The poetry of a certain South Indian childhood means that you have bathed in at least three waterfalls and been blest by more than one elephant. You know with a knowing that predates language: the scents of jasmine, of camphor, coconut oil, and filter coffee. Know them the way you know the particular sound of your mother’s bangles. The way you know the sound of the latch on your front gate, and the sound of wet laundry slapping stone. You belonged to an off-key choir of schoolchildren who chanted morning lessons in unrecognizable English and ear-splitting unison. Your to-go meals were eaten aboard trains and came wrapped in banana leaf and newsprint, neatly secured with twine. All your uncles rode motorcycles.
You are an encyclopedia of wonderfully specific wisdom. You know what a hill station is, and are familiar with the many shades of cow dung. Also the urgency of pressure cooker whistles and the buoyant trill of bicycle bells. You know exactly how stubbornly red earth will cling to white canvas footwear. And how deliciously lime pickle will stain a snowy bed of curd rice in the bottom most compartment of a steel tiffin carrier. You spent a monkish amount of time sitting cross-legged on the floor.You memorized a poem about daffodils long before you ever saw one. You were raised by a village. Leaning out the window of a schoolbus you didn’t yet know was a luxury, you watched little girls march bravely to school. Small brown faces dusty with talcum powder. Beguiling bite-sized ghosts in their too-big pinafores and two tight braids doubled-up and tied with bright ribbon bows. In a lamplit shrine you waited for the shred of holy leaves the priest pressed into your palm that later tingled your tongue.You placed a coin in a withered, grateful palm on a busy street, and wished with sudden fierceness that you lived in a fairer world. You encountered an anonymous rickshaw driver or tea stall owner who did you a kind turn when you were most in need of one and then promptly disappeared.
Unsung talents dwell in you. Such as the ability to drink water from a tumbler without your lips ever touching the rim. You were raised in a home crowded with miscellaneous context. Bougainvillea. Black bobby pins. Bore wells. Beaded lunch baskets. Brooms that require you to bend while sweeping. Bandini dupattas. A scythe to split coconuts. Steel buckets. Storerooms. The spit and crackle of mustard seeds in hot oil. Power cuts. Petticoats. Gas cylinders. Guava trees. Geckos. Head baths. Handkerchiefs. Kerosene lamps. Kannmai. Kolam. Cotton wicks. Custard apples. Curry leaves. Ceiling fans. A cyclone of cousins. A fond flock of aunts. Tear-off calendars. Turmeric stains. Whitewashed walls. Red chillies dried on hopping hot terraces. Key bunches tucked into sari waists. Safety pins stored on mangalsutras, and sticker pottus on mirrored surfaces. Stories of mango-stealing monkeys. Hibiscus bushes. Heirloom silk saris stacked in the mystical recesses of your grandmother’s olive green Godrej scented with a strange, heady mixture of sandalwood, incense and moth balls.
You traveled a fantastical landscape cluttered with color and chaos rendered familiar by dailyness. Loudspeakers. Lopsided buses. Buffalos. Bullock carts. Banyan trees. Boiled peanuts sold off carts in paper cones. Paddy fields. Dried river beds. Dragonflies. Temple bells. Bus conductors sporting pink nail-polish on a single untrimmed thumbnail used to tear off tickets. Bananas, green, yellow and red hanging in thick clusters like the fingers of a giant. Stray dogs. Colossal crows. Cricket matches.The peculiar and literal sales pitch of street hawkers whose hoarse, hypnotic chants floated above the din of narrow streets and into open windows. The crumbling and friendly (if somewhat Draculaesque) smiles of the city’s paan-chewers, Diamonds that flowered and flashed in an old woman’s nose ring. A vegetable vendor’s impossible earlobes freighted with dull chunks of gold and stretched like chappati dough down to her shoulders. Women jostling with curved rim water pots at taps that ran dry (their wells of rough-mannered affection did not).Weddings where hundreds came and nobody rsvpd. Where the serpentine notes of the Nadiswaram coiled through the air only to be overtaken by the adrenaline rush of the thavil in gettimellam mode. Where food was ladled out of large shiny pails by sturdy men and you were plied with freshly fried appalam the size of frisbees, mountains of steaming white rice, and shockingly orange jelabis sticky with sugar syrup.
One day you watched a man climb to the top of a coconut palm pulling himself up with his bare hands. On another, you touched a garland thick as a tree trunk woven from tuberoses and marigolds. You woke a baby fast asleep in a cradle fashioned from nothing more than an old cotton sari, soft with use and slung low from a ceiling hook. Once upon a time you were bitten by an army of tiny red ants.You wondered about the white stripe that dances the length of a squirrel’s back. You rode triples with your sister on your father’s trusty scooter. You opened a pale blue aerogramme. You chewed a neem leaf (the memory still has the power to pucker your face). You cracked open a tamarind pod and sucked the sweet and sour flesh off its hard black seeds. You were stalked on a hot summer night by an impressively single-minded cloud of mosquitoes. You caught sight of a spiky green chameleon in the garden. From a small roadside stall that sold soap and sugar, peppermints and pencil boxes, you purchased at the princely sum of fifty paise, for a geography class, the outline of a world map printed on grimy grey paper. Nameless continents and countries stitched together. One vast and various world of implacable mountains, whistling deserts, talkative oceans, and fertile jungles. Not unlike the nation of a certain South Indian childhood. Each day a planet and a profusion. Of unremarked yet not unremarkable experience.
The poetry of a certain South Indian childhood (Part II)
January 21st, 2013 at 8:05 pm
superb lyrical prose 🙂 loved every word!
January 29th, 2013 at 8:33 pm
January 22nd, 2013 at 8:29 am
Wow! You brought back memories.
January 23rd, 2013 at 6:20 am
wah! wah !
But, you mean ‘overtaken by the adrenaline rush of the ‘tavil’ in gettimellam mode’ , right ? 🙂
February 3rd, 2013 at 1:45 am
Right 🙂 I stand corrected!
