Sunday, November 2, 2008

My cousin Renuchechi - Lisa Mathew

Although this blog started off to record memories of my grandparents, it really is open to inclusion of any family memories. With that in mind and also to show my cousin Renu how easy it is to write something down, this post is about her ;-)

My earliest memory of Renuchechi is not really her but her doll's tea set. She had a tiny doll's tea set complete with tea pot, milk jug and cups and saucers set on a cane tray. It was white with a red and blue pattern on it (can't remember what pattern it was but it could've been roses) I guess someone from abroad may have gifted it to her as that kind of thing certainly wasn't available in India to my knowledge. I utterly loved that set and wanted to play with it everytime I went there. Given that I wasn't a quiet child and could've easily broken it, it is to her eternal credit that she always allowed me to play with it. At that time, they lived in a colony belonging to her dad's (Eddychayan) workplace (Indal - Indian Aluminium) and this first memory is from their old flat where this tea set resided in all it's glory in the dining room sideboard.

My only other memory from that flat is the time she and her sister Eluchechi and all their friends put up a play and of course being the piri-pirippi I am, I had to get involved. At one point, we were setting up the make shift stage on the landing of their building. The plan was to take a sheet and shove it in between two opposite doors and then close the doors thus snapping the stage curtain into place. The only snag was that my right index finger was also smashed right into the hinge between the door and the wall. There were a few seconds of numbness where all feeling ceased to exist and then exquisite torture when the door was hastily opened and the blood came surging back into the squashed finger. I don't remember much more about it but I think we went to the doc and he wrapped it up. Unfortunately the nail bed was damaged and to this day, I have a weird fingernail on that finger that always causes a bit of trouble at the nail salon.

I don't remember much about Eluchechi as a kid except that she had what seemed like TONS of friends and was usually out with them. There were always tales of Lucky and others but I could never tell them apart and so they all blurred into one in my mind.

It was a fun place for us to go to and we went there every year as kids when we were in Kerala for the summer holidays. I looked forward to exploring their latest flat/ house as they often moved around within that area. Each house was essentially the same space but with a different configuration. It was fun figuring it out, although now I don't remember any of the others, except the last one.

Sudhu reminded me of how they never had a powercut in the colony which was quite a miracle in Kerala (and still is, by all accounts) Eddychayan explained that Aluminium had to be molten all the time (or something like that) so that plant ran 24/7 and they all worked shifts and the eclectricity never ran out.

I remember lying on Lillyammachi's latest bedsheet acquisition and being lulled into sleep by the heavy monsoon rains drumming on the asbestos covering of the garage. I think one year when Eddychayan had a Fiat car, it wouldn't start so we had to push it out of the garage before he could drop us to the station but memory plays tricks so I'm not sure if that really happened...

Renuchechi was fab at her studies and I think she has collected an impressive 3 master's degrees. I remember once when we visited, the grown ups were still talking, she tucked us into bed and then went into the back bedroom to study, in this cosy big cane chair and I remember wondering why she was studying when she could be talking to the others. Of all the cousins, she was the one who most loved listening to the family stories and would actively collect everyone and encourage them to talk after dinner while she tucked herself in a corner and listened.

Another memory of Renuchechi's which she probably would like to bury forever ;-) is when she went on a cooking class during a break between degrees and learnt how to bake a pizza from scratch, amonst other things. She then made it again at home for some party, unfortunately I think she put twice the yeast in or something and the pizza crust came up like a bun. Fortunately not many people had even seen a pizza in those days so we just wolfed it down.

Renuchechi got married to Roy and went to live in America. Years later, I ended up in New York close to her in New Jersey so I often stayed with them on weekends and then later went back to see them and everyone else in NY every year, although I haven't done that in the last 2 years now so I must go again before Serena (who is totally into books like the rest of us) forgets what I look like! It's nice to know that she is always there to go to and Roy is always welcoming and full of the Malayali tendency to kaliyakku - just like us.

Eddychayan retired and they moved to their own house in Alwaye. I like going there to see them - Lillyammachi always has something acerbic and witty to say about everything (RenuC has inherited that straight talking) and Eddychayan always has a big hug for everyone. I look forward to Lillamma's pacha moru and aetheka appapam and Lillyammachi's experiments with food - most of which are yum! The garden is usually filled with different plants she has transplanted, exchanged or purloined ;-) there are fruits, coconuts, palm fronds et al drying in the backyard or on the terrace, the cat is slinking around, the neighbours are popping in and exclaiming about how much we've grown, Appa and Lillyammachi are gently gossiping in the background and you know there will soon be yummy food on the table. The sheer assurance that it will be the same, time after time, is breathtaking and now that we don't have Appachen and Ammachi's to go to, Lillyammachi's place has become that memory of perfect old fashioned Kerala for me and I love her for keeping it that way.


Sudha said...

The part about Lillyammachi's house being now like the last connection with childhood Kerala rings true. Never thought abt it like that but now that you said is so true.

I remember Renuche saying that everyday she needed some time off where she didn't want to see any people. At that age I was totally impressed by such a cool funda though I didn't get it. But now I feel like that too!

Kavita said...

Was just telling Renuchech that the tea set seemed to have a following of its own!! :)

Sudha said...

Oh yes...the tea set was definitely a high point of the visit.