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India Currents gave me a voice in days I was very lost. Having my articles selected for publishing was very validating – Shailaja Dixit, Executive Director, Narika, Fremont

It was a Sunday afternoon, the sun began to stream through the slits of the shades, and as the heat began to spread, its bliss weighed down on my eyes, taking me to a distant land of white cows grazing over green pastures. I dream of a cowherd leaning back against the vast shade of a banyan tree, whistling a tune much like that from the flute of Krishna, dancing in Vrindavan to rasleela.

My favorite moments remind me of warmth. I think of Mamma fanning the flames under an eeya sombu (a tin vessel) in which hot bubbles of rasam crash against the sombu in a mad fury…

The aroma from the mixed concoction of jeera, mustard, coriander seeds, curry leaves, tomatoes, salt, and pepper hurl themselves against my nose, clearing the thick fog layering my nasal cavity. This is what I had called Mamma for. And, now, here it was, sputtering and thundering inside an iron cauldron threatening to gurgle over like the rushing waters of the Brahmaputra.

Using a fan made of dried and stretched banyan leaves, mamma fans the flames of the stove, occasionally fanning herself while she wipes the sweat beading around her neck by the edge of her cotton saree. At times the angry maroon waters threaten to spill over when she brings in the ladle to give the rasam a gentle swivel. 

She inhales the roiling fumes to make sure the salt, heat, and tanginess have been infused to exquisite proportions and then switches off the stove. As the last explosion of bubbles simmer down and disappear, Mamma sprinkles a sprig of coriander leaves chopped to infinitesimal pieces. This last act lifts the perfume of the rasam into the air, the house now is a fragrant bouquet of spices. Mamma collected the coriander leaves this morning to prepare that day’s meal.

She sees me waiting, and ladles two spoonfuls into an earthen cup. She blows her cool breath into the cup, parting the smoky heat among the liquid waves. Safety and comfort assured, I sip the ambrosia. I close my eyes in rapture, able to feel my nose again, I gently slip under the vast banyan tree to a mystical tune and step into a rasleela with Radha in Vrindavan.

Radhika Iyer is a writer, poet living in Detroit, Michigan.  After a long stint as a software professional, she now writes, gardens, and spends time with her family. Her works can be found at the Poetry Society Of Michigan and East By Northeast Literary Magazine

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