February 3rd, 2013 at 8:41 am
No. It is only ‘thavil’, but on ‘gettimELam’ mode.
January 24th, 2013 at 12:58 am
A well written region-specific nostalgia
January 24th, 2013 at 6:07 am
nostalgic … 🙂
January 25th, 2013 at 2:29 am
apologies – not sure how that came as a comment !! what i said was “Time transport – a window into what was childhood those days….wishing if it will ever come back…but then blessed that i can atleast recollect it like now after reading this wonderful post…and dream of the golden days ..days long gone by”
January 25th, 2013 at 11:07 am
loved it all, brought back a wealth of memories to all my senses.
January 25th, 2013 at 1:01 pm
Brought back memories of childhood in Mylapore. R K Narayan would have approved of this piece of writing! Lovely. It’s amzing how decades later i could remember smells, sounds, textures and Images just evoked by a piece of excellent writing. Thanks.
January 25th, 2013 at 4:00 pm
A fantastic collage of an era that has gone by, very nostalgic…
January 25th, 2013 at 9:54 pm
To read this was to listen to my soul talking. Beautifully written. There should be an award for this! I am from Bombay which is not quite the “South”, but I could still relate to most of it.
January 25th, 2013 at 11:09 pm
Holy moly ! Lotsa Words … Lemme know when the movie comes out
January 26th, 2013 at 4:12 am
Sure brings back lovely memories. I coukd empathize with every line in this post, particularly chuckled over the daffodil line.
January 26th, 2013 at 6:40 am
REFRESHED MY MEMORIES..AAH! WHAT DAYS WERE THOSE….!!!
January 26th, 2013 at 8:03 am
February 15th, 2013 at 12:41 am
not the memories, but the experience you brought…….
January 26th, 2013 at 11:06 am
Simply loved it. So lyrical and so textured. Inspired..
January 27th, 2013 at 2:09 am
Bus conductors sporting pink nail-polish on a single untrimmed thumbnail used to tear off tickets? I have seen this too..why do the bus conductors do this? can anyone explain?
February 1st, 2013 at 7:16 am
Thank you for documenting my memories!
February 1st, 2013 at 7:21 am
To be remembered, I suppose. Or perhaps they belonged to a secret, ancient cult of bus conductors who held regular ticket tearing competitions.
February 5th, 2013 at 1:41 am
As far as I know it is to clean out the ear wax. I know it sounds all icky, but that’s a fact. 🙂
February 5th, 2013 at 3:09 am
Reason why bus conductors do that task by their thumbnail to tear off, is to mark the ”sector’ you traveled from that point till the next such tear-mark, precisely, typical punching a hole that’s done in BEST buses in Mumbai using a metal punching tool!! That’s all.
January 27th, 2013 at 10:47 am
there is so much here that i can relate to my childhood..thanks so much for bringing back wonderful memories and stopping the clock for a few glorious moments
January 27th, 2013 at 3:23 pm
“This is the land of lost content-
I see it shining plain;
The happy highways where I went,
And cannot go again.”
A.E. Housman seems strangely appropriate!
Brilliant – leaves me nostalgic, moody, yet happy to have experienced most of these wondrous moments 🙂
January 27th, 2013 at 7:10 pm
Wonderful prose. But according to me, this article represents an era, an age and not a region. I am from Eastern part of India and could still relate to almost every word. Forces me to believe, it were the times which were magical, the 70’s and 80’s much more than geographical regions.
January 28th, 2013 at 3:47 am
Thank you so much for writing this. Its beautiful. I can identify with all of it and I suddenly feel very nostalgic for my childhood………….
January 28th, 2013 at 8:38 am
simply beautiful! loved it .. took me back 🙂
January 28th, 2013 at 9:30 am
brilliant capture.. thank you for putting it all in words and so awesomely!
January 28th, 2013 at 9:31 am
Excellent. Brings back a lot of memories. It’s the small things that we remember though many years flow by bringing larger events in their wake.
January 28th, 2013 at 2:35 pm
Beautiful. Very very well written, and brought back a lot of memories.
January 28th, 2013 at 3:08 pm
So Beautiful, brought tears to my eyes!!!so blessed we are, for a wonderful childhood!!! Missing the sound of my front gate latch!!!!!! 🙂
January 28th, 2013 at 5:38 pm
This is the Madras I knew. I still see it.
January 28th, 2013 at 6:26 pm
The part about grandma’s olive green Godrej bureau was spot on. I used to wait for my grandma to open it, and stand in front of it to be greeted by a blast of incense. Then I’d go to my mother and ask her why our bureau never smelled as nice as grandma’s.
January 28th, 2013 at 7:35 pm
Stunning. I’ve almost seen all of it in my life…
January 28th, 2013 at 8:23 pm
Great stuff. Just one nitpick: that’s a ‘jaangri’, not a jelebi.
January 28th, 2013 at 9:36 pm
Wow ! Feel soo happy after reading this. So many memories came gushing my mind ! Wonderful , keep it coming.
January 28th, 2013 at 11:52 pm
This is so beautiful! Absolutely awesome! 🙂 Thanks for the nostalgia.
January 28th, 2013 at 11:56 pm
[…] A Certain South Indian Childhood. […]
January 29th, 2013 at 1:52 am
Very well written….made my imagination go crazY!
January 29th, 2013 at 3:17 am
really great piece of work.really could relate to that part-bus conductors sporting pink nailpolish- when they wait for you to board the bus and you come panting in-and he addresses you AMMINI-INNIKKU LATE ..SO GENUINE AND COMPASSIONATE.
January 29th, 2013 at 3:57 am
Wowwwww,soo beautifully written, awesome, bringing back back memories.
January 29th, 2013 at 4:11 am
January 29th, 2013 at 4:36 am
Wonderfully written reminding me of what Chennai used to be!
