If you have to ask you'll never know ! [L.Armstrong]... thats Louis not Lance.

Apr 25, 2008

The Nana of Spices.

Many many moons ago there lived in the village of Manori a girl called Emily Ferreira. She was from the largest house in the village called " The Big House ". There was even a special chair in The Big House for the Bishop who was a regular visitor. She enjoyed playing the violin. She enjoyed the parish feast. She enjoyed cooking .
And then from the mainland came a proposal. A proposal that would take her away from the island of Manori to Khotachiwadi. To another big house.To No.1 Khotachiwadi. Which she entered as the bride of Joesph Chaves. Where she started her family. Where she soon had nine children. Where she went to church everyday. Where her children went to school. Where they grew up. Where her children went to college. Where they got married. Where she went to the chapel for the roasary in the month of May.Where her husband died. Where she wondered how to stretch a rupee to pay for the college fees for the younger ones in her brood.To pay the taxes on a house fit for a king without being a king. The stables had already been rented out. The old servants quarters too. She the turned to what she knew best. Her own special hand ground masalas and her wine making. She'd always taken the tonga or the tram to Crawford market to get the freshest ingredients for her masalas and the best grapes for her wines. But now she made more than what she needed for herself. Much more. And she sold it. And that paid for the school fees, the uniforms, the college fees. For the Nurses training fees for her eldest daughter. Only to see her contract TB . And the weddings. One joined the convent. The ones who started working chipped in for those still in college.Her children got married. And soon they had children of their own. And thats when she became Nana.
The weekends were when the family would descend onto the old family house. Coming in from far away Bandra. To spend a Sunday. When Nana would take the cutlets out of the meat safe. The meatsafe with bowls of water in which its legs stood. To stop the ants from getting to the cutlets before we did. When she would have left the dough for the fugias to ferment overnight and would hand them over for instant consumption as she lifted them off the fire. Where the chicken for the came out of her chicken coop which was right next to her kitchen.
Seventeen grand children. The only time she sat down was to pray. When she would say seventeen decades of the rosary. One for each grandchild. When she saw the longing in a grandaughters eyes who saw somebody else with a game called Monoply. She went out a bought her one too. So what if the currency was in rupees instead of pounds. And the trading was for Bhendi bazaar and Churchgate instead of Trafalgar Square or Charing cross. She still made the masalas and she still made the wines. And she'd still be sold out before evryone who wanted them got as much as they wanted. And her house always smelt magical. With the mustiness of old cupboards. In which lurked old blotters and mortuary cards. With sausages hung to dry from kitchen beams. With wine and fugia dough fermenting. With a grandfather clock that tick tocked right thru the house. A balcony big enough to play badminton in. With windows so large and so many that in kite flying season kites would come sailing in. With drumstcik and loveapple trees that gave fruit expressly for her grandchildren. With wooden floors that would be polished till the mirrors in the house were redundant. Rooms that were so big that when an extra bedrooom was needed all that was needed was a partition. With bathrooms that you had to walk so far to get to that when you reached them you'd almost forgotten why you'd started out in the first place. Tenants who lived in the old stables and made the best puranpolis in the world.
She loved Laurel and Hardy comics. She would tell our parents not to be so strict with us. She would always have an envelope for us on our birthdays. And we'd be looked upon with envy by other kids because we were Auntie Emil's grandchildren.
She did'nt get a day older in the twenty odd years of my life before her death. One day she was there, and the next day she was'nt.
All her life, she did not go gently into that still night. She raged, she raged with all her might.


Nineteen Drop said...

Yeahhhhhh Clement strikes again!!!! Welcome back.

As the 19th and last drop amongst the grandchildren this definitely brought back affectionate and scrumptious memories of Nana and one Kotachiwadi. One of my fondest is the Tonga rides from Charni Road station to 1 Kotachiwadi. I always looked forward to playing with my favorite cousin Floydee and my naughtiest (always getting into trouble) cousin Leon :) lol...... Loved going after Sankranti as Nana would give us “Bandra Buggers” a year’s stock of kites.

Anonymous said...

Wow... this is so beautifully written. Made me miss my own Nana... Missed your posts too buddy, keep writing.

Anonymous said...

Nana was the best.

The Pixy Princess said...

that was a beautiful tribute. Your nana would have got along well with my nana - who I miss dreadfully now that I have moved 3 continents away from her.
Sunday phonecalls are just not enough.

Doreen said...


You did Nana proud...wonderful tribute. Brought back memories of a forgotten time....didn't even know she played the violin...