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On Coming Home: A Food Memoir Of A Hostelite


As we sat down to dig in (not so enthusiastically) in to our lunch of white rice and watered down sambhar or maybe tomato rice as a treat, we started our daily ritual of all that we wished were in front of us, instead of what was.  The ritual was repeated as if it could achieve something by magic, and make what we craved for appear in front of us. Warm Aviyal with oodles of shaved coconut and turmeric, tossed with cumin or maybe side of chammandhi made of red chili and crushed shallots roasted to perfection, and kneaded in with tamarind that is sour enough to send a jolt through your body, but not so sour that it makes ones hair stand on end.  The ritual was met with communal sighs from all those in earshot, “if only”.

Flying the coop has been something that most of us hostel dwellers have been craving for all our life, but we never knew what we were giving up. Sure – getting to live in a giant building with 499 other girls of your same age and among them your closest friends is a dream coming true. Armed with our arsenal of instant Maggi noodles, and various pickles, chutney powders and the odd packet of chips, we brave our daily rationed meals and carry with us a longing for home.

After that first month, heading home was a reprieve that we were all craving. As the days inched closer, we were making plans to do things we took for granted; having a cup full of tea/coffee in your favorite cup of choice, having water in a glass tumbler like a normal person and not having to care about food being rationed out. And the night before we head home, the food was oddly bearable, or maybe it was because we could almost taste the homemade food waiting for us. As the day inched closer, every “Goodbye, I’m going home” that weekend was met with the question of, “So, what will you be bringing back?”

For those who have never stayed away from our home, the first time of “coming home” is an experience of a lifetime. The family’s warm welcome includes a breakfast of puttu straight off the stove with a side of spicy beef curry, and a glass of hot tea to complete the trifecta. Every catch up conversation is accompanied with a side of pazhampori, kaya varuthath or any of the other ‘n’ number of items you have been missing. Gorging on Kerala rice, moru curry and beef fry to your absolute limit and passing out becomes a spiritual experience – once that fills your soul with absolute joy.

As you say good bye and head back, with a refilled stock of snacks, pickles and chutney powder, you take back a piece of home in your heart in your memories of flavors that you savored. But as you drift away to sleep on that bus back home, you realize that you have started to look forward to  your half filled cup of coffee and Aloo Paratha that is a little too hard with curd that is a little too sour than anyone else would prefer.


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