There was a tradition of having lunch at about 10.00 AM in Tamil Brahmin homes skipping breakfast. There would be an elaborate ritual of tiffin at 4.00 PM either preceded or followed by coffee. Dinner would be a relatively simple affair and very often curd rice and pickle would do. This arrangement suited office goers as well as school going children. The ladies in the joint family also preferred this arrangement since it gave them time enough to pursue their hobbies like sewing, trying out new recipes or even for a game of ‘pallanguzhi’ as Usha pointed out in her post. Come vacations, the children in the family visiting their grandparents, would be treated to what they called a ‘second meal’. Wow! The memory makes my mouth water even now.
Around two in the afternoon when children would be done with plucking mangoes and climbing trees an elderly aunt or grandmother would call the children for ‘rendandharam’ or a second meal not to be confused with ‘rendandhaaram’ or second wife! She would mix a big bowl of curd and rice and keep beside it a smaller bowl of south Indian specialities like ‘milagu kuzhambu’ or ‘vattal kuzhambu’ as side dish. Children of all ages would form a circle around her. They would be given a ‘vadumangai’ or tender mango to ‘bite’! Narrating interesting stories and anecdotes about various family members, the lady in question would ask the children to stretch out their palms and place in it a small ball of curd rice. The children would dig out a small depression in the rice ball and a little of the side dish would be placed in it. All this was done with care. The amount of curd rice served would be proportional to the size of the child’s mouth so that it could be swallowed at one go. Children would end up eating twice their normal quota when food was served in this manner. As children we never got tired of listening to stories about ‘girl seeing ‘ ceremonies of our aunts and how a burglar was cleverly chased away by our grandfather etc. etc. We would often ask for a repetition of the same stories.
Times have changed now and these simple pleasures are no longer available to kids in their pre-teens. Vacations are taken up with summer camps and tours rather than a visit to one’s native place. And of course TV serials and cartoon shows have taken over from the few grand parents who may be willing to narrate stories to their grandchildren. As for parents, in their anxiety to avail the best for their children they remain a confused lot