Recently, I bought a choppu set for a friend’s daughter. Delightedly, she ran away to her room to start playing. After a while, she came back to us, looking puzzled.
“Amma, what’s this?” she asked, holding up a kal-ural. “Its something in which you grind mavu for idli” My friend explained. “But how?” the little girl demanded. We gave her a demo of pretend-grinding.
After she left us alone, my friend and me looked at each other. “She’s never seen one!” my friend exclaimed. “We grew up with these things. Imagine a whole new generation is growing up without knowing a kalloral, ammi or the other stuff used for dry grinding” (my own grand mom used to refer to it as aarikkal, but none of my friends in Chennai seem to have heard of them!) we mused.
It really got me thinking.
Just imagine, my son, for instance would have never seen a washing stone.
For those who don’t know what it is, a washing stone is a cement platform on which a rough granite or sandstone is mounted. Its easy to stand over, spread a piece of cloth to apply soap and then holding one end, beat the cloth on the stone many times, before rinsing it and wringing it dry. I still don’t know the thought-process behind beating it on the stone!
Of course in an apartment there’s absolutely no space for ammi or ural. And with the maids and washing machines, nobody needs to know what a washing stone is.
I remember the two washing stones in the backyard of my grandmother’s. Because the house was always full-up, it was really handy to have two. I don’t remember the maid washing any clothes over there. They only washed the non-paththu pathrams in the evenings, and swept & mopped the house. The major vessels were washed by an aunt or an older cousin in the backyard.
Every one washed their own clothes. A visiting daughter like my mom used to wash hers & her kids’. Wash-times were always fun for us. It was normally done in the mornings, just before people went in for their baths. It was a sort of communal thingy.
I remember vividly how us kids used to pass time in the backyard, either picking fruit or flowers are something equally idyllic. While our mothers and uncles washing their clothes and having their gossip-sessions. While someone drew water from the well, two others would be at the washing stones. Someone else would be wringing the clothes and hanging them dry and some one else would be at the back verandah combing her hair to get ready for office. My grandmother would probably be putting up her feet in the same verandah, drinking her second cup of coffee while taking part in the morning banter.
It all seems light years away! Now who has that kind of time? I always wake up late, do everything in a mad rush before locking up the house to go to school!
If only we still did all these things, we’ll never need a gym!
One of the books I read on healing says that the process of grinding and cooking before the machines took over was very therapeutic. The rythm of grinding, the smell of spices, inhaling the aromas of cooking are all very soothing for a woman, the author claims. I tend to agree, because I feel so de-stressed while I cook.
Maybe we really had something going for a healthy living those days.
Right from eating on a banana leaf to sleeping soon after sunset, we had such close commune with nature.
And we were so eco-friendly too!
There must be some way to reclaim all that while still enjoying our mobile phones and plasma screens!