Will I ever stop eating, breastfeeding and explain myself to the world?

Amma (mostly) and I created a very magical thokku tonight.

The Easiest Pork Thokku

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 30 mins
  • Print

Cook the following in a pressure cooker:

  • 1/2 kg pork
  • 3 tomatoes
  • 2 dried kashmiri chillies
  • A bit of kokkum puli
  • 1 spoon turmeric
  • 1 spoon sugar

Pick out the blanched tomatoes, skin them and drop it back in to the curry. Pick out the kokkum puli and throw it in your garden.

Mix the following ingredients in to the curry:

  • 1 spoon red chilli powder
  • 2 spoons dhaniya powder
  • 1 spoon garam masala
  • 1 spoon salt

Let the pressure cooker go for another five to six whistles. Drain the lard (don’t forget to store it for future meals) and serve with hot rice.

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On March 13, 2016 thanks to Firstpost my previous blog article announcing my decision to have a baby out-of-wedlock reached a larger audience (click to read). I hope you have as much fun as my family and me when you read the comments. It has been a constant source  of entertainment during an otherwise mournful weekend.

Yazhini has received a lot of love and concern of all kinds from all corners of the Web. Thanks to everyone who has read and taken some time to talk about how my life choice affects you. Especially, thanks to those who demand an explanation from this armchair feminist (is that what you called me, or was it choothiyaa?). There are no arms on any of the chairs here, as far as I can see. Mostly, I write once Yazhini has fed very well and decides to sleep for the night. Writing is a sensual act (read, masturbation). It must be done on a comfortable bed.

So, will I ever stop eating, breastfeeding and explain myself to the world? Do I choose not to get married only to sound cool? Did I write that just to show off to the rest of the world? How can I be so selfish? How can I not care about what my family or child will go through because of my selfish choices? Am I not being anti-national (these days, many of us expect to be asked this whatever we say)? Are you fine with so many anonymous people reacting to this? How will you send your child to a good school? Isn’t it too early to do such things in an Indian context? Did you read some of those epic comments? You are not reading the comments, are you?

Today – as a nation or whatever – has been added to that endless list of unhappy days where one witnesses violence unleashed in broad daylight on anything that challenges the patriarchal definition of ‘legitimate procreative desire’ (Menon 2012). In this light, the choice made from my all liberal, leftist, middle-class background comes with its own dangers. And so, I must first attempt an answer to one simple question posed by a supportive friend: Why did you have to announce this at all?

We just had to J! While you mean well and ask this from a space of genuine curiousity, in effect, it could mean why couldn’t we have stayed silent and allowed others the peace of assumption. It is true that we announced it because we were simply tired of correcting each assumption one by one. We also want to avoid being put in a situation where silence is demanded from us.

The fact that it has reached more people means that our choices already resonate with others and not ‘everyone’ is scared of this virilocal family breaking down. What immense relief that gives us! This could not have happened if we had stayed silent. Moreover, it is definitely an armchair act to not talk about such a choice today.

Of course, you have also been reading the comments and we both know many more assumptions are being made now. I, definitely, don’t need to personally answer to most of them. Especially, absurd ones like:

“Balochistan mange AZADI, AZADI, AZADI from failed state PAKISTAN”/
“You enjoy all liberalism you want but ensure homogenous society and do not allow migration, otherwise the aggressive immigrants (muslims) will swamp you in couple of generations and your phuking liberalism will end the moment you end up in minority.”

Phew! These just take this dialogue in to strange territories.

I am now spewing porky yawns and will soon be back with replies to the sensible questions and objections. Until then, cook some cheese mutton and enjoy!

 

