March 24, 2005


My trips to Cumbum always are full of simple living and joyous times. There is no school homework to be done- so the mind roams. There is beauty to be drunk- so the soul flies. There is yummy food to be relished- so my heart remains contented! All in a sort of wild abandon!

My grandparents owned a hotel once- Lakshmi mess. It used to attract a huge crowd due to the tasty food that was available. But after a few years, due to some problems, the hotel had to be closed, and my grandparents had to shift over to supplying sweets and savories to the many bakeries and shops in the town. This they continued till my mama got a job. From then- life has been a pleasanter and relaxed sailing.

Out of all the delicacies, my grandmother is expert in making, I love her kuzhi paniyaarams, aapams, puttu, veechu parotta( my mama is an expert at this. Its all in the genes you see!) and many others. As a rule, paniyarams and chutney welcome me the first day. This is ambrosia, my friends and maybe better than that! The night is spent in talking non-stop about family matters and sometimes before retiring; we have a game of ‘express’ in cards. My grandfather is an expert at it. Sometimes ‘rummy’ occupies the slot. What varieties of card games I learnt? I was quite an expert at most of them and at times even managed to beat my ‘guru’- Mani mama. Ace, rummy, Hidden ‘Joker’ rummy, Joker, Bluff were all at my finger tips and I even learnt a few card magic tricks from our family friend!

Initially, my grand parents did not have a TV. So most of the time was spent looking at the old photo albums were shy, smiling and ten times younger grand parents and aunts and uncles were captured posing every which way possible. The photos always make me travel back in time and imagine their lives!
We went for all the movies being shown in the theatres. Yuvaraja, Thambis and Shakthibala-Devabala are my favourites. So many movies have I seen there but to name a sparsely few- Alai Payuthey, Padaiyappa, Tamizh (the Prashanth Starrer), Jeans, Ennavale(seen for 3 hours of drooling over Maddy!), Paanjaalamkurichi, Priyamaanavale etc. In the interval we run to get the popcorn and cone-ice. Though cheap, they tasted awesome!

Speaking about ice-creams, when I was in my UKG and I standards, I used to eat ice-creams everyday, during my stay in Cumbum. Bhaskaran Ice-cream’s push cart used to unfailingly come every afternoon at 1, after discovering the loyal customer in li’l me. I don’t remember how much it cost, but I think it was a rupee or maybe three! A measly amount for a divine delicacy!

My younger days were also spent trying to learn cycling from my mean and unforgiving mama. A slip here, a wrong turn and I was finished! We used to rent cycles at the rate of a rupee an hour from the roundtanna on the main road joining Appavu Pillai Theru. My best and worst memories are associated with it- for both I praise and blame Mani mama.

The rented house on Appavu Pillai Theru is a paradise. Three steps from outside led to a small porch. The living room came next with a partitioned room to its right. Three steps down and there is a room with a kitchen to our right. This was where the grinder, attu kal, ammi and all were placed.. Three steps down and the bathroom is to your right and the steps to the long and lone first floor room is present. Walk a li’l further and the swami room is there. Then a garden opens up with pretty balsam and kanakambaram plants in little pots. A toilet is nearby. The only thing I dislike about the house is the location of the toilet. Its way too far and at night, it’s real CREEPY! The roof top has a few potted rose plants. The house is pretty big and has another gate in the garden which opens out to a parallel street. Though simply decorated, I loved it and still do due to the million magical memories associated with it.
No child would have had a childhood without a game of Police-Thief. I was no different. I was always the upright and brave cop and poor Mani mama always happened to be the beastly criminal. We played our games in the long room in the first floor I used to be such a meanie- I would tie him up and after half an hour only untie him!

My mother’s two younger sisters used to take tuitions for the lower classes in that big top room. During my long stay there when my sister was about to be born, I with my city-bred attitude, UKG brains and er… dominance, used to boss over their students. With a wooden scale in hand, I used to torture their lives by yelling, “Keep Quiet!”, though they were at least two years older than I was!

Few instances of Ultimate bliss I remember:
The staircase to the top room had a small landing before opening out to the room. From this landing, most of the town could be seen. In the evenings, the city looked like a sheet of green silk with little sequined ‘Ujala’ blue houses with brown mountains hemmed at the edges! Wow… it was a pretty sight! Some evenings, the sky turned into a deep red as those ‘most amazing photographs ever-taken of the sky’ show! Divine turbulence- I used to think though not exactly using the same words. 

There used to be a door in the top room which opened out to a clean drop into the neighbouring ‘maatu kottagai’(Cow Shed). It had a million windows always open letting the breezes in. The door was never opened as they were frightened, I would try to explore it and end up breaking my neck due to the fall or being trampled by those hefty cows! Once, it was opened and I stood almost near the very edge. The windows were letting in the Wind Woman fiercely and as I caught to the hinges of the door, I felt something divine pass through me and move on. I felt uplifted then. I can NEVER forget the moment!

Playing in Kaarthi-Laavanya’s house, watching old movies like Server Sundaram, Paasa Malar etc, in the black and white TV there, trips to Suruli water falls nearby, taking with us soft idlis and ‘Suruli’ chutney, Visits to Thekkady by jeep drinking in the beauty there, Catching movies in our neighbour-Paapathi athai’s house and eating the lollipops which her son generally bought for my sister and sometimes for me also, hand pumping water and bringing pots full of them in a ‘thalluvandi’( push cart), the first time I ate cake-ice cream in the ice cream shop there, yearly visits to the houses of family friends- The Bodi Iyers and the big ‘Pathara Kadai’ owners, the infinitely many fights fought with Mani mama, visits to the one of the most best temples, according to me- Mariamman Koil and performing the yearly ‘Maa-Velakku’ ceremony, anthakshari games played with my sister in the other houses rented after the one at Appavu Pillai Theru, few memories of my last chithi’s marriage, faint memories of playing top with Agraharam neighbours- Amar-Sabari, little images of going to school for 2 months during my UKG to catch up the last term’s portions, waiting on the steps at 5 in the evening to catch sight of dirty pigs drinking from Chaakkadais( drainage) and goats and hens going in hordes, Paal kaarans(milk-men) bringing litres of milk in cans with pipes in cycles and many other memories sometime raid my present.
What wouldn’t I do to get back the simplicity in living? Though Chennai is still my home and life, Cumbum is where I go…or rather, used to go, for a soul-wash. For, no more will I go there; at least not in the next 5-6 years, as my grandparents shifted recently to Coimbatore to stay with my working Mama. This recent trip happens to be the last trip for the next few years and it’s a sadness too deep for tears that seizes me at the very thought of it! Dear old Cumbum is where my heart will always be as there’s nothing that enriches life than simplicity and there’s no place on earth that offers me that other than my very own CUMBUM!


Harish said...

Nice post!!
Autograph paartha effect :)

"The windows were letting in the Wind Woman fiercely and as I caught to the hinges of the door, I felt something divine pass through me and move on. I felt uplifted then. I can NEVER forget the moment!"

Sounded like a Shyamalan movie! Elaborate!!!

Dinvra igaluaC said...

i really liked what you've written!! and the you've told abt every small detail and experiense is really cool! i so want to make a movie on this experience of yours! lets title it.....? road to divinity!{is the spelling correct??} wat say???/

Vani Viswanathan said...

that's a nice long post ya..surprising, how come i've never ever heard you talk about cumbam in school....ulagathula naraiya vishayam solra nee idha marandhutiye!!
btw, where is that mail you promised?

Anonymous said...

Beautiful post Sandhya

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