This was a very strange place for this smell. Not one expected at a three star hotels. The smell of a rice granary. Most of the traditional houses along the west coast had this “agrashala” or store room.
The smell of the days of long stretches of holidays that suddenly galloped to a finish. The days of no summer camps or holiday homework. Holiday meant a holiday.
The smell was what I call the seven clock smell.
We cousins would gather at Bailoor for our annual vacation. The house at bailoor was alive with people.
My grandfather’s brother Dr.A.L.N.Rao or Bailoor ajja as we called him had his “shop” that is the dispensary and a busy practise. His wife Lakshmi chikki or Bailoor chikki as we called her was the queen of the household. She ran it with her brand of dictator ship also called Fete accompli.
She had no choice any given day the house had 15- 20 people. Relatives who lived at the house as they had to go to college. Family members close and distant who were ill. Then those family members who were on their annual vacation. Six cows, two dogs, three cats and a monkey. I think that was a tremendous lot to manage.
Chikki’s day must have been hectic. Previous night she would ensure that the huge brass pots in the bathrooms were filled with water, these were called “hande” early morning, it was light the fire for hot water, light the stove place water for coffee, milk the cows, and she would then make the coffee decoction. Forget the filter; she would strain the coffee with cloth.
When chikki tossed the coffee powder into the water it was the alarm, funnily it was not the sound that woke me up but the smell. I would amble up to the kitchen she would ask me to brush. Then she would bribe me with half a cup coffee, if I brushed my teeth. Off I would go, by the time I returned, the rice would be on the stove, coffee made and chikki would have taken ajja’s coffee for him.
I loved sitting on the “jagalee” or the long corridor, peaking out and sipping my coffee, by the time rest of the kids woke I would be trotting with ajja, to his precious garden, the roses, the xenia’s and god knows what else, the chirping birds, mangoes to be picked, the sun would be visible by this time with mild warmth and the waft of boiling rice.
Eight would be “ganji oota” or the breakfast of steaming boiled rice, the water content three times the rice, ghee and pickle. We really enjoyed breakfast. Some days there would be a treat of dosa or idli from the “kamatra hotlu” that is the hotel run by the kamat.
Those days, we never really bothered much about variety. Beans, cauliflower, beetroot, carrot were unheard off. We ate gourds, melons, bananas and herbs. Coconut was a major component of food.
Coconut oil the medium of cooking. The oil was extracted at the mill next door.
We grew most of our vegetables, pickled our preserves we were definitely healthier.