As a child, we were not allowed to eat elandampazham. Chee, one of the aunts would admonish wheneverI expressed an interest in the forbidden fruit, we do not eat such fruit. It never occured to me ask her why. In much the same way as I never questioned, until much later, other pearls of wisdom handed down to us. I simply accepted it and stayed away from watermelon, sweet potato and elandampazham. All of which, presumably, occupied the lowest rung of edibles. And everyday I was left looking longingly at the wooden cart piled high with elandampazham as it did brisk business outside our school.
For about 10 paise, you would get a paper coneful of sour-sticky, ripe berries sprinkled generously with salt and chilli powder. I never, ever bought a cone but sometimes, on rare occasions, a classmate would offer me a single pazham. I would grab it quickly before she had a chance to change her mind. And once in my hand, I would roll the fruit in my palm, fully aware of the rule I was about to break. What if they found out about it? Would the smells fade by the time I reached home? What if the fruit burst and the juices stained my white shirt? Would I be able to explain it without giving away too much? My mind would be in turmoil. But I would succumb to the temptation and pop the fruit into my mouth. I'd bite into its sumptuous flesh and savour its sharp sourness. In the following years, I have started eating watermelon and I make the most delicious falafels using sweet potatoes. But elendampazham? The aftertaste of guilt that lingered once the berry was gone was not very nice.
On Milkmaid, maggi