Many years have passed since those days. In recent times, my mother gives us pickles in a three-tier tiffin carrier. She and my grandmother still make 4-5 varieties of pickles, but on a smaller scale. I still have no clue how exactly they are made.
Since a few years, some introspection. A feeling that I must retain this art of pickle making, so unique to my people. I can't let it disappear, can I? and unless I learn and make pickles myself, how will I teach my children? how can I let them lead a home-made-pickle-less existence? With these thought constantly nagging me, a few years back, I joined my aunt when she made pickles, and made notes. I came home thrilled, with large bottles of pickles, but with a feeling that my aunt had done most of the work...I had just watched. Ditto when I joined my mother in her pickle-making efforts the subsequent year.
After these attempts, I went back to my gilli-danda ways, and forgot about making pickles. Just bought Priya pickles off the shelf when we needed some...seemed quite sensible, except for the mechanical taste of commercial pickles.
This year, with the long, hotter-than-before summer days ahead, and with not too much pressure of work and added to everything else, the disappointment of a cancelled holiday, I decided to Make My Own Pickles once again. Just to refresh my memory (and to learn their secrets), I went to my Andhra neighbour's house when they were making their pickles, watched them and quickly wrote down their recipes. Aha...I was all set!
Nallakunta market in Hyderabad is abuzz with mango sellers, mango choppers and buyers, who go there unmindful of the heat. There is an infectious enthusiasm there as people buy mangoes in 100s, to make their yearly pickles. As advised by my neighbour, I took a bottle of water and a clean cloth, washed the mangoes I bought, and gave them to the bandi-wallah to chop, and quickly spread the cloth I took, so the pieces fell on my clean cloth and not on his dirty plastic sack.
Cut to the next few days. The mixing done, every morning for 5-6 days, two of the pickles need to be sun-cooked. So either I go up or if busy, I nag my jobless, holidaying children to take them up to the terrace. They grumble and begin disliking my new pickle-making avatar! But the whole day, as the sun blazes and everyone else is moaning and complaining, I am ever so happy that my pickle is getting the hottest sun possible, and would cook perfectly. Just think---this one thought makes the summer heat so much more bearable! And any sign of even a remote cloud, and we rush to get the pickles back. This summer, the mango pickles became a total raison-d'-etre. Perhaps it has been this way for millions of women all over India for generations. I am happy I finally discovered this.
My kitchen looks special and different. Large vessels covered with cloth sit on my microwave in the ant-less part of my kitchen. I wait patiently till the pickles are finally done. With enthusiasm and care, I trasfer them into bottles. With greater enthusiasm and pride I given a bottle of each to my mother and mother-in-law. And some to my neighbour. The verdict is good. Everyone's enjoying the three varieties of pickles I made. It is great feeling...very satisfactory, indeed!
I have arrived...on the street parallel to that on which I played gilli-danda.