THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The dark, smoke-stained kitchen. A woman in the middle of brick stoves and earthen pots blowing air into the reluctant sputter of fire. An image that breaks open the floodgates to a distant past, it takes you on a full-blown nostalgic cruise. K A Beena’s Kuttikalam is filled to the brim with such images as the book painstakingly gathers and presents the snippets of a typical Kerala childhood. Divided into 17 parts, the book comes with a tagline ‘Malayali jeevicha balyangal’ a volley of sights, sounds and smells that mark a wistful past.
In the book she chronicles a carefree childhood, a time when kids were part of large joint families. It explains how nights were strikingly different from today as lone, flickering oil lamps were the only means to ward off darkness. With the sunset you are back home and the night air is often filled with umpteen sounds, some familiar, some scary.
Instead of Harry Potter there were stories of ghosts draped in sheer white saris, mischievous Kuttichattan and shape-shifting Odiyans. In the chapter Mazha the author portrays a long-forgotten memory, the torrential monsoon changing everything around. The water-starved landscape transforming into glorious shades of green, the overflowing wells and leaking roofs.
In Veetilethunnavar, we are introduced to a couple of familiar faces of old households Â- the bangle vendor and cloth merchant who arrive in regular intervals. A time when malls were unheard of, their visits created an air of excitement and festivity and the author gives a vivid account of it. She also writes about the warm memory of having piping hot kanji and its many accompaniments before taking off to school. Then comes the countless savouries, the ethnic snacks that awaited the kids after school. She talks about a variety of mangoes and the summer vacation days when thira is made from from mango pulp and an array of fruit delicacies were on offer.
For a generation addicted to computer games, the book explains an array of outdoor games, most of which gradually disappeared from playgrounds. Trips to nearby markets, reading material, radio- the horizon of children wasn’t that wide those days. There are also elaborate accounts about festivals, and the gamut of activities they promised for the kids. Kuttikalam is more or less a slice of history, a document mapping the lifestyle of Keralites some decades back. The book published by DC Books is priced Rs 130.
In the book, K A Beena chronicles a carefree childhood, a time when kids were part of large joint families. It explains how nights were strikingly different from today as lone, flickering oil lamps were the only means to ward off darkness