Names are meant to be a sign of hope in my place, I guess. Hope that the child will live up the name. Most of the names in Tamilnadu are names of the Hindu Gods. Hindu Gods are in plenty to signify different costructs making up the Hindu society. Some mean creation, some would mean destruction and some more would mean wealth, knowledge, arts among other things. Symbolism is so deep rooted in the Hindu psyche.

Selvi’s house was a quintessential middle class home in India, characterised by a narrow lane having wires running a few feet above the feet in every conceivable directiona dn with every possible purpose. They could be electricity wires, cable wires, ropes to hold political paraphernalia and what not. The house were tightly packed with no space between hem and there was teeming humanity which spilled into the street. There were children playing their last games before they were due to do their homework for the following day of school. Oh, those days.

Selvi’s house was on the ground floor with a narrow door leading into a small house which shared stairs with the first floor.The walls were stained with use. The typical scratches of toddlers with crayons and pens at two to three feet from the floor. Stains from the palms just below the switchboards. Little bits of furniture which cramped up whatever little space there was. It might come in useful someday in the future, or so my mother used to say. Our attic is full too. The familiar calendars with pictures of deities from so many different temples. Unfortunately, Selvi was not there and we soon had nothing to do after the familiar diplomacies. Selvi’s husband had a hotel and he oofered to get us food from his hotel. I flatly refused and wanted to visit his hotel.

We went to his hotel which was situated in a crowded by-lane in the commercial centre of Madurai, which was crowded with labourers who were having their dinner after a hectic day at work. Selvi’s hotel was crowded with the same lot. The hotel was small,…about 10″ by 10″ and had four tables which could accomadate 4 members each. My father and myself took a seat at the first table on the left. Our host offered us a ‘Kothu parotta’. This is a delicacy made with specially prepared pancakes which are then shredded and minced with scrambled eggs thrown in with a bit of pepper, salt and coriander leaves. Oh my God! The dish disappeared in 15 seconds flat.

After that we had a ‘Veechu parotta’. This was made with the same pancakes which are spread thin as paper. This dish disappeared in equal haste too. What was more important satisfying to me than the tasty food that we had, was the fact that our host was overjoyed that we had relished food at his hotel which was in direct contrast to his expectations that we would feel bad about his hotel which was small and cramped, in his perception. For me, it was the genuine concern that mattered.

I left with a smile on my face and contentment in my heart. Thank God for people!

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