January 29th, 2013 at 5:01 am
Boy oh Boy!! What can I say? Antony you took me back to my homeland, a little kid-those memories came right back, things I had forgotten-thanks for the refresher-I needed this:)
January 29th, 2013 at 6:48 am
Reminded me of Subhadra Kumari Chauhan’s immortal Mera Bachpan poem. Brought waves of nostalgia
January 29th, 2013 at 6:55 am
Went in my own past – while visiting madras – every year as a child along with mom. During our summer vacation. Though never realised that I was impacted with so many things. Great, thanks to person who has penned it down. May your tribe grow. balu.
January 29th, 2013 at 6:58 am
Brilliant piece of writing – as wonderful as the vistas and memories it invokes!
January 29th, 2013 at 7:19 am
Reblogged this on Stupids have the stories! and commented:
So much of this is true! 🙂
January 29th, 2013 at 8:22 am
January 29th, 2013 at 8:51 am
Lovely…. it is like looking at my childhood through a kaleidoscope!
January 29th, 2013 at 10:36 am
OMG!! This is how I grew up. Every word / description is accurate.
January 29th, 2013 at 11:03 am
lovely stuff. enjoyed every line! the lines ring true…
January 29th, 2013 at 11:33 am
Good Idea to put all this together added to a great style in writing……however pretty touristy, stereotyped and predictable content almost culled out of bad travelogues from the 80’s and 90’s……will work perfect with foreigners though….Nothing new, original or unsaid or unheard before…..Nostalgia is a lazy man’s excuse for writing……Hope for something better from the same pen. Cheers!
(Hope this frank comment will not be censored , as it doesn’t give the necessary ego-massage Pavithra is fishing for)
January 30th, 2013 at 4:10 pm
Really? That’s a frank comment? If nostalgia is man’s excuse for writing, I hope every auto-biography and biography is burnt along with all our history books. Because apapretnly recounting the good parts of history is a form of laziness.
I am hoping more people will become lazy and start putting their pens to work. Will be a happier world in my opinion.
February 1st, 2013 at 12:41 pm
I do not agree with Shalini’s comments. It is nostalgia — from acutely observed things, vividly remembered and beautifully recalled.
February 10th, 2013 at 10:48 pm
What a silly comment. Of course nostalgia is not new, nor is it unheard, or even unsaid..I thought the piece was well written..captured images of the 70s beautifully which so many identified with.. what bee in your bonnet , Shalini, makes you comment so insensitively. As for a foreigner liking it ..again so silly ..they would not even understand most of the images. The olive green.Godrej, appalams and betel leaf stains..surely only an Indian would relate to these images. Anyway to each her view.. I thought it was a nicely written piece !
February 14th, 2013 at 5:58 am
rightly said Venu!
February 20th, 2013 at 5:24 pm
While respecting your self-opinion, i guess views of most differ from you. R.K.Narayanan and Ruskin Bond are wanted even today by adults to refresh their innocent past. The last couple of decades has witnessed multitude of changes we are unable to track.. and pavithra’s reminiscent account not only feeds your nostalgic thoughts but also assists you to account for the gigantic
changes you have already crossed..
February 21st, 2013 at 3:52 am
Touristy?Predictable?Which tourist or foreigner could even imagine ,let alone understand what these memories are about?Looks like you have a personal vendetta with the author of this abs.brilliant peice.She couldn’t have picked more vivid memories.
March 5th, 2013 at 3:07 am
Come on Shalini!! This price was so apt for all of us who grew up in south India in the 60s and 70s.it struck a chord with what already existed on our memories and we did not even know it!!
Brought back a rush of memories cutting across states, regions and religions!! I have read it several times already and discover something new on it every occasion .. Managed to put a face and a place in the events that took place in our lives.
January 29th, 2013 at 4:04 pm
January 29th, 2013 at 4:05 pm
Excellent style! I identified with everything you said. I would have added the sights and sounds of our famous festivals such as Deepavali, Karthikai, Varsha pirappu etc. The mundane goings-on of daily life were so deliciously interrupted by the minutiae of these celebrations – the hushed fights over fireworks among the siblings, the exact same style of shorts and shirts stitched for the boys from one big piece of material, the impatience with the mandatory need to have the “oil bath” before rushing off to have the fierce but understated fireworks competition with the neighborhood kids, the surreptitious pinching of your sister’s quota of fireworks to get ahead in that competition; the pleasant sight of beautifully dressed maidens lighting the oil lamps in front of the homes during karthikai and parade off to the nearby temple etc. Another quintessential aspect of south Indian life was the unannounced visits from “mamas” and “mamis” from the neighborhood even during weekdays, the long and mostly pleasant conversations with them, the visit from cousins from the “North” during summer holidays, listening to the National Program of Music on AIR as you drifted off to dreamy sleep….one could go on and on…Thanks for the terrific memories.
January 29th, 2013 at 4:25 pm
The reflections of the past is glorious , but the present is gloomy as we are missing every thing -K.R.Subramanian – Chennai – India
January 29th, 2013 at 4:59 pm
Did you notice that I was in every scene behind every sentence? What a journey! Thanks for the poetic justice richly deserved for that unforgettable childhood…
January 29th, 2013 at 5:33 pm
Nice, feel good piece
January 29th, 2013 at 5:46 pm
just lovely..it says it all
January 29th, 2013 at 7:16 pm
That said, I dont think there is anything lazy about writing a nostalgic piece, is there? I wonder what would that satisfy your goaded ego?
Also, foreigners, wouldn’t know half the stuff she has penned her. Not even one fourth. Not sure where and how Pavithra commanded one and all to pour commendable’s on her piece either. There is a difference in constructive criticism and mean-spirited comments. Yours falls flatly in the later.
January 29th, 2013 at 8:32 pm
Beautiful…. I hope some one creative makes a video of this with the words added as captions :)…
January 29th, 2013 at 9:23 pm
Enjoyed every word ! For some reason the continuous lines were hard on my eyes(could be my poor eyesight that wished it could take breaks between lines). Otherwise, very well written.
