The Open Dosa

Consuming the Ordinary Differently

Black Magicking Ragi Muddes

Inspired after having read Siddalingaiah’s Ooru Keri (translated by S.R Ramakrishna as A Word With you, World) Keerthana writes these lively vignettes about her family.

Among the many relatives we frequently visited during our annual visits to Bangalore, Tara aunty, my grandmother’s sister was the craziest. I used to address all my grandmother’s siblings as aunty or uncle because Amma used to call them aunty or uncle. Tara aunty lived in Neelasandra, near Infant Jesus church. She had a few teeth missing in the front. I had always wondered why. Once when I was walking with an uncle from Sujatha theatre to the railway station, he told me the story of how Tara aunty lost her teeth.

Their parents had taken them to a temple in Mysore. It was the time when elephants would bless people if they were offered a rupee. When devotees had finished with prayers, they went to the elephants to get blessings. While others were seeking blessing, Tara aunty slipped from the group and went to another side where fruits for the elephants were kept. She picked up a few bananas and an elephant who saw her stealing the fruits became very angry. He went to her furiously and smacked her on the head with his trunk, making a ‘tangg’ sound. Due to the force, she lost a few of her teeth.

I believed what he told me. To begin with, I was used to seeing a lot of elephants in Mysore and secondly, I saw logic in getting pissed off when someone tried to steal your food.

Another uncle told me that Tara aunty was a twin and that they had lost the other one when the twins were just a few months old. Apparently, the babies were lying on the floor when a small wooden shelf fell on Tara aunty. But oddly it was the other baby that died the next day. It’s still a mystery how that happened, he said. I just wondered if it was possible that they couldn’t differentiate which baby is which. But he was too old, so I didn’t dwell on it.

Despite the missing teeth, Tara aunty was very pretty. She took me to Neelasandra market every morning to buy vegetables. She always bought vegetables in small quantities. I liked going to Neelasandra market. It was similar to the market we had in Mysore, but with more people. After buying the vegetables required for the day, she’d walk back and forth looking at all the shops in the market before settling on one shop to buy tomatoes. She did this every day. A few years later, I learned that she would have very little money for vegetables. So she searched for shops where she could buy slightly spoiled tomatoes for lower price and use the good parts for cooking.

My family is the hub for food related drama. Huge fights have broken out because of food. There was this one time when an uncle went with his wife to a cousin’s house to give her a surprise visit. After eating the rasam rice and appla he was served, he went to the kitchen to keep his plate and found a pot of meat curry boiling on the stove. The sister who wasn’t expecting him in the kitchen just closed the pot hurriedly, smiled and walked out. That was the last time he ever ate at her place.

His son, Vicky wanted to take revenge for this humiliation but he didn’t do anything about it immediately.  He went to her house a few years later. When she asked him what he’d eat, he replied, “It’s okay, Aunty. Since I was going to visit you, I ate chicken fried rice outside and came.”

At a family function a few months ago, he was preparing to send all the extra food to an orphanage. The sister told him to save some food for themselves before sending it. To this he replied, “Paravagilla bidi aunty. Avarige haakudre punya baruthe, nimge haakudre yen siguthe?” (Leave it aunty. If I give the food to them, I’ll at least gain some virtue. If I give it to you, what will I get?) I broke out laughing hearing this. Vicky always made mean comments in a humorous way, so no one took him seriously.

Another incident in my family that sends us into a fit of giggles involves a man from the neighborhood who thought that someone was performing a black magic ritual in front of his house. 

It all began when we were served Ragi mudde for lunch at my aunt’s place during Dasara. Even though my family was not a fan of mudde, some of us ate it without questioning. We were told we could have rice after eating the mudde. But my grandfather who was hesitant to eat the mudde, picked the smallest piece possible, dipped it into the curry repeatedly as if he was demanding the curry to mask the mudde. After two or three bites, he just couldn’t do it anymore. Luckily for him, he was sitting in the balcony. He took the ragi mudde and tossed it off the balcony without thinking twice and proceeded to ask for rice. Two of my uncles who were sitting near him wondered how he had finished eating it so fast. After my grandfather told them what he had done, they threw their muddes off the balcony too.

The man who lived on the ground floor came knocking on the door a few mins after we had finished eating lunch. “Was it you who threw ragi muddes in front of my house?” He asked my aunt. She was confused and asked him what he was talking about. Then he told her how he’d come out of his door and had found 3 ragi muddes sitting in front of his door. He was worried that someone was performing some sort of a black magic ritual on his house. Hearing this, we went to the balcony to see. There they were, three ragi muddes on the floor, sitting in a triangle like a planned coincidence. 

The man had said a lot of hurtful words to my aunt before the three people admitted it was they who had thrown it, after which they were at the receiving end of all the shouting. In the end, all three went downstairs and scraped the ragi muddes off the floor and carried them to the dustbin. For the rest of the day, we all pretended like the incident hadn’t taken place at all.

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Keerthana CJ

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