The waning moon peeps in through my window. The sea breeze has set in. The curtains are opened out and yet the grill bars the clear view of tree tops. There is even a dog that is howling.
Halcyon days of childhood when the Nila saapadu would be planned rush into my thoughts. A trail of kids, siblings, cousins, neighbours, visiting friends, carrying things would snake up the steps to the terrace of our bungalow and spread mats and jamakkalams (rugs) and sprawl around. Jugs of water to drink, stainless steel glasses, a bucket of water and a mug, a torch were the equipment. Then Amma would labour up the steps carrying a huge vessel mixed with rice and gravy and another elder or maid would bring another vessel with curd rice and pickles.
We would all sit in a circle and the story would start—Vedalam, Ramayanam , Mahabharatham, with every dollop of food dropped by Amma into the centre of our outstretched palms, one by one, that would go plop into our hungry mouths. No complaints, no slow eating, no moans or groans, no likes or dislikes—the food would just disappear into our gullets. Suddenly after a round Amma would exclaim, “Oh I forgot the Appalam/vadam” and one of the older kids would be sent downstairs to fetch the sambadam in which the crunchy munchies would have been stored airtight. The curd rice followed with a tangy touch of tamaring gravy or tangy, freshly-made, baby mango—vadumanagai—pickle.
And then we were all presented with a whole mango each and the delight of slurping, sucking, chewing the pulp would shut us up for some time. It was summer and we would just curl up and go to sleep on the terrace, in the open, after chatting, fighting, crying, laughing and then yawning our way into a replete slumber.
This was our version of a picnic and slumber party thrown into one!