Did you do what you were told when you were young, or did you rebel?
We had it easy. Mom wasn’t Hammurabi. We had latitude and free reign, but rebel I did, raging (ha!) against conformity and uniformity (societal) for a while. My cringe period, ladies and gentlemen. There was some edict about haircuts and new clothes, but that wasn’t enforced after thirteen, as prearranged. I was a veritable brand ambassador, straining the family budget to flaunt authentic jeans (which I’d then tear up or defile with indelible ink, but that story has already been told.) It amuses me that the Chinese counterfeit Levi’s 501 I wear now are only one-third the price I paid twenty years ago, and that’s not factoring in inflation. The humanity! I sent money home yesterday, part of the ever-ongoing atonement. I add a secondary layer to my donning deceptive denim by labeling it a political statement against mediocre boilerplate modern art. Go figure.
What did your childhood bedroom look like?
A 14” Toshiba TV missing a couple primary colors, the table it perched on, two wooden chairs, a combination bookshelf/trinket ledge, attic with wooden crossbeams from where I could hear rats scurrying at night, and the inevitable calendar on the wall in which I’d check the phases of the Moon. This rented house with the tamarind tree infested with hairy “itch worms” and the mango tree neighborhood girls liked to climb was where I was born and featured in dreams well into my twenties. We moved to our own three-storied (including basement garage) air-conditioned marvel with the harmonica-shaped TV antenna when I was 13, and I had my own bedroom with posters of choice, music system, and home computer, and I’d lie listening to Bruce Hornsby reading Sagan late into the night. Two decades later, things are more or less the same. My rags-to-riches wife accuses this opulent upbringing to all my character flaws.
Are there foods, smells, songs or sounds that bring back memories of childhood for you?
gothambu puttu, ozhichu koottan (vellakkari (not madamma)), netholi fry, vellari maanga, ari nellikka, Sip-Up, Big Fun, Nestlé milk powder, barbecued cassava, baked arrowroot, thin breadfruit chips, etc.
Ponds Dreamflower, green Cinthol, Pears, Mysore Sandal (apparently, I spent all my girlhood in the bathroom), lemongrass, damp hay, dislodged moss, burning leaves, etc.
Songs. Ha! I just have to list my “Most Played” column on Winamp.
The clink of chains of an elephant walking by, grind of bullock-cart wheels, soldiers marching early in the morning (we lived a kilometer from the Pangode military camp), ice-cream man’s bell, whirr of the yellow Cessna in the sky, etc.
What is something you often did on Sundays when you were growing up?
Have kanji and potato fries (Sunday special), watch the fare on TV, and run to the fields and ponds to torture lower vertebrates.