< A Dog
Jayam sat at the entrance of the kitchen, her hands greasy with oil. Bracts of banana flower the colour of dark flesh lay on the ground. She pulled away the pearly florets and left them to soak in a bowl of buttermilk.
She muttered under her breath, cursed her misfortune that kept her an outsider in her own brother’s house; she had come to live with him after the death of her husband. She blew her nose for the benefit of Brinda, her brother’s young wife. “A stone pot that a slip of girl got as dowry can make me a stranger to my own brother,” she sniffled.
Brinda placed the stone pot over the coal stove, then poured in oil, spluttered mustard seeds, red chillies and tamarind pulp in the pot. Droplets of moisture formed above her lips as she stirred the thick sauce with a wooden ladle.
“Don’t forget the curry leaves, a pinch of asafoetida and turmeric, Nathan likes kozhambu that way,” Jayam said. She leaned toward the stove, watched the brown liquid simmer, and blowing away fumes that rose from the pot, smelled the dish.
The banana leaves were placed for two people on the floor in the dining room, Nathan had invited his childhood friend Balu for lunch. Nathan had asked Brinda to cook kozhambu in her stone pot.
“He is a doctor in Canada, I have known him since the days he ran about the house without knickers,” Jayam said as she bustled about the kitchen filling tall tumblers of cool water to be placed near the banana leaves.
When Nathan and Balu sat down to eat at the banana leaves, Jayam served rice, spiced vegetables and lentil soup. Nathan looked toward the kitchen and called for kozhambu. A shadow moved behind the door, but Jayam sprinted to the kitchen and returned with the stone pot. She ladled kozhambu on top of mounds of rice placed on the banana leaves.
“The taste of your kozhambu has not changed over the years, akka!” Balu said.
“Dei Balu,” Jayam said, “Nathan’s wife Brinda made the kozhambu, I have trained her well.”
published 25 September 2013