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In My Mother’s Hometown

My earliest memory of my mother’s hometown is of waiting.

Braving the heat of the noon, my brother, sister and I would wait impatiently at the gate for our grandfather to bring us the “pal-payasam” that gave the town its fame – straight from the cauldron, right after it was offered at the temple, before tourists clamored for their share. The payasam was a rich chocolate brown in those days, not rose tinted as it is now, perhaps because of the slow cooking wood fire and the unpasteurized milk from the grass-fed cows that roamed freely. We would squabble for extra helpings, making grandfather laugh… he knew that it was too heady for us to drink in large quantities. And sure enough, soon after a heavy lunch, and the payasam, we would all sink into exhausted sleep. Nothing much happened in the afternoons anyway, except the elderly folk chewing betel nut.

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