UBC DAY 4 – THE SADHYA
The aroma was the first thing he noticed when he woke up. The sweet smells of melted jaggery, rice, elaichi, cashews and raisins wafting to his room from the kitchen reminded him that it was Onam. His mother was in the kitchen already and busy preparing for the afternoon sadya. The aroma was special, because she didn’t make it often, his favorite vellam (jaggery) payasam. It was for special occasions like Onam, or Vishu, or his birthday.
Going into the kitchen, he saw that his father was there too. He was busy frying grated coconut and mustard seeds, urad dal and curry leaves, making it ready for the sambar. Around the kitchen, the other dishes were kept. Avial, with yams, plantains, beans, carrots and drumsticks, curd and coconut. Thoran, with beans and finely diced cabbage, shallow fried. Pachadi, with diced pineapple, curd and mustard seeds. Mango achaar, looking very spicy, just like he loved it. Plantain chips, both sweet and salty. And he knew, just before lunch time, the rice would be boiled and the papadums would be fried, many of them.
When he finished his morning formalities and returned to the kitchen for breakfast, he saw his mother putting hot steaming idlis into the casserole. He took a plate, put some idlis and poured some coconut chutney on top of it. He loved that combination, especially made for rainy mornings, but he felt it was perfect at any time of the year.
At 1pm, his mother placed three banana leaves on the table. He helped her to put the dishes on them, taking care not to put too much of avial on his leaf. Once they were done arranging, the three of them would sit and eat together, something that didn’t happen very often; not at lunch anyways.
It was the first Onam since the three of them moved to this new house, the first Onam where it was only the three of them. He wished his grandparents and cousins, uncles and aunts were there like always, chatting exuberantly, sharing gossip and laughing at small jokes. Those little things mattered to him.
The sadhya still tasted sweet, but it felt quite incomplete.
(3rd July 2014)