Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Popcorn memories ...

A lazy afternoon was rolling up reluctantly into a warm & dusty evening. The sun sieved a delicate pattern of shadows through an Ashok tree canopy in the backyard under which Mangali & Budhwa had locked their horns in a friendly bout to shake off some ennui. In the front yard, a grumpy granny was losing her cool over a bunch of kids, still lost in their dreams.


Get up! She called out to them, but the little brats held on to their sleep steadfastly. ‘Are you going to get up or not?’, she hollered, but in vain. Finally, a splash of icy water on their faces got them to get up and sprint out for cover.


It was time to drag out the belaboured, carbon-clad earthen pot to the front yard and prepare the clay fireplace. With inherited skill and guard, she lit the fire in no time and the coveted pot was placed on top of it even as a pair of naked feet rushed to the storeroom to fetch the prized sack of golden corn kernels. Her age belied her agility.


The other children hunkered around the fire, watching their humped magician keenly. They couldn’t wait to catch the first explosion and inhale the warm aroma of the popcorn. Everyone was at their best behaviour now in the hope of getting a bigger share. The corn bits were passed along with great care to granny. She poured in a dry mix of black salt and sand and began to wait for the sand to heat up a bit. In between, she brushed it swiftly from side to side with the backside of a coconut broom. 


‘Why do you mix salt in the sand, granny?’ asked one curious mind.

‘Don’t you know? By doing this, the heat will spread out evenly. So, every kernel will get to pop, and nothing will be left behind', the older sister replied with a twinkle, hoping for a word of appreciation from the master.

‘Correct, Usha’, the granny replied with a faint smile and sprinkled the corn in the pot. 


In a few minutes, the first pop was heard and welcomed with a loud cheer and clap. Soon there was a barrage of pops and the air was filled with the happy, mouth-watering scent of popcorns. 


Years later, stepping out of my office, a subtle trail left me spellbound on the spot and I slowly realized that it was the similar fragrance that had elated me as a kid a lot. In a whiff, I relived those moments of childhood bursting with wonder and simplicity. I wish time could stay there forever. But it left me feeling wistful and forlorn as if I had woken up from a beautiful dream. There have been many afternoons since, but few come close to those with the magical popcorns!


Thursday, August 19, 2021

Locked!

A landlocked country, 

Locked yet again …

Locked in terror

Locked in turmoil 

Locked in trepidation

Locked in its women

Locked in its children

Locked out humanity

Locked out education

Locked out dreams 

Locked out smiles

Locked out music

Locked out hope!