February 19th, 2013 at 7:16 am
I could relate to every memory… as it is so close what we in Mysore / Bangalore grew up with.
Great thoughts..captured well. However, regardig the writing style, agree with Nithya that reading it was tough on the eyes.
January 30th, 2013 at 2:48 am
Beautiful nostalgia.. For a city gal like me, a lot of these r mixed up memories between Bombay n Coimbatore…but nevertheless a strange eye tickling sense of loss.. Thank you Pavitra..
January 30th, 2013 at 5:14 am
Loved this post.. Each line resonated with me. Thank you.
January 30th, 2013 at 5:28 am
Loved this post and was nodding and smiling in nostalgia and yearning. I also would like to recommend the ammi-kal (used to make dosa and idli maav) to be added to the above hallow list.
January 30th, 2013 at 5:30 am
A million emotions rolled into one. Thank you for this!
January 30th, 2013 at 6:57 am
This is so so beautiful! Although I didnt ever live for any long period of time in the south, the homes I grew up in with two south indian parents was very much like this – brings back lovely memories!!! thank you for writing this!
January 30th, 2013 at 7:18 am
Brilliantly written, I’m sure millions will identify with every word! 🙂
January 30th, 2013 at 7:35 am
Have read this four times already and still find it amazing!! Wonderfully written is the least I can say – I am hooked!! Keep it coming!! 🙂 🙂
January 30th, 2013 at 8:21 am
Loved it! Had a broad smile on my face as I read though.. 🙂
What do you think’s lazy about this piece?And I’m not sure what you mean by “will work perfect with foreigners”! I doubt if a foreigner can relate to even a tenth of what she’s mentioned here.
January 30th, 2013 at 9:03 am
Absolutely brilliantly written! Loved the way you’ve captured that feeling, that magic associated with every single intricate detail described and made me wistfully sigh with every line I read!
January 30th, 2013 at 9:24 am
wonderful writting…sadly, it reminds me what my daughter is missing.
January 30th, 2013 at 9:57 am
I consider it time very well spent reading this blog ! This is A Complete collection of ALL that made my Childhood 🙂
January 30th, 2013 at 10:05 am
It’s very relatable to every south Indian. Loved it. Simply superb
January 30th, 2013 at 10:58 am
liked and loved this! am nostalgic to the core of my yearning ‘missing -out -on- so -much”heart. I spy…remember?? hopscotch; seven stones..the steel patre samaanagallu guys.at least one still gets to hear the tattti noongu loners . used to love the bangalore summers…thanks u pavithra and i can add a ton more and more and more!!
January 30th, 2013 at 1:11 pm
A look at my own childhood! And I didn’t even realise it was so poetic till I read it here!
Lovely writing…keep it up.
January 30th, 2013 at 1:15 pm
Hi Pavithra! This is such a fantastic post, so vivid — that I want to do a photo documentary based on it. Do I have your blessings?
January 30th, 2013 at 1:41 pm
Wow. I have never ever been so taken away by such a post. This was absolutely fantastic!
January 30th, 2013 at 2:17 pm
This is beautiful. Thank you for writing.
January 30th, 2013 at 2:40 pm
Brilliant write up. Barring a few Tamil words, everything else seemed like you are from the same place as I am in Andhra Pradesh.
January 30th, 2013 at 3:04 pm
Wow!!! Wow!!! Wow!!
Awesome is an understatement to this post. This is brillaint piece…I’ve experienced each and everything mentioned here!!
Aaah u brought back my school memories!!!
Such a profound effect it was creating in my when I was reading this!
I should say – Gethu kaatre po!! Thaarumaaru!! 🙂
January 30th, 2013 at 3:52 pm
January 30th, 2013 at 4:39 pm
Amazing writing… thank you!
January 30th, 2013 at 4:42 pm
Went back to child hood, especially the green colored almirah of grand mom which was a store of mysterious things & crisp, sparkling saries.Good one ma’am good one
January 30th, 2013 at 5:54 pm
This is gorgeous. And so so so TRUE.
January 30th, 2013 at 6:31 pm
January 30th, 2013 at 6:46 pm
January 30th, 2013 at 6:59 pm
Sheer beauty! Filled my heart with such warmth. Add fireflies to this list and there is all of my childhood right there. (:
Suthi podunga indha blog post ku. (:
January 30th, 2013 at 8:59 pm
Wow! I feel like Pavithra was following me around capturing my childhood! On accuracy……Pavithra Mehta:Scott Adams::A Certain South Indian Childhood:Dilbert! On style….very evocative…I can see, smell, hear and feel that time and place all the way from my Dilbert cube in the US.
January 30th, 2013 at 9:15 pm
Firstly I congratulate Pavithra for this piece of literature. It is infact very hard to recollect every finest aspect as presented here. Only people who experienced it can appreciate it. Well done Pavithra
January 30th, 2013 at 11:01 pm
I can relate to every single one of these observations 🙂 … but kannmai ?? what ??
February 3rd, 2013 at 1:31 am
It is homemade kajal.. was done in Tam Brahm homes, once a year,and also whenever there was a new baby born..
January 30th, 2013 at 11:45 pm
Beautifully written. Brought back childhood exactly as it was. On the downside i thought the piece dragged a little towards the end.
January 31st, 2013 at 12:56 am
Very good piece. Could have added bright, shiny “thirugu chembu” and foamy “kappi” in brass stumpy “lottas” and small tumblers.
January 31st, 2013 at 1:35 am
Simply Loved it…. Made me smile and reminisce fondly.
January 31st, 2013 at 1:38 am
Evokes nostalgia, and admiration for a fine piece of writiing. Concise yet packing in minute details all at once. Kudos!
January 31st, 2013 at 3:52 am
Thank you for the time and thought to remark on the “unremarked”. You have stitched together and revealed a ‘collective unconscious’ from your conscious act of writing!
