Amma n Achan · Sweet memories

Home is the first school..

The other day I was drafting a mail to a federal office and J complimented me that the words used were spot on. This is not the first time he is praising my drafting skills. Though I have touched a bit of drafting in my academics, I owe this completely to my dad..

I was wondering about the big little things that our parents ‘teach’ us without not really teaching.. Those things we see growing up and eventually become a part of us. I am sure everyone of us has a fair share to talk about this.

Achan had his own expectations when it comes to drafting something. No matter how much modern / communicative English has changed, he has his own set of rules like leaving two thumb space before starting a fresh para, adding punctuations, the position of the date line etc. He has made sister and I draft many letters to banks, government offices, service providers etc. Not to mention, he was never satisfied with them. He is a perfectionist and wants us to use the exact words which he thinks of. Some small changes or additions he suggested took the letter to a new level.

One instance I can quickly recall is when I misplaced my sim card during college days. He asked me to draft a letter requesting for duplicate sim card. In the letter, I had mentioned that, the sim was lost. He suggested me to add the word “irrecoverably” before the word lost. I felt the addition of that word gave more meaning to the letter and that word is the very essence of the request I am trying to communicate. That’s where I learnt drafting.

Along with the academic knowledge, our parents ensured that we learned the basic life skills like filling up pay in slip, paying electricity bill, making a cheque payment, changing a fused bulb, putting a stopper for water leakage, dehusking a coconut, drawing water from the well, unclogging the wash basin etc. We learned things by seeing them do.

I am so proud of my parents for their honesty, compassion and dedication towards their work. More on their career life later.

Achan and amma was always for eco friendly organic living – long before being organic was a thing. He grows bananas, peppers, coconut, jackfruit, mangoes, guavas, sappottas etc in his backyard. Amma has a small kitchen garden. Wood ash and cow dung are the only manures used. He proudly flaunts his few feet long bunch of banana as the one untouched by chemicals. Every part, right from the leaves to flower to stem appears on the dining table on multiple forms on the following days. Then comes different varieties of spinach, tapioca and other local vegetables. I always wanted to have a kitchen garden for myself. But frequent shifting of houses and extreme weather conditions stopped me from planting even a curry leaf plant. This would be on top of my list once I move back to India.

We had to cut a few trees to build our house – whatever could be moved, was moved to a new space, wherever the design could be altered, it was altered to accommodate the trees. For example, our compound wall is not a straight one. It is bent at multiple spots to accommodate the trees which should have otherwise been chopped. He has planted three times the number of trees that had to be chopped off and had ensured that atleast 80% of the saplings have survived.

Achan had cows all his life. He love them as much he loves his family. Along with organic farming, he is an advocate of supporting local breeds. He has travelled hundreds of kilometers to bring home the local cows and also to mate them with local breeds.

Even much before the ban of plastic bags, Achan always had a shopping bag neatly folded in his bag / pocket. After moving to US and running a home myself, I was surprised to see the number of plastic covers that came home after each shopping. I was traumatised to find that plastic bags are not banned here. Within one week of my stay, I bought two reusable shopping bags.

Back home, dish washing was always done by turning the taps open only half way to save unnecessary wastage of water, eventhough we had a well and multiple ponds nearby and water scarcity was out of question. Ironing the clothes was a weekly or bi weekly affair.  There was no concept of garbage bags. The windows were always left open for air circulation before resorting to fans in the summer. A bowl of water was left in the backyard for the thirsty crows and cats. Achan poured a bucket of water over the cows everyday in summer to soothe them from the heat, apart from their weekly spa. 😉 (Spa because bathing the cow was a long process.) Every Vishu / Onam saw the less privileged in the area visiting him for a gift (as money, food and clothes sometimes) Walking was his preferred mode of transportation. He always refused lifts. What did we kids learn? Why did they do this? This was not done out of budget constraints but as a sense of duty towards our society. They imparted the duty of common man towards the society, the nature, to fellow beings etc to the younger generation. I would be grateful if I could be half as good a human being as my parents when I am of their age.

When it comes to running the home or home organization, I see a lot of amma in me. Growing up, the empty bottles of Boost, Bru, Anikspray etc reappeared in the kitchen in its new avatar as storage containers. I follow her. I have not bought storage containers except the two large ones for rice and aatta. The rest of the stuff is stored in recycled bottles of yogurt and dosa batter from my pre-mixie days.

She stands by the policy that what is cooked in the home should be eaten by everybody, irrespective of whether you like it or not. A home is different from a hotel where you can choose what you want. At home, if you decide not to eat, starve. No alternatives will be provided, except the leftovers from the previous days. She always said they (amma and aunt) cannot cook to please all the nine members in the house. Though I often get confused whether to force feed J something which he doesn’t like or to let him choose what he wants to eat, I am a lot like her mostly. He is not a fan of vegetarian food. On weekends I let him choose what is to be cooked (mostly non veg) and on weekdays the prepared veg and egg dishes should be had. Also, whenever he cooks, I just let him be.

I can go on and on about the things I learned at my home which I have made a part of my family’s too now.

Do you mind telling me some habits or practices which you have carried from your parents’ to your house?

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2 thoughts on “Home is the first school..

  1. I see that you are very proud of your family and rightly so, the discipline, sense of education and a wealth of education offered in your home. One can learn so much from the wisdom offered and I enjoyed reading this post on the family’s way of life to perfect one’s skills and be ahead by chucking mediocrity.

    1. Right observation V.. I am extremely proud of my parents and the way they raised us. Whatever I am, I learned from my home. 🙂

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