Annalakshmi - Goddess of Food

Annalakshmi - Goddess of Food

10 mins 10.2K 10 mins 10.2K

The younger clouds slid over the older clouds and the cold breeze coming from the west shook the coconut trees grown on both the sides when I got down at my bus stop. Mani anna, my caretaker came running after seeing me. His towel which was on his shoulder came to his hip.

"Untie the towel anna, I am younger to you. Respect must be in the heart", I said.

He chuckled scratching his head. 

"How is your studies going papa?", he asked carrying my big suitcase. 

"It's good anna", I replied back walking slowly. The sky was flourished with hues ranging from pink, orange and blue, exactly like an oil painting I sketched years ago.

"The sky looks like your oil painting papa", he said, reading my mind.

I giggled and in the due time, he updated me about our family member's whereabouts, the amount of rice we have harvested, our kammachi amma's critical delivery and dinner prepared for me tonight.

"You have got a wonderful memory anna", I said and he blushed saying "ada ponga ma".

Mani anna is my grandmother's favorite and she often says that she missed to conceive him in her womb. My grandmother has three sons and two daughters, all married and well-settled nearby Kozhikode. My appa and my two uncles decided to stay here with my grandmom at our ancestral home. Each one look after my grandfather's business individually, my elder uncle takes care of our maliga kada (grocery shop), my second uncle looks after the fishery and my dad along with my grandfather, his father, do agriculture. 

The mastermind for all these business ideas is my grandmother and her 30 sovereign jewels were the initial investments. Seeing them working hard every day and night, I decided to do my MBA at IIM. My grandmother who says education is a must for every individua,l agreed immediately but with a condition that I must study only in Kozhikode campus and visit home every three months. As per her wish, I got admitted into Kozhikode campus and this is 18th visit ever since I joined.

Ammu akka has come, shouted my younger sister and all my family members came running from their bedrooms. It was past nine but to my surprise, both my uncle's and my father were present. My grandmother being the eldest came out and blessed me wholeheartedly. Her eight stone nose ring glowed under the moonlight and her golden bangles danced when she pulled my soft cheeks.

She told me to freshen up and come and my affectionate aunt's set the plantain leaves on the floor to serve dinner. My mom came out carrying hot puttu and steamed idlies. Being a home science student, she is well-versed in multiple cuisines and her creativity had no boundaries. My dad fell in love with her culinary skills and married her right away promising her parents that that he will build her a restaurant very soon which is under construction now.

That night, when my grandmother and I slept under the moonlight, she was narrating to me the incidents I missed and we both laughed merrily. She adores me a lot and using this as an advantage, many times, my sister and parents have gone vacation overseas whereas I stayed with her and learnt to climb palm trees, cut coconut, tie flowers and list goes on and on.

It was 4 am and even before the sun rose, my grandmother was pumping water. Its her daily routine to wake up before dawn, pump water, fill water in the cement tanks placed in the cow shed, milk sita ( Kamachi's sister), take bath and lit the gas stove to prepare hot coffee for everyone. I joined her today and when we completed the morning tasks, it was around 6 am.

"What plans for you grandma?", I asked her reading the morning newspaper.

"Ammu, we must sell the newspaper, now you're here, can we finish it?", she said.

"Why not grandma", I said and we both dusted the newspapers and separated it as per the language. While arranging, I saw an write up saying with the headline traditional farming will abate giving way to organic farming. I read it and cut the column using a scissor to research about it in detail later. After one hour, our work was done and my grandmother weighed them and made a note of 450 rupees on her secret diary. She writes down her daily expenditures and the savings she gets after selling old newspapers, plastic bottles etc. 

"Ammu, stand here she said showing me the white wall with pencil markings scribbled on it".

Its a quirky habit my grandmother follows. From childhood, my grandmother marks our height in the white wall and every time she looks at it, she feels proud thinking how we have grown gradually. This time, it showed 155 cms, and she immediately told me to stand on the weight machine, which indicated 50 kgs. You need to put on five more kgs my grandmother said me and hearing it, my mom called us for breakfast.

While I licked my seventh podi idly, my grandmom asked me secretly if we can make pickles. I immediately nodded a yes because every summer, my cousins and I visit the market along with my grandmother to buy fresh mangoes, ginger, amla, ripen lemons and tomatoes in big baskets. Once we reach home, we wash them in fresh water and cut them into small pieces using paniki ( a traditional instrument used to cut edibles where the bottom made up of wood is flat and has a sharp elongated blade attached to it). Once the edibles are washed and cut, we take turns climb the store room, pick terracotta jars in all sizes. We sterile them and keep them under the sunlight just before transferring the pickles. Meanwhile, my grandma boils few fruits (lime and tomato), filters the syrup separately and adds fresh grounded chilly powder, salt on amla, mango and leaves it overnight. The next day, she garnishes each with little asafoetida to get the perfect taste and the rich aroma. Her USP is that she never adds oil to it yet it taste delicious. 

"Ammu, be careful," my grandmother called out bringing me back to the present. The market was flooded with people and the vendors welcomed my grandma with great respect. While picking up the fruits, her eyes widened and her hands picked the best ones one after the another. I was admiring her madly and later realized that I had forgotten to bring the cotton bags.

"Grandma, I forgot the bags. Wait a minute, I will bring them", I said looking quite furious.

By then the vegetable vendor sitting nearby lent me his jute basket and I accepted it readily. 

She calculated the amount even before the vendor wrote her bill and handed her a new Rs.500 note telling to keep the change. Her mathematical skills astonished me.

"Grandma, can we make sago and rice pickle. I feel like crunching them", I said carrying the baskets in ease. 

"Why not?, come lets go and buy the ingredients"' she said and I followed her to our grocery shop situated at the right corner of the main road. My uncle greeted me and showed me the jujubes, peanut candy, cashew nut arranged in the glass mason jars. I grabbed few and my grandma looked at me complementing the child inside me. These candies remains my favorite since childhood and now no one can prevent me from eating it, I thought chewing them nicely. 

My uncle packed rice, black pepper and cumin seeds in brown paper and handed it over to me. While returning back home, she introduced me to all my neighbors proudly saying I am an IIMian. I bowed my head in shyness but was feeling proud inside.

Once we reached home, she started her work. She unpacked all the ingredients, fried them in a low flame and boiled them in water to make it into a thick paste after adding salt and turmeric powder. The hot paste looked like cream soup and my grandmother dipped her finger into it and kept it on my tongue to ask me if the salt was appropriate. I bite her finger and said its perfect!

"Naughty", she said and we went to the terrace. The red color brick flooring reminded me of breaking it into tiny pieces and eating it during monsoons. My grandmother who witnessed the damaged flooring realized its one of our work and followed every one whenever they climbed the terrace. Knowing my grand mother's mind, I used to visit the terrace when she would fall asleep. But one rainy day, while eating the brick, she caught me red handed! I thought she will punish me but she gave me bag full of sand and water to smoothen the floor. I took three days to complete it because of the showers and that minute, I decided not to eat these bricks ever in my lifetime.

We spread our grandfather's clean dhoti on the floor and started pouring the paste using a laddle with one centimetre gap. I was sweating badly and she asked me to go get some fresh water from the kitchen. 

I dropped into the kitchen and got some fresh water for both of us in a mud jug and my mom gave me the muskmelon seeds to munch upon. 

I climbed the steps hurriedly and saw her refilling the cement tubs to quench the bird's thirst. Every minute, she inspires me to become a better person and I thought she is a book, every person must read. Her ideas, the way she manages people and our business is enriching. 

"Grandma! Water," I said and she drank the water till the last drop. While I poured the last spoon of the paste, I saw her dropping few musk melon seeds for the birds!

"Grandmom, why can't we start doing pickle business and also grow organic vegetables. I read an article today that organic farming will overgrow traditional farming. Let's produce our own vegetables and fruits, and use them for cooking in our restaurant. What you say?", I questioned. "Also, in few years tourism will hit this place, maybe we buy few boats and leave it for rent. What do you say?", I asked again confidently. 

"Let's think ammu, come down, its time for lunch", she said. 

I carried the vessels and came down. After heavy lunch, we made pickles of all fruits we bought. 

The next day my grandmom announced for a small meeting and all of us gathered in the open veranda. 

"As Ammu said, I thought about introducing our homemade pickles into the market with no added colors or preservatives and set an organic farm to grow fresh vegetables and fruits which we can use for our restaurant".

"But mom, we already are into multiple business. Why this?", her elder son asked.

"We earn money and are healthy but what about the future generation? We must give something back to our society. By initiating this idea, we can provide more jobs to public and make their life content and also gift them good health", she added.

"Okay mom", he nodded and all of us agreed.

"Ammu, I want you to study and tell me how to start up this farm during your next visit and also about the boats, let's implement it once the restaurant becomes successful", she said.

I smiled and showed her a thumb-up.

While packing my luggage, my grandmom bought few jars containing lime and mango pickle and a bowl of soga fries seasoned with chilly and salt on it.

I crunched them like a rabit and she said you have a part of me in you ammu!.

My eyes glowed and I pulled her tightly. "Six more months grandma and I will be with you forever, looking not only after you but our business", I said carrying my suitcase and backpack containing pickles for the next three months.

Entrepreneurship starts at home in the hope that our family members will support, be one.

Choose a venture you're good at, all you need is interest and experience, not only education.

P.S My grandmother's name is Annalakshmi!

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