Embodying a Goddess of Leftovers

Me – I had an awesome meeting. Is there anything to eat?
Amma – I don’t think there’s anything much to eat.
Me – Ayyo, I’m very hungry. Didn’t you have lunch?
Amma – Yeah a bit.
Me: Didn’t I tell you I was coming?
Amma – Not really. I didn’t know when your meeting will finish.
Me – Adadaa, I am very hungry.
Amma – See what is there.
Me – (opens fridge) Oh there is quite a bit of leftovers, but no rice.
Amma – I’ll keep rice. What’s there to eat?
Me – Swordfish curry, mutton curry, vengaaya thuvaiyal, sundakkai poriyal, wow! And…
Amma – There’s some potato curry that Asma sent over. This is how her mother used to cook them.
Me – Awesome! Then there is periya kathirikkai sambal, siru keerai poriyal, and Grand Sweets potato chips.
Amma – Can you wait for ten minutes for the rice to be done?
Me – Oh sure!
(Four whistles and ten minutes later. I arrange all the food around me. Amma heats the mutton curry)
Amma – The rice might have kozhanjufied.
Me – It will be fine ma.
Amma – Will this be enough for you? If you don’t finish it, I can have some too.
Me – (settling down to eat and looking around at the spread) But, can I finish everything?
Amma – Sure, sure, sure!
(I eat for the next hour when Amma makes tire cushions with Mani)
Me – How can you say there’s not much to eat, when there’s so much?
Amma – Ha ha, you eat just like Gowri, concentrating only on the food.
Me – Yes, yes, yes. I lovve eating leftovers out of dabbas like this. What’s not for the trash can is for my stomach.

***

The south Indian Dalit Goddess Matangi, Ellamma’s associate, is popularly known as the ‘outcaste goddess’. Protecting communities from drought and disease, and epitomizing power of domination, freedom, speech,  transgression, music, inner thought and pollution are among her responsibilities and virtues. Matangi is venerated by an elaborate performance by a storyteller who when possessed tells the myth, lives it in to reality, and makes it in to a ritual. Her story is about ‘the sacrifice of animals and humans, as well as about sacrifices themselves’. She is said to be offered leftover or spoiled food, loose change and such used and done goods by her devotees. Negative x Negative kind of logic. The pure in the polluted. As all assimilation exercises in Hinduism, Matangi is later assumed as the Tantric form of Saraswati. Today’s an ode to the goddess of leftovers…

Here M.I.A tells you the story of Matangi. Listen to the song below and let me know what you do with leftovers

…she represents the hood because her dad is an untouchable…Well he was an untouchable and his name was Sage Matanga, and he was the first guy to get enlightened without… Because the way Hinduism was set up, when you’re reading the mythology and stuff, the rules of it is that you have to be reborn again and again and again—you know, because they believe in reincarnation. And every time you’re reborn, you have to, like, overcome Maya. And once you overcome the Maya you get born again at a higher level. So basically there’s like levels to being, reaching spiritual enlightenment… It’s like a computer game—actually that explains it better—you get stuck in a level for a long time, and you have to keep redoing it. And so Sage Matanga basically broke all the levels, got to the top, cracked the game without restarting. Because Brahmins in Hinduism are elitists. They are like the corporations of today. They basically acquire the right to own knowledge and spread knowledge and preserve knowledge. They document and they protect and they keep it and they use it however they want. And to be a Brahmin you can only be born to it. They think it’s a gift when you’re born a Brahmin. And they’re the ones that owned temples, you know, so they can own how the information went out. It’s sort of similar to like extremely rich people today who acquire the church or the information within it… So anyway, Sage Matanga wasn’t a Brahmin and he overcame that. So he got given a gift of goddess. She was reborn to him and she was already a goddess of music and she always represented the hood and the untouchables and people that lived in the ghetto. The untouchables had their special neighborhoods and nobody else went there. They were like dirty people because their jobs were to clean streets. They were hunters, they cleaned animals, meat, corpses. They were funeral people who worked in cremation grounds. So they had the worst jobs that society could have. And nobody talked to them and they were basically like the dirty people on the planet. So she liked representing them because of her dad, but also because, in that zone is where you can tell the nature of pollution and how environments get polluted. Because she is the goddess of music and spoken word, she fights to keep the frequencies clear, unpolluted. She finds a way to study the levels of pollution by living in a very dirty place.

Story telling with food as…

Making a meal, eating it, sharing it with others, or plain hunger are the first gestures of your desire to live. This is probably the basis of why food studies and critical eating studies look at the human body as ‘the site of social and political struggle’. A recipe, a cuisine, the kitchen becomes the story of a people, in fact their rich subtext.

As a writer, I search for places where subtext is in abundance, where the flow from thought to conversation to action is seamless and needs investigation to unravel.

A basic growing list of ideas:

Food as a story teller’s point of view
Food as inheritance, heritage and history
Food as the basis of survival and struggle
Food as choice and availability
Food as a gestural activity

The following short sketch ‘Dinner for One’ was watched over coffee time with a past-roommate. This is example number one of how food makes stories.