Friday, November 16, 2012

A Taste of the Mallu

In the banana-republic of Kerala- whose name translates to 'land of coconuts'- the banana-ness and the nutty-ness feature stridently in its cultural and often physical make up. The very shape of the state itself can be likened to an elongated pazhampori (fried banana fritters- a singularly unglamorous, but uniquely yummy dish). The natives unconsciously try to emulate their beloved banana and coconut trees: They look like the former and smell like the latter. Or vice-versa. We mallus either come in the soft, stocky variety or the inevitable tall, swaying type. In both cases the hair is large and scarily bouffant. And if it is not these two fruits, then we mallus generally come along the lines of the other superstar of mallu cuisine- Jackfruit. Mallus of this variety are large,prickly and cause a lot of damage if they come down on your head. But open them up and they are golden, honey-sweet and very messy to handle. Mango mallus on the other hand are deceptively benign. Sweet, effusive and fat with health and good will, they look benevolent enough to make one forget about the stinging sap and the inevitable stomach upset from over indulgence. Cut too close to their core and things can and will turn sour. And then of course there is the tsundere mangosteen of the bright, strong rind and soft melting insides with just the right amount of snap to keep you on your toes.

But don't let all this fruit-talk fool you into thinking we are healthy company.. 

Another elucidation of the mallu reflection in food is the plethora of chips that we have managed to create. We mallus have managed to turn the most un-fry-eristic entities into chips or fry-ums. Jackfruit, bitter-gourd, ladiesfinger, beans, chillies, bananas- you name it we fry it. And what we can't fry we turn into fiery pickles that leave your stomach lining charred, as the famous kadumanga, which looks as deadly as it tastes, will attest. Our pickling penchant is all inclusive, making provisions for not only our flora but also our fauna. No hostel would be complete without someone pulling out Ammachi's  homemade fish pickle or Amma's special prawn pickle. Think of the last thing you would ever think of pickling/ chipsing/ turning into jam and I can present you with a packet. Perhaps  the most astonishing fact about the Mallu palate is that we are omnivores in the truest sense. While no occasion is complete without the all-vegetarian feast menu of the sadhya, the non-vegetarian mallus are almost obscenely accommodating to anything that breathes. Fish, fowl or amphibian we make room for you on our plate.

Our protean diet makes its way into our social make-up turning the general mallu into a wonderfully adaptive creature with multiple avatars and an overblown sense of confidence and self importance in a world which does not know of half the favorites that stemmed from their land (ever heard of 'lubika'? It's a fruit.) and does not care. But it is perhaps this tepid social response that challenges the mallu to take the world in hand and show it how its done. We love the world and are determined that it enjoys what we do. We are a little autocratic that way, but it all comes from the best intentions. After all, how can a generous mallu allow their beloved brethen to go on in life without enjoying the universally yummy taste of kappa-meenkariWe are resilient and hardy- much like our famed rubber (which has resisted every attempt at edibilisation). We are like our metamorphic menus- we change to taste and acquire additions and renovations with few reservations. Which, strangely, does embody the spirit of globalisation and therefore is a perfect explanation for why Mallus are taking over the world. Besides of  course the simple fact that once we decide to stay you can't get rid of us- much like jackfruit gum (the connection endures).

We are wholly unexpected. Yet strangely wholesome. And very often unholy strange. And yes the multiple use of 'strange' is perfectly apt. In either case, I am told we are an acquired taste- you may feel the urge to spit us out, but we are always a memorable ride for the adventurous palate. Would you like to try?

Thursday, August 02, 2012


The rain is crying
At my window pane.
And I cannot go out
And comfort it
I suppose this is what they call
Growing up.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


I found a dream
At the back of my head
And carried it
For it's a hard thing to touch.

I found my dream
And laid it to rest.
Then sang myself to sleep.