There is excitement in the air. A distinctly earthy smell permeates the inner walls of your nostrils and make them twitch involuntarily. You know something is up.
Which is when you discover they have been up. Up for a long time. The women of the house, that is.
They sit up this night. Tomorrow is Deepavali. The rest of the country calls it Diwali with a fanciful twang immersed pronunciation. This is Madurai. At home, things are simple. Simple truths get spoken and usually without the need for fancy or decorative adjectives.
The women in your house aren’t concerned with how you spell or pronounce Deepavali. To them, its the festival of lights. They have been on a different grind. Grinding leaves that is.
Grinding carefully selected leaves from a tree nearby. Adding a variety of ‘other’ natural additions ranging from lemon to an accompanying paraphernalia, managing which you imagine, could pose a stiff challenge to an established supermarket’s store keeper, especially when his computer is down !
The grinding produces a paste. Soon, there emerges a green paste with a greasy look and of course, the earthy smell. You shake your head in much disbelief. For the look and the quantity of the paste is disproportionally stingy to the extravagance of the aroma that twitches nostrils.
Even as you soak in the aroma, the paste is now sitting pretty in a small vessel onto which it has gotten carefully transferred. With care that would you would accord a maharajah who has come home for dinner.
As if to indicate how fleeting time can be, in a brief hour, the vessel is empty. For the leaf paste now rests on the palms of the women. In various shapes and sizes. Accompanied by endless chatter. Laughter. Excitement. Happiness.
You realize that their hands are in a way tied. They have to sit there and do nothing but wait out the green paste to dry. Just as you think that their hands are tied, they say, ‘don’t think our hands are tied. We can wash it off IF NEED be and reapply’.
You smile. These women.
You being you, you gear up your imagination and try thinking up of the spectrum of acts that you could indulge in just when their hands are tied. You think of ‘this’. Perhaps ‘that’. You smile. ‘this’ to ‘that’. You smile widens at your own imagination.
But you realise that your imagination will stay put as imagination. As dynamic as it can be, it still is well within the whorls of your brain. For you see that the women are washing the paste off their hands.
Colour stands where a greasy green paste stood. Semi permanent colour. There is laughter amidst ‘yours is better than mine’ (or vice-versa) conversation. You see a bright red in the palm where the dark green paste was. Not too long back, when your imagination was soaring.
‘Its not RED’. They say. Proceeding to name it somewhere in the vicinity of an ‘orangiesh red with a tinge of yellow’. Or something to that effect. Inbetween varying degrees of laughter.
You realise that there is a magic in life. Magic that can be brought alive by simple things. Like grinding leaves from a tree and applying it to the palm of your hand.
Colour on palms that help you be. Palms that have always brought a smile to you. Fingers that have fed and hands that have helped. The ever inspiring love of your lovely mom and the missus that have always stood by you, when everything fell apart.
You smile. Indeed life is beautiful when you see a smile on their face and colour on their palms.
Today, its more than a week. Deepavali is gone. The many kilograms of sweets have occupied already rotund hips. The colour on the palms of mom & the missus is fast fading.
The green leafy paste is nowhere in sight. The memory of that happy time, though, automatically twitches the nostrils.