Grandmother’s Avvakai

by Siva Ramanathan
The Writer's Block
Third Place, October 2016
Judged by Richard Krawiec


Mangoes diced with seeds intact
tossed with salt to offset osmosis of brine;
chilli, fried fenugreek and mustard powder;
ample gingili oil that holds it together
and prolongs the shelf life. No substitutions.

Grandma had the mangoes sliced,
seeds intact with a fulcrum knife.

She squatted in the foyer with porcelain jars
lined up like the seven virgins at a shrine.

Her vocabulary was foul, but her hands were clean;
she gagged the mouths of these jars with muslin.

Three or four months in the store room,
then they rode to Madras along with cattle in a lorry.

My childhood curiosity led me to peep in
on those afternoons when Kitchaan and the house slept.

Grandma had swear words as long as her ear lobes.
She let them loose whenever she could not
hold fast to her wander-lust husband.

Two things remain in my memory –
the smell of fried mustard, and the long list of
her husband’s sly-widow paramours.


This was a bit looser than the other winners, and not sure the recipe is essential, but I enjoyed the originality of the images - swear words as long as ear lobes - and the use of slant rhyme. --Richard Krawiec

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