January 31st, 2013 at 4:27 am
At eighty was I looking at my childhood and adolocent life from the wrong end of the telescope?
I wish I could write like her. Words can draw pictures more vivid than those
by a brush, paint or pencil. Words are more emotive than drawings.
January 31st, 2013 at 5:26 am
It is awesome 🙂 Beautiful choice of words and even more amazing memories. I was surprised that I have actually experienced every single one of them…. Thank you for this little run down the memory lane 🙂
January 31st, 2013 at 6:34 am
Nice 🙂 lovely memories, and i was back in my memories of the 1990’s 🙂
January 31st, 2013 at 7:14 am
Lovely, Pavithra. Beautifully written, evocative and so true.
January 31st, 2013 at 11:26 am
You do have an incredible writing style. “You encountered an anonymous rickshaw driver or tea stall owner who did you a kind turn when you were most in need of one and then promptly disappeared” – an excellent recollection. As noted by some one, I’d be rather lazy to cherish the joy of reading each of this event – that looks like the writer has been following me from Adyar to Santhome & beyond in 21B ……. Press on….
January 31st, 2013 at 11:46 am
So vivid. So real. Thank you for sharing your memories.
January 31st, 2013 at 1:14 pm
That was beautifully written piece of writing! The poetic touch took me all the way to South India and live a life there!! 🙂 Loved it!!
January 31st, 2013 at 1:35 pm
Beautiful. Almost every experience is captured! Have shared it on FB!
January 31st, 2013 at 6:18 pm
Awesome, it was a quick trip back to my Mylapore days… 🙂
January 31st, 2013 at 7:34 pm
[…] A Certain South Indian Childhood. […]
January 31st, 2013 at 8:09 pm
How many memory cells did you have to squeeze to get all of that on your finger tips. Thanks for not only taking us back down memory lane but also giving a History Lesson to the present generation. Take a BOW from all of us.
January 31st, 2013 at 9:55 pm
Jus gave me a memory rush!!! great read…!!!
February 1st, 2013 at 12:49 am
NOSTALGIC to the Heart….. you left out some like getting excited to goto school on a rainy day
February 1st, 2013 at 1:36 am
Rewrite this piece; drop these words: coconuts, filter coffee, curd rice, Kannmai and Kolam; rename it ‘A certain Indian Childhood’.
February 1st, 2013 at 4:13 am
Loved the prose. Loved the multi-sensorial aspects of simple living. Have lived this life. Thanks for making me live it again, albeit momentarily.
February 1st, 2013 at 4:23 am
Beautifully written. Evokes nostalgia even in people who may not have experienced all of it 🙂
February 1st, 2013 at 6:54 am
Beautifully written and while my upbringing can in no way be termed traditional South Indian, there were tulis, neem leaves, karpuram, tear-off murugan calendars, bottus on mirrored surfaces, kolam, safety pins in taalis and so, so much more that jumped out of your prose as if from my own personal memory!
If this was what travelogues from 80s and 90s were made of as suggested by someone, maybe it is time to give those a read 😀
Well done, you!
February 1st, 2013 at 6:57 am
If there ever was a thesaurus of memories Indian err. South Indian, this one will take the Gold. Amazingly written and worth reading over and over again. Beautiful, true to every word and description that brings a smile with every phrase!!
February 1st, 2013 at 7:12 am
Could relate to all of it…just not sure where bandhini duppatas fit into this gorgeous South Indian collage…chungudi davani perhaps?
February 2nd, 2013 at 2:06 pm
For some reason, bandini dupattas were a ‘thing’ after kuch kuch hota hai, and everyone in the south had one. Albeit by then I had ‘grown up’.
Brought a lump to my throat. Seamless memories across many years, and cities in the south.
February 1st, 2013 at 7:45 am
Delighted at the level of relatability I could find in your writing. Took me back to my childhood days in South India.
February 1st, 2013 at 7:51 am
Brought back memories ! Thank you 🙂
February 1st, 2013 at 8:24 am
There is NOTHING in this…. that I could not identify with! EVERY bit of it, almost as if the entire writing were about MY life! Superb.
February 1st, 2013 at 8:25 am
Well written! Definitely brought back memories
February 1st, 2013 at 9:35 am
Truely a South indian childhood:-)… beautiful style of conveying…
February 1st, 2013 at 11:31 am
Thank you for writing this! certainly took me back to my childhood an put things in perspective for me
February 1st, 2013 at 1:00 pm
It reminds me of the morning fragrances. Boiled milk, fresh coffee decoction, melodious chirping of birds, and the warm smell of cooking breakfast.
February 1st, 2013 at 2:01 pm
Oh my gosh!!! I was wowed as I read every sentence!!! I don’t think anyone could do it any better..smiled all the way through the article!! Simply loved reading it..It was like a trip down memory lane for me.Thanks a lot for coming up with this one! Totally awed!!!!
February 1st, 2013 at 2:42 pm
made me breathless reading.. every word so TRUE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! thats my childhood, the one my kids did not have!!!!
February 1st, 2013 at 6:27 pm
This is outstanding and what nostalgia !
February 2nd, 2013 at 12:42 am
February 2nd, 2013 at 12:59 am
February 2nd, 2013 at 3:59 am
You know the best thing about the post is, you took out time to remember all these small activities which has shaped us and brought us to where we are. Not many of us do such a thing in the busy world we live in today. I really do appreciate ur work. Reading this with filter coffee in hand, made me smile more 🙂
February 2nd, 2013 at 4:57 am
Yes! There is so much that kids are missing today.
February 2nd, 2013 at 5:02 am
Delightful reading. Memories like the thick frankincense that rose from under the basket to dry the hair after an oil bath while the eyes still protested the invasion of soap nut powder. I was blessed with such a South Indian Childhood.
February 2nd, 2013 at 6:17 am
Exceptional piece!! I have no words, like really! 🙂
Psst: perhaps what i would add is the “whiff of sambar travelling from our kitchens & filling our humble homes with an aroma worth reminiscing!” perhaps only you can word it better! Loved it!
February 2nd, 2013 at 7:32 am
Fantastic! Every single thing flashes before your eyes!!! Kudos Pavithra!
But aren’t the weddings honoured by nadhaswarams and thavils??
February 3rd, 2013 at 1:36 am
Achyuthan — thank you. I somehow managed to go through life unaware of the difference between thavil and mirudangam. An earlier commenter also made the same correction.
I’ll edit the original to reflect my newfound knowledge 🙂 All good things to you.
February 2nd, 2013 at 7:36 am
Such a beautiful verbal picture of my childhood 🙂 makes me feel so blessed and happy that I was a part of that time when it was so simple yet full of happiness…
February 2nd, 2013 at 9:14 am
Give us more of this writing.
February 2nd, 2013 at 10:55 am
The ending, especially. Just breathtakingly beautiful. Few people really know how to make their Indian culture sound like what it really is, their home; without making it sound like those dreadful, dishonest touristbook excerpts. You’re one of those few people! Thank YOU for writing this. 🙂
February 2nd, 2013 at 11:57 am
beautifully written. brings a smile to the face with a lot of nostalgia. perfectly captures most of my childhood, jasmines and filter coffee .. and bus conductors… Hahaha..can never forget them ever… thank you for refreshing my memories 🙂
February 2nd, 2013 at 10:09 am
Started reading and my eyes started skipping whole lines. May be better if it is formatted into one sentence per line.
February 2nd, 2013 at 5:51 pm
I want to show this to my American girlfriend and ask her to identify with me !
February 2nd, 2013 at 6:09 pm
Dripping with nostalgia – lovely!
February 2nd, 2013 at 6:53 pm
You were raised by a village- I was. Thanks for the post. 🙂
February 3rd, 2013 at 1:39 am
Every single word resonated with me.. if I have one issue, it is that you left out early morning paattu practice!!!
Otherwise, Awesome!!! I could relive eating raw mangoes which were poached from our neighbor and the puliyangai.. oh those were the days!!!
And sibling fights!! Unforgettable!!!
Kids these days, for all their advanced toys and gadgets are a deprived lot!! You go, girl!!!
And ignore the naysayers!!! Your talent is awesome!!!
February 3rd, 2013 at 6:02 am
I didn’t realize I had used Everything and also Every single word, while intending to use one or the other.. I noticed it reading it out loud to my husband.
Pavithra, can you edit this please?
February 3rd, 2013 at 8:40 am
Done! Wishing you all good things…
February 3rd, 2013 at 3:03 am
Was sent hurtling tearfully back into the happy 50’s, a time in which you weren’t sure which one of the sisters is getting married: and didn’t quite know when they were ever going to come back to teach you simple things like”It is impolite” to ask a well loved cousin on her annual visit “when are you going back?”…. just when your intention was to know how long are these good times with her and the family were going to last..
Just as the weddings were a joyous union it also meant that there was going to be a separation- a departure to an uncertain future. And this happened time and time again. And the hurt never seemed to go away till they came back within a span of a year to deliver a bundle of joy. I grew up knowing myself and knowing others well, here and across the seven seas but when i read a piece like this the the familiar six decade long lump in the throat comes right back.
The sets are there, all I had to do was to say “Lights ,camera,rewind.”
Thanks for the memories dear , you go ahead dipping into the times that were and resurface to put your thoughts so well together”
February 3rd, 2013 at 8:41 am
Gratitude for your kind words, joyful memories and warm blessings.
February 3rd, 2013 at 4:03 am
Anda naal nyabagam nenjile vandade, nanbane; inda naal andru pol inbamay illaye, athu yaen, yaen nanbane! Beautifully written, Pavitra.
February 3rd, 2013 at 6:57 am
some of it is south Indian childhood, some an Indian childhood, and some just any childhood – all of it is pure joy and pure nostalgia
February 3rd, 2013 at 9:38 am
what can I say!
My entire life flashed by me like it never did before.
Much of what you ‘recalled’ still part of Indian scene.
Wouldn’t trade the memories for anything in this world.
Hence the longing and returning to motherland every year for the past 3 decades…sometimes more than once.
Every time coming back to serene north-west Canada or where ever feeling ” DIL Abhee Bharaan Nahin” 😦
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
God bless you……
Dr TKN Chary
February 3rd, 2013 at 6:05 pm
[…] via A Certain South Indian Childhood. […]
February 3rd, 2013 at 10:11 pm
Reblogged this on Reflections of my Footsteps and commented:
Nostalgic and Brilliantly written-Bet every south indian has experienced many of these moments at some point.
February 4th, 2013 at 8:10 am
Thank you for a wonderful trip down memory lane–from safety pins dangling on mangal sutras to the olive green Godrej with its distinct odor-You are a very talented and perceptive young lady–keep writing , please.
February 4th, 2013 at 10:06 am
February 4th, 2013 at 5:48 pm
[…] இந்த உலகில் இளம் வயது அனுபவங்களை கவிதையாய் வடித்திருக்கும் […]
February 4th, 2013 at 9:43 pm
What a lovely read! Thank you!!!
February 4th, 2013 at 10:20 pm
Great article! Makes you feel like your right back there in south India!
February 4th, 2013 at 11:58 pm
Too good Pavithra. I remember these too but in a divided mode. I was brought up in bangalore but ran to kerala for holidays. So got the best of both!!
February 5th, 2013 at 12:35 am
Its really really gud one and brought up so many memories back……So nice to hear it………Hope these days kids get atleast 1% of it to enjoy it…..
February 5th, 2013 at 12:40 am
Excellent! I love the gettimelam part especially!
February 5th, 2013 at 1:07 am
whoever the hell you are…you made me weep with emotion. outstanding. you have summarised my entire childhood. god bless you.
February 5th, 2013 at 7:21 am
Evocative – took me years back
February 5th, 2013 at 9:05 am
The poetry of a South Indian Childhood is something special, down to earth and erudite in an unorthodox way. Would like to share it with others on a website catering to British South Indians, if that’s all right with you? Ta.
February 6th, 2013 at 8:28 am
Sure, would be happy to share it.
February 6th, 2013 at 8:53 am
Thank you. And keep making poetry!
February 5th, 2013 at 9:15 am
[…] https://thepoetryof.wordpress.com/2012/11/29/a-certain-south-indian-childhood/ […]
February 5th, 2013 at 5:43 pm
[…] via A Certain South Indian Childhood. […]
February 6th, 2013 at 3:30 am
I still identify with a lot of what you’ve so beautifully summarised. And I could think of a few more that you might add:
> Wake up to a Vishnu Sahasranaamam rendition in inimitable MS style.
> Master the art of controlling a ladle of piping hot rasam from encroaching your neighbour’s banana leaf.
> Squint your eye and enjoy the tang and spice in every bite of Kili Mooku maanga kadiru (preferably by the beach).
> Tell apart one variety of banana from the other.
> Can polish off plates of rice with just ‘Podi’ and ghee.
> Every time a visiting family leaves your house, you give away vethhalai paaku with blouse piece and kungumam.
> No one is a stranger. Only maamas or maamis.
> Walk barefoot to the notes of golusu.
> A paavaadai-daavini could make you feel like a princess.
> Wake up in the inky darkness at 4 in the morning to burst the first cracker on Deepawali.
February 6th, 2013 at 4:02 am
Bleddy brilliant! Every word was breathtaking 😀
February 6th, 2013 at 7:39 am
Very beautifully written! Teared up in more than once.. 🙂
February 6th, 2013 at 5:46 pm
To your vast and accurate list I add: hearing the sound of over ripe nungoos come crashing down from the trees with a thud and the eating their soft white gelatinous flesh right from the fruit; FIREFLYS at night; ladybugs and chickoo trees; the red carpets of gulmohar tree flowers; the rough bark of the palmyra tree; whitewash stains on your elbows and knees. And the coming of the milkman with his steel can with brass tap and measuring jugs, whose coming you can set your watch by. Great Post.
February 6th, 2013 at 7:35 pm
Arguments over whether or not “thumbing” is allowed in carroms, playing “ring” (tennikoit) and losing it when it flies onto a roof.
February 7th, 2013 at 6:47 am
Exhausted of adjectives to describe this post – everyone before have said it all. But the lines:
… and wished with sudden fierceness that you lived in a fairer world.
brought a lump to my throat.
February 7th, 2013 at 1:47 pm
Reblogged this on nishanthsadashiva and commented:
Needless to say we have seen all these and at the same time a bit unsure about the future generation facing these moments!!!
February 7th, 2013 at 3:08 pm
[…] of my friends have been sharing this post, https://thepoetryof.wordpress.com/2012/11/29/a-certain-south-indian-childhood/, over the past few days. It’s a lovely post, really poetic and yet it doesn’t strike the same […]
February 8th, 2013 at 2:50 am
i am not a south Indian but can yet relate to every word of it..made my heart glow.
February 9th, 2013 at 12:49 am
How come so many of us share similar memories of childhood!
February 9th, 2013 at 4:05 am
While bittersweet, there is something of a floodgate about this.. Thanks!
February 10th, 2013 at 7:34 am
Loved it! brought forth all my childhood memories!!!! awesome!
February 10th, 2013 at 8:01 am
Love this article!! Lots of memories flooded back..
February 10th, 2013 at 11:13 am
waaaaaaaw we lead poetic lives!!!! as a fact some the stuff mentioned above im still experiencing.
February 13th, 2013 at 3:30 am
the author should be from a north indian family settled in tn? huh? there are many more to add though this is a great collective recital
February 15th, 2013 at 5:27 pm
Loved this piece! Thanks for writing it. Warmly,Shauna
February 17th, 2013 at 1:54 am
Every adult who grew up in South India (as a child) would relate to this beautiful piece – nostalgic – brings back the tastes, aromas, scents, sounds – just amazing – captures an era on a page – Loving it xx
Does anyone remember the “Flit” sprays and the “Odomos” coil and the “Odomos” cream – the “Fair and lovely” and the endless hours of tuition and maths practice …. where would we be without all of those ??
February 19th, 2013 at 2:51 am
What sensory imagery you create with your evocative writing!
“You know with a knowing that predates language: the scents of jasmine, of camphor, coconut oil, and filter coffee……You know exactly how stubbornly red earth will cling to white canvas footwear…….And how deliciously lime pickle will stain a snowy bed of curd rice in the bottom most compartment of a steel tiffin carrier……..Heirloom silk saris stacked in the mystical recesses of your grandmother’s olive green Godrej, scented with a strange, heady mixture of sandalwood, incense and moth balls………..You memorized a poem about daffodils long before you ever saw one”
Aah, this brought back a flood of vivid memories 🙂 Of experiences the children will sadly, never know the pleasures of.
February 21st, 2013 at 1:59 pm
I have done everything and have lived that sweet poignant poem. It has put a smile on my lips, that shall stay for the rest of the day
February 21st, 2013 at 11:34 pm
Exquisite writing, Pavithra! Every little detail (except, perhaps, the bandhni dupatta, which certainly didn’t exist when I lived in Madras in the 70s and 80s) rang true and pure like a temple bell. Thank you for this lyrical paean to every South Indian’s experience growing up in the South! Your eye for detail is impeccable, and your sensory imagery resonated deeply with me. Are you writing a book? Would you, please?
February 22nd, 2013 at 4:54 am
“Heirloom silk sarees stacked in the mystical recesses of your grandmother’s olive green Godrej, scented with a strange, heady mixture of sandalwood, incense and moth balls” totally identifiable!!! Wonderful post!! 🙂
February 22nd, 2013 at 7:43 am
Brilliant. One of the very few things I’d like to read during the last minutes of my life. What better way to remember? Thanks and lots of love.
February 24th, 2013 at 2:33 am
I am blessed…!! My childhood was like this..!!
March 3rd, 2013 at 5:41 am
Nostalgic…whichever part of south you belong to,it rings a bell !!
March 9th, 2013 at 3:22 am
‘Wow’ wud be an underestimation!
March 14th, 2013 at 4:53 am
You are amazing, what a re-creation of imaginations, tingled all my senses, very nostalgic. May your tribe increase. This is absolutely refreshing.
March 18th, 2013 at 4:39 pm
I don’t know how but I rem’ber every sound, smell & taste of my childhood in my grandma’s place. I could relate to every word mentioned here & your 2nd part as well. Thx so much, I shared these on my FB for other frnds to read & enjoy 🙂
March 21st, 2013 at 11:42 pm
Absolutely brilliant, well structured , superb use of words , strongly evocative of a childhood that i spent in Chennai or madras as it was known then… the few minutes it took to read this , transported me back to my child hood
March 26th, 2013 at 10:14 am
I haven’t read something so beautiful in a long time. Brought out tears of old memories. How I wish I was in my village for the jatara (fair).
March 27th, 2013 at 1:25 pm
This made me want to move back.
April 2nd, 2013 at 4:56 am
Brilliant piece of writing!!…Felt like i was listening to the innocent silence of my past…Loved every bit of it!!:-)
April 11th, 2013 at 4:28 am
beautiful…!! its really long since i’ve read anything as beautiful as this…. awesome work… teared up in many places…. great work…!! congrats 🙂
April 13th, 2013 at 8:22 am
“Safety pins stored on mangalsutras…” — just no words! Breathtaking observations! I should really write you a love letter just for this, even if you’re married 😉
April 22nd, 2013 at 12:23 am
Oh-so-well-written! Reminded me of my childhood. How could one forget the innumerable lollies and ‘haalkova’ we had after school hours.
May 26th, 2013 at 5:54 am
Very realistic nostalgic memories!!..
July 1st, 2013 at 10:41 pm
The most amazing piece of literature I’ve read.. And to know its about my childhood days.. Wow.. Couldn be better..
July 8th, 2013 at 9:21 am
Wow…u r article jus pulled down my jaw..every word enriched in it is wonderful.
Loved the most
July 26th, 2013 at 3:19 am
Each note was nostalgic recalling the bygone days. Could visualise them on the canvas as fresh as lime….Four Corner and Seven stone games i was looking for…..Amazing flow…
August 21st, 2013 at 5:16 pm
Such a beautiful post…I couldn’t help but share it on Facebook, I saw your previous comment that u were OK with sharing (so absolutely no guilt)
Thank you so much for bringing back all those beautiful memories.
August 26th, 2013 at 4:38 am
Today all this is missing , you just see people running for something or other – they dont know what they really want – the sad part of growing in life forgetting the past and talk only about future which is bleak
September 8th, 2013 at 12:36 pm
Every word is a snap shot in time.You read,picture the description,if you have lived in a large family not in current apartments or flats that was every south Indian Tamilnadu cites .Very concise .Would not hesitate to read many times.
Sarayu Ahuja,s ” Growing up in Tanjore” compares to this so well.
September 8th, 2013 at 12:37 pm
September 19th, 2013 at 10:03 am
To be precise, more like a south brahmin childhood. Nevertheless, very well written.
September 20th, 2013 at 11:19 am
Thank you! And just for the record — I’m not a Brahmin 🙂 So perhaps these experiences are wider-spread then you might think!
September 19th, 2013 at 8:11 pm
Magnificent, stream of consciousness writing. In awe right now.
September 20th, 2013 at 4:25 am
You painted a world, a palpable one, in your post, capturing the smells, the touch, the feel in an absolute, touching sense. Amazing style.
September 25th, 2013 at 10:33 pm
breathtaking..you are a gifted soul!
October 29th, 2013 at 5:48 pm
October 29th, 2013 at 10:12 pm
Thanks for your great information, the contents are quiet interesting.I will be waiting for your next post.
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March 29th, 2014 at 10:43 pm
When you go thru” the comments, you understand and enjoy how have all enjoyed this write up. Childhood memories really
April 11th, 2015 at 4:53 am
Reblogged this on The Rolling Paper and commented:
The memories of that Tam-brahm childhood, beautifully captured.
March 27th, 2016 at 8:42 am
Definitely Nostalgic – God I miss all those good old days, if only I had born a 1000 years back.
March 27th, 2016 at 9:56 pm
I experienced all that what is mentioned above during my childhood days , now I miss all that – sad part of growing old – K.R.Subramanian
September 16th, 2018 at 8:44 am
Re-read your beautiful article.
Thank you …. for helping bring back my own bitter-sweet childhood.
May God Bless you.
March 27th, 2016 at 2:08 pm
Very nostalgic and the sights sounds, scents and the ambience well captured that it is beautiful and lingering.
June 18th, 2016 at 10:19 am
I remember somebody sent me a link to this back in 2012, it was so beautiful. I read it now, beautiful still. Every word!
February 1st, 2017 at 10:26 pm
Simply amazing 🙂 Loved it 🙂
August 16th, 2017 at 6:35 pm
I love all child hood🙂 Nice share!
February 13th, 2018 at 11:51 am
The most exhaustive and brilliantly written treatise based on nostalgia privy only to south Indians…. There is pretty much nothing left uncovered …
June 12th, 2019 at 10:48 pm
Echoes of the past recoiling in my mind of those glorious old days experience – It is new world now in which we are living you cannot think of old times – just go with the current !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
January 11th, 2020 at 10:08 am
Reblogged this on genericfacelessblog1274.