‘Mappillai murukku’ – some of you would have heard. I heard it for the first time, when I stayed for a couple of days, soon after my wedding in my wife’s house at Thiruvananthapuram. For evening snack, I was served, after asking me to be seated facing the auspicious East, Avil aka beaten rice and poovan pazham. The Avil was hand pounded, retaining the aroma of bran, the brown coloured, nutritious outer layer of the rice grain. The poovan pazham was soft and honey -sweet, as to earn the merit of one of the selected neivedyams, food offer, to the divine child of Guruvayoor. That tasty combination was served on a tender plantain leaf, just removed from the backyard tree, which too contributed to the aroma to the already tasty food.
I loved the food. But, absorption capacity is not unlimited. So, reluctantly, I left a part, back on the leaf, when a close relative, Athai or aunt, taunted me: ‘konthae, MAppillai murukku vendAm- child, abandon the inner reservation of a fresh son in law’
I’m not happy with my translation of the word ‘murukku’ here, but I could not find a better words. Colloquial usages lose the essence and charm in translation.
Now, back to the title of this story. MAmiyar is mother in law. The ‘Murukku’ here, in this context, is not a behavior. It is a food item- that hand-twisted circle, rice powder based, placed prominently on the wedding podium, kalyAna Panthal, along with sweet balls of laddus and sweet rectangles of Mysorepaks . it is also called kaimurukku, to emphasize the importance of Kai or hand, in its production.
Last year, before leaving for America, I visited my mAmiyar, mother in law, at her home in Thiruvananthapuram, the same good old lady, who served me avil and poovan pazham, long back. She had become old, naturally. For good or bad, I’m deep in my conviction that I don’t age, though all others do. But God is great. You can dupe your wife, you can dude even your mother in law, but never God. So, His Highness, Lord Sreekanteswaran, who could watch the happening in my mother in law’s house, just by a peep through the window, put a forceful break to my wicked thought that my mother in law had aged but not me.
This was what happened.
The gracious old lady, despite her physical disabilities due to old age, had prepared hand- twisted Murukku for her son in law. I’m sure that her weak fingers would have terribly protested, resisting to twist and turn to her commands. But twisting and turning are unavoidable for the simple rice flour paste, to become a mouth – watering eatable.
She served me a few pieces, on a plantain leaf. Chewing old stories, intermittently smiling, laughing and clearing the moistness from eyes, I bit merrily the circular charisma and consumed the first murukku. The moment, overwhelmingly proud of my strong teeth, I bit the second murukku. ‘Tup’ cracked a tooth, got dislocated from its time tested base and fell on the leaf. The honorable lady, whose ears are left with only ornamental role, could clearly hear the sound of the tooth – crack and more surprisingly, her dwindling eyes could clearly see the dented tooth, lying helplessly, amongst the murukku pieces on the plantain leaf.
With the speed of an eagle, flashing from the sky and swooping on a dove on the land, she picked up not only my broken tooth, but the remaining pieces of murukku too.
I looked at her pathetically, like a baby whose mouth feeding was abruptly stopped and asked, ‘ why murukku?’
‘Just to save your remaining weak teeth,” she said.
I turned my neck and looked at our neighbour, Lord Sreekanteswaran and asked,
” a punishment for my false notion that aging is only for others or for leaving unconsumed some avil and pazham, decades ago?”
As usual, He didn’t respond. His divine mount did.
‘For both,’ he said and shook his broad ears, as if to say, ‘take it light’.