Avakaya Blues

Come to think of it, Avakaya Noone, (the gingelly oil in which the Avakaya pickle floats) is a formidable match to Kerosene, when it comes to invasive pervasiveness.
Avakaya is the great pickle of the Telugu people. ( Alas, the Andhra appellation the Telugus of all areas universally flaunted to define themselves in times not very distantly past, is out of fashion these days. Grotesque terms like Seemandhra, coined by callous media people for brevity are current. Be that as it may.).Coming back to Avakaya the fierily delicious mango pickle of the Telugoo people. Neatly cut pieces of fresh raw mangoes are mixed up in an amalgam of intimidatingly red chilly powder ,salt, mustard powder and a pinch of Haldi, and may be, a liberal sprinkling of mashed garlic and then drenched or rather submerged in gingelly oil. The garlic version is not my favourite. No fault of garlic, I blame my upbringing for that. The pickle so prepared and stored in ceramic jars keeps for more than an year, until the next crop of raw mangoes arrives into the market.)

The early seventies. I was working in a project an hour’s bus-journey from Bhadrachaloam (the pilgrim town and the abode of Sri Rama) staying alone in the project hostel. I was married a few months ago. The missus was staying with my parents at the Patnam .There was a long week end and I wished to spend it with my people. The bus to the Patnam used to start at about Eleven in the night at Bhadrachalam. There was a stop midway at the place where I lived, but sometimes when the bus was full it used to proceed onwards without stopping overv there, leaving the waiting passengers behind in the cliched lurch. So I thought it was safer to go backwards to Bhadrachalam and board the bus at its starting terminal. I packed a few clothes for the short stay in a