It was just another day- like any other, full of promises. But, I suppose, I wasn’t exactly impulsive in wanting to chase them. The evolving cloud cover outside possibly encouraged this lack of ambition- but I was ok with where I was going today…nowhere.
The late afternoons were refreshingly cooler. It rained around anytime now and from the perch of my living room sofa, you could hear all the kids hollering to one and another in the garden below my complex while some were laughing and giggling or splashing about in the pool. If it were to start raining any moment- the giggling and laughing would give away to squeals of joy! It made me happy being a space cadet in such times- not particularly observing but just being. Time must have spent itself observing me.
When I was much younger and not prone to giving my thoughts much importance- doing nothing was an expensive proposition! It came at a cost of being compared to Lila, my best friend, who was always between classes- music, singing or dancing- when she was not studying. On any given holiday, I pretty much had to be coerced into adding value to myself- because who knew what skill might come in handy on days like this when I felt much older than all the winters I had seen! It brought that smile to my face which you reserve for those memories that suddenly come up from the depths of a past whose existence remains in fragile fragments. And in that small instant, I suddenly noticed her across the room…
Sitting cross legged on a stone floor, with her colouring book and varied crayons strewn all around- was this puny 4 or 5 year old me. Head down, and swinging it side to side trying to furiously colour a picture. You could make out her perfectly partitioned hair, possibly oiled too and tied in a neat ponytail on each side. I wanted to go over and watch what was being coloured, but I was distracted by my mother’s voice calling out to that 4 or 5 year old me.
She had just walked in to the hall and as always was perfectly dressed in a saree. She always looked so put together whether she did house chores or was stepping out to buy groceries or getting ready to go over to our family friends for a get together. I kind of envied that about her and still do- somethings are hard to pass on, I guess.
My mother had kneeled next to me and was curiously examining something about the picture that I had coloured.
“It looks really pretty, but why have you painted the dog blue?”
I was always quick to reply-
“Ma! He is Cookie Monster’s Dog na! Blue it will be!”
“I see! Does he have a name?”
“Yup, CocoChip! And he likes eating cookies too!”
Mom was smiling now as she continued the conversation with me. So much was being spoken now, things I could not overhear- but only perceive. A long lost happy place, still etched in my memory like a faded photograph.
As a kid, I watched a lot of Sesame Street and Cookie Monster was my favourite on that show- maybe because he looked so cuddly or maybe it was his single minded and unabashed obsession with cookies! I loved how he ate them often wanting to eat it like him, myself…but cookies weren’t something I was allowed to eat much of back then. I remember getting into trouble for eating too many or “trading” for them with my sisters for some stickers…
As the conversation between mother and daughter got done, the little me got up with the painted picture in hand and came over to where I was on the sofa, prancing and singing.
I was happy to have this 4 or 5 year old me over- she reminded me of how much I had missed her and how much I wanted to hold on to her.
It had begun raining by now, and the urge for a little caffeine was brewing up. So, I got up and both of us walked towards the kitchen. She was still prancing with the picture of CocoChip as I reached to get the filter from the cabinet for my kaapi. I warmed some water and gently rinsed my filter with it. I also set the kettle for the water to boil. In the meanwhile, I meticulously scooped 2-3 scoops of degree coffee powder and put it in the filter. A close friend had brought this powder from Kumbakonam and I had grown to love it over the brief month that it had been in my possession. At times, more than drinking the kaapi- it was the heady smell of freshly brewed Arabica, Robusta and Chicory- that I looked forward to. The wait was always well worth it.
Just as I poured the boiling water into the filter… I could hear some animated chatter emerging from near the dining table. I turned around to see and was surprised to find myself sipping from a tumbler while Jaishri was cooling hers as she went back and forth from the davarah and her tumbler.
I wonder what this 14 year old me was busy discussing. But, it did strike me that this was the very moment I had fallen in love with kaapi. To boot, I was doing a pretty good job of disguising my feelings…the eyes and mouth distracting attention from what the heart was absorbed in! You see, I didn’t want Jaishri to know that I looked forward to coming over to her house to sneakily enjoy this brew that her mother so lovingly made for us. I don’t know if I ever thanked her enough for kindling this life long affair. In case I didn’t- this is me right here in full gratitude to you, aunty, for opening my eyes to the wonderful world of coffee!
Over the years, I have gone up and down on the coffee snob graph- sometimes strictly sticking to single origins, rare beans to going for days with out a cuppa. What remained though was my love for the in between- the hearty local varieties. My love reigned supreme for Kaapi, Kopi, Ca Phe and Turkish, in particular.
The things that root us to a sense of earthiness, is what we keep coming back to, be it a humble meal of dal chawal, or dosa or the smell of the earth after the first rain, the fragrance emanating from champaka flowers, the tinkle of traditional bangles, my mother’s old cotton sarees…To me, they are reminders of who we really are and where we really belong. They are portals to our truth, which we must now reach by pealing away all the facades we put up over the years. Simple joys are most fulfilling.
Jaishri, had long gone home and my kaapi was done percolating. I poured some over a little condensed milk and walked over to the balcony along with my 4-5 year self and the 14 year old me. As we all sat down, my ears caught hold of a melody lilting in the air…” Yeh shaam mastani…madhosh kiye jaa… meri dor koi kheenche…teri oar liye jaa…”
I didn’t expect company today, but it felt good to have these two over!