A day in the Blog of a Mallu guy. Circa 1970

Woke up at 5:00 today. Not out of choice, but out of necessity. Rosamma, my neighbor, goes for her math tuition in the morning, and 5:10 is when she walks past my window. I quickly brushed my teeth and threw cold water on my hair, hastily combing the kuruvikkoodu into place. One glance in passing is all one gets usually, and much must be made of the opportunity. #hairstyle #firstimpressions.
 
She didn’t come. Missed opportunity. Lost sleep. #facepalm. #selfpity #shemissedtuition?
 
Although it was quite early, mom seemed busy in the kitchen. The jackfruit tree in our garden had yielded an excellent specimen yesterday, and mom wanted to cook her legendary chakkappuzhukku before dad finished the fruit in a piecemeal fashion, so to speak .#mom’scooking  #greedydad
I got ready and rushed downstairs, grabbing two pieces of bread and some ghee from the kitchen on my way out. “Sit down and finish your breakfast properly” my mom called out to my receding figure. This is a regular spectacle at my house. It’s not that I usually don’t have the time to finish my breakfast before heading out. God knows I never attend the first lecture at college. But it’s far cooler to eat the makeshift sandwich while pedaling hard on the cycle. #lookmanohands #sandwichisbetterthanidli
 I flew down the kitchen stairs out into the garden and hopped onto my Hercules cycle. College is just a stone’s throw away from my house. But once you factor in a quick smoke at Abraham chettan’s paan shop and a peek at the Women’s TTC courtyard (Rosamma sometimes makes an appearance there), you tend to miss the first lecture. #MarlboroMan #Poovalan
 
Classes are usually a drag. One suffers through nevertheless. But the intercollege literary fest was coming up, and that was my Trojan horse, the intellectual vehicle which would smuggle me into the Women’s TTC castle.  This was the golden opportunity to meet Rosamma finally and let her know that I was in love. There was no real competition for me within my college for the essay writing competition, primarily because everyone else was into cricket. So it would be a breeze for me to get selected to represent the college for the fest. #greatexpectations #firstlove
Cycling back home took lesser time than usual, mainly because the chakkappuzhukku had smelled so great in the morning. I clambered up the stairs into the kitchen and sat down at the table. Mom had anticipated the hunger and had laid out some puzhukku.  Strangely though, she wasn’t waiting beside it. Instead, she was all dressed up and hurrying towards the front door, intent on going somewhere. “There is more near the stove if you want, “she called out as she turned to close the door. “ I’m going over to the neighbour’s place for an hour. It’s Rosamma’s pennukaanal today.  That little kid grew up so fast….”
 

 

The chakkapuzhukku no longer smelled good. #brokenheart #virahakamukan

 

 

For Whom the Toothbrush Tolls

It’s a family tradition instituted by my mother. Not because she was overly concerned about my dental hygiene, but because my father used to buy Close Up toothpaste by the factory carton every other month, and there would always be several tubes left over even after distributing liberally to neighbors, the Salvation Army and the occasional relative.

And so the habit grew. Every night, irrespective of pending deadlines or tiredness or bloody laziness, I would haul ass to the washroom, pick up my brush, force a small dollop of toothpaste onto the bristles (“across the brush head, mone, not along it”) and set about the good work, knowing all too well that after 7 hours of relative inactivity, I would have to wake up and do this all over again, just in a more terrible mood.



I have never questioned the need nor the good sense of this inherited tradition, not even when I pushed off to college and briefly considered substituting vodka for toothpaste (after all, ethanol is a disinfectant). In my mind, the very act of putting toothpaste to teeth absolved me of the health sins I had committed throughout the day, ranging from cokes to mints to the occasional sweet paan. At least until upon my first visit to the dentist I learnt that I had been carefully nursing 5 cavities in my teeth, in various early stages of development. Immediately upon being released from the chair, I called up my mom and complained that her lifelong habit had not helped me evade the dreadful vacuum.

Upon hearing which, she responded, “Perhaps, but see how white your teeth look in all your photos!”

That’s when the realization struck. It was never about the gums. 
My mother had anticipated the advent of Facebook and Instagram in the early 90s.