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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Grandma Tales

When you are always walking around with a camera in your hand and have made your sick dad's bedside your temporary headquarters and your biggest admirer and chamcha is your adorable 2 1/2 year old nephew, you have many things going for you at the same time.

1. you have to distract nephew from your dad. i.e., given a choice he should jump on your chest instead of your dads.

2. given a choice he should go tinker with something other than your camera

3. he should be engaged so that you get to hold on to the Numero Uno status he gives you as the most favorite relative and keeps saying "perippa dhan romba pidikkum"

Luckily for you, you lie on the bed and adjust your zoom and what do you see?

A lead into chee Chee indha pazham pulickum (Loosely translated into english as "yuk yuk, this fruit is sour", the story of the fox calling the grapes sour)

After we have analyzed the Kulla Nari who cries "sour grapes" a dozen times, periappa and nephew got bored and switched Nari's alias to Jackal (yeah, we know Nari is Fox, but Jackal adds a certain level of mystery to it) and the grapes to unripe Mangoes and of course, changed the ending.

The Jackal's mommy gives him a beating for crying sour grapes and giving up. He gets the tall stool from the kitchen, puts it under the tree and gets the mango and promises never to give up again without trying everything in his power. My mom and SIL were alarmed that periappa teaching the little kid all these alternate endings might get him a fail grade in story time when he goes to first grade. But that, is another story in itself!

Then what do we see, but two lovely crows and their nest on the adjacent Badam (almond) tree and the crows swoop down to a wooden plank on the kitchen window, designed and approved by the local Vastu experts. They eat rice that is offered, prior to any humans eating it. There is a sincere belief that our dead ancestors come in the form of crows and eat the rice first to bless us.

I am not a fan of Vastu, and do not know if the crows are our ancestors, but definitely love the concept of feeding the crows before we eat!

1. It keeps our respect for animals, birds alive.

2. It teaches kids to love our fellow creatures.

3. If crows, cows, chickens are all gods, ancestors and vehicular transport for gods (see all those Kapali Utsavam photos in last weeks posts and you will know what we are talking about here) it helps keep vegetarian kids vegetarian. (does not work all the time, but definitely improves the odds)

4. It is a ton of fun to race your brother with a karandi-full (ladle) of just boiled rice, go to the terrace and shout "kaa kaa" and claim the first one that attracts the crow to the rice to be winner!

My nephew is missing out on that, with the wooden stand two feet away from the stove! Again, we digress..

So, we talk about the crow stealing the roti, vadai, etc. from various grandmas for the next couple of days. Usually start the story with, "oru oorla, kauaa kauaa-nu oru kaaka irundhudan" (In a town, there was a crow whose name was Kauaa). The name was repeated twice for emphasis and when I quizzed the kid "what was the name of the crow?" he would say "kauaa kauaa". It was soo sweet.

This story had no happy twist. The crow always lost the food it stole to "Jackal".

It is easier to rerun grandma tales in India than it is in the USA because somehow the Dora's, Boot's and Princess'es come in and spoil the thread. When you stick to simple trees, nests, crows and fruits, there is less distraction.

There is always one of my favorites which deviates from this rustic theme, "Anipullai america pona kadhai" (the story of how the local squirrel went to America), which my grandma spun for me. This anipullai did come to America, and is now finding it difficult to keep that story alive.

Maybe this blog will have that story, with full color illustrations some day...


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I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 7:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote...

Wow you have such talents. Try writing story books for kids :-)


I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 11:01 AM, Blogger Kavi wrote...

Such tales...that instilled values and ethics in us !

Its a far cry now..with people learning their stories from songs on TV !


Awesome writing !

I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 10:16 PM, Blogger Sundar Narayanan wrote...


have done it once. seems like ages ago..


Kavi, the songs on TV are very weird.. somehow made to fit to certain stereotypes, subliminal advertising, etc. etc.

not that great.

I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 5:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote...

Champak, Chandamama, Panchatantra and wisdom my favorite books.

Good job with the Chembu and zebu story. You scenario sounds more like Arabian nights a new story every night :-)

Take care and keep blogging,


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