‘Satakapata noveda?’(සටකපට නොවේද?). Well, for those who know the meaning of ‘satakapata’, I don’t need to explain but for those who don’t , well, it means something like ‘cunning’ but for Amma, it always meant and still means ‘what nonsense!’. I know the meanings sound contrasting but well that’s Amma. And this was a phrase almost always said by Amma and it grew to be a kind of a household word. But the true meaning of this word was brought into action on a holiday when I was about 7 or 8 or even smaller.
We used to live in a rented house in the heart of the village. That was the most awesome village anyone can ever imagine. It had everything a village was supposed to have. Paddy fields, hills, rubber yards, gravel roads, friendly and at times inquisitive neighbors, innocent villagers, small shops where people gather to have a chat, buffaloes being herded in front of the house every evening and morning. It was a paradise for a growing up kid and I still love that village up to this day. The shady trees, the grassy meadows, it all added up to the amazing child hood I had.
So on the particular day my parents and I went to a small well bordering the paddy field. It was a very welcome change by our family. We have to walk through the rubber yard to get there. And I had my very own small metal bucket. And on this special day I also had a balloon with me which at the time I never knew would create the situation it did.
The well was not deep and had no wall around and the water was very cool and comforting. There were trees of all kinds all around. First I was given a bath and then Amma dressed me and asked to be on shore till they had a bath. I wasn’t supposed to go out of vicinity so I was playing with my balloon and the thorny tree next to it, which was quite a dangerous combination.
Suddenly I pricked the balloon on a thorn and it burst with an enormous sound more like a gun shot. Then what followed was a memory that would last forever. One split second after the balloon blasted a splash followed. I swung around just in time to see Amma slip and fall into the well. She must have turned suddenly and lost her balance. And then I saw Thaththa throwing away his bucket and diving in after her. Then they were both in the well and one by one they came out, Amma with the help of Thaththa. She was coughing and otherwise ok. And guess what is the first thing she said. Dripping wet, sitting there on the ground she blurted out ‘satakapata noveda?’
But I think this incident make us all drop the word. I never heard it being used after that.
It was she who made the sweets I knew and learnt to adore growing up as a kid. And up to this day there is no other food that can beat hers. It always tastes so homely and loving. My favorite delicacies were Sweet meat balls, chocolate cake, homemade ice cream, homemade yogurt, wade, coconut toffees, raspberry buns….ok I am going to cut short and say that anything she makes was heavenly.
Well on this special day for the New Year she wanted to try to make her favorite delicacy…'Dodol'. It was a traditional sweet that’s made by people in the down south and Amma has never tried this before. So this new year was going to be special. We told our cousins and aunts and uncles too that this year we are giving them ‘ dodol’.
Actually it was me who spread the word. And the day she started to make it, I was with her throughout, licking the condensed milk cans and stealing cashews and likewise. And it smelled so good. But Amma wasn’t happy and she was sure it didn’t come out well. As it is supposed to be we poured it into a tray and let it set. And then when it was time to cut it, well that’s when we all realized it wasn’t the way it was supposed to be. It is supposed to be cut in neat pieces. Clean cut. But ours was kind of sticky and more like a toffee. This was when Thaththa gave it its’ unforgettable name ‘ doffi’ since it was a cross between ‘dodol’ and ‘toffee’. And when visitors came he would ask them “would you like a piece of doffee?’ and they would ask what that was and our reply would be ‘A new dish that we tried for this year’. But for me it tasted better than any genuine ‘dodol’ I ever ate.
Amma also has this awesome habit of giving away things. Well this sometimes made me mad too. She would always give away nice stuff saying that no need to pile up things without any use. On teacher’s day when she gets gifts all she brings home are some flowers. She distributed all the cutlery and stuff to the other teachers. The days Teflon pans came into use we got an awesome set for ourselves too. And we were all waiting anxiously for the day we would use it.
A few days later a newly wed couple came to visit us. And we have this tradition of giving the newly weds a gift when they visit your home [which I don’t like at all for obvious reasons]. And when they got ready to leave Amma ran inside and came back with the brand new set of pans and gave them away. We all watched with wide eyes as the couple went back home equipped with our new pans. That’s the reason I guess that the next time we got pans again Thaththa quickly fried an egg in one of them.
But Thaththa wasn’t at all prepared for what she did next. Thaththa always used to be a 'shorts wearing dude' and we have very very rarely seen him wearing ‘sarongs’. So imagine his excitement, when one New Year he got a sarong as a gift. He was very happy with it and was saying that he was going to reserve it for visitors but anyway he said he was going to ‘train wear’ it.
So from that day on different occasions we saw him parading with the sarong. And it seemed that he was beginning to get the hang of it. Then one day when he came back and searched for the sarong it seemed to be missing. When he asked Amma this is what she said “ oh Henry, this beggar came here this morning asking for old clothes and I gave away the sarong, too as you don’t wear it anyway”. And in hope to lighten up the moment she also added ‘And the beggar was really happy to get such a new sarong. He thanked you profusely”…
And also Amma has this amazing ability to rename people. If there is a guy called ‘Somadasa’ he will always be called ‘Somasiri’ or ‘ Somapala’ but never Somadasa. And she always sticks to that name. She would name him Somasiri and he would always be Somasiri and never be mixed up with his real name Somadasa or any other alternates like Somapala. And this goes for any name. Chandrasiri would be Chandrapala, Soma would be Sumana, Chandrani would be Chandani, Gunasiri would be Gunasoma and like wise.
And every time we correct her [specially Thaththa who has this habit of interrupting what she was saying and correcting her] she would just say ‘It is okay what I call him/her because you and they know I am saying about them. So no need to bother about that’. He he he he…. And the funniest thing is the people who are called like that by Amma really do know that she is talking to them and they never bother to correct her. Sometimes I wonder if ‘Somadasa’ really believes he is ‘Somasiri’ after some time……
All in all what I have to say is she is the best Mother anyone can ever imagine. And I really hope that someday I will grow up to be like her. Well to tell the truth I think I already got her knack for cooking. Anyone who has tasted my food will sure confirm that….