Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Mistress of Spices

We women in the family always had a thing for spices.

My-other-gramma of handbags and sleeveless blouses and nail polishes, would always carry a finger of clove in her mouth, nestled in the space between her molars. The dried flower bud, wet and soggy in her mouth wandering about desolately, missing her teeth, when they all fell away. My-other-gramma who withered like dried flowers. Both from her life and mine, leaving behind a stain like that of pressed flowers in white notebooks.

Mu who would grind nutmeg on her magic stone. Nutmeg and honey being her eternal cure for every ailment. It didn't save her though. Naked brown nutmegs, she would lay scattered among her clothes. Which would share their treasure of a smell to her off-white sarees. The spidery lacy mace which she would remove, replacing its delicate sweetness in favor of the stronger one of the nutmeg. That's how she changed, from sweet to sweeter. Adorable to more. Even after she died. Filling my life with hand picked saccharine dreams.

Mother of cardamom. Dark like the closed capsulated seeds, her secrets safe with her. Secrets. Mind the plural. The many that were hers alone. Cardamom tea when she would serve us all, we always knew, she'd broken a pod of her secrets. Their smell and taste almost pungent in the brown swirling liquid in front of us.

Have you seen cinnamon trees? Smelt their cinnamon smells? Chewed their cinnamon leaves? I have.

It was tree that didn't fit anywhere. Standing right in the middle of the pathway. The pathway accommodated it by curving around it. The mango trees with the passion fruit creepers entwined around them, lifted their roots and walked a few feet away one night. The two nutmeg trees- male and female, Mu would insist, together always. None of them anywhere near the cinnamon tree.

It was a mighty tree when I was young. Thick green leaves of serpentine curves. And on them thick green caterpillars, wooly and terribly itchy. It was an unfriendly tree alright.

But the taste of cinnamon... the warm and fragrant smell of your breath after you chewed the brown bark, drew me to it. Many a days Mu would rub balm on my swollen body, while I sat thinking darkly of ways to eliminate the fuzzy caterpillars, chewing meditatively at the curled quill of cinnamon in my mouth.

I'd cut off the bark at random reachable places. Shaving off the bark to reveal the pink grated skin of the tree, I'd pretend to ignore the gaping wound. But I always felt the pain of the tree. The sharp stinging pain which would spread in my mouth when I bit the bark. The cycles of punishment were always quick in my life. Swift and ruthless.


Anonymous Ph said...

Some editing required. But beautifully written.

4:08 AM  
Blogger Dev Nair said...

Pain comes to us in various ways,and often,it celebrates itself at the very moment of it's entry into the mind and heart,at the doors, our senses, only to add to the effect, like spices, so that the memory lingers, like here- the unforgiven taste of pain.

4:33 AM  
Blogger Poornima said...

Ph: *Hug* That's for just coming here! Editing- gah! I've ALWAYS wondered how you manage to write such perfect posts- perfect in all ways!

Dev: Nice! Unforgiven taste of pain!

5:26 AM  
Blogger aks said...

hey love....beautiful post....the smell of spices stll lingering around...and the finishing lines...too good...kudos

11:52 AM  
Blogger phatichar said...

I remember the dried leaves/petals inside books, and the numerous trees at my aunt's estate in Perla. ummmmmm...can still smell' em. that's something. donno what it was about this post, but it WAS like chewing cinnamon :).

8:47 PM  
Blogger Poornima said...

Aks: He he! Thank you!

Phatichar: You like cinnamon?

9:02 PM  
Blogger phatichar said...

Yep, I do..

10:02 PM  
Blogger Xoff said...

I could almost smell the aromas reading your post. Brilliant!!!

11:44 PM  
Blogger mathew said...

makes me remind of my grandma who always suggsted cloves for toothache..!!

12:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A delight to read...especially for someone like me, who cooks for the sheer joy of it! ;o)
Cinnamon, cloves, and the numerous other spices...mmmmmm!!!
btw...this post seemed to jump b/w plots...however, it did retain the main theme afterall!!
Lovely Pvij Oye!!!

2:21 AM  
Blogger Poornima said...

Phatichar: :)

Xoff: Now that is a compliment! :)

Mathew: Oh yeah- toothaches and what not. Almost all spices have a curing effect to some ailment!

Sharat: Abstraction. My refuge! :)

4:42 AM  
Blogger sp said...

Heightened sense of perception. But caterpillars in the mouth..yuck !!

8:48 PM  
Blogger sp said...

And however do you manage to get hold of the apt pics ? Dont tell me, googling does the trick... :-)

8:53 PM  
Blogger Poornima said...

Prasanna: Caterpillars weren't in the mouth! Yuck! Of course google! Where else?!

9:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good one as always. Talking of pictures, I was wondering if you could mention/acknowledge the original source/photographer of your pictures (whenever possible).Maybe as a side note? If you already do it and I'm just missing it then ignore this comment.

9:27 AM  
Anonymous V.C said...

This is the first time that spices have been linked to pain (for the trees) - they have always been linked to pleasure. But I guess there must be pain associated with pleasure - the yin-yang connection!

4:05 AM  
Blogger Poornima said...

MP: I've never found mentioned a photographer's name anywhere. Else, I definitely would have.

VC: Two sides of a coin. Co-existance. And the like.

10:53 PM  
Blogger death said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1:31 AM  
Anonymous one among the crowd. said...

mistress of spices - sitting pretty on the sea side, eh! the lulling sea breeze even pulling off a tsunami. death just stroked its beautiful, mangled hands across the wind blown hair of the old lady. she had left behind a story of wounds and scars, some deep and some unforgetable. the sweet and the bitter are just part of the spicy life. spices - they also cure a lot of pains. and quietly the eyelids turned earthwards. good bye.

7:49 AM  
Anonymous groovy ant said...

nice pics....

9:03 AM  
Blogger Poornima said...

OAC: Washed away or flew away?

Groovy ant: I know...

9:52 PM  
Anonymous one among the crowd said...

faded away!!

4:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Waiting for the next post..can u see that this one is dated 6th june? hmmm..

Reva :)

9:23 AM  
Blogger Poornima said...

Reva: Time illai!!!!! :(

9:36 PM  
Blogger phatichar said...


1:35 AM  
Blogger Shikha said...

beautiful post..i can almost smell it:)

9:53 PM  
Blogger Poornima said...

Shikha: :)

2:06 AM  
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11:44 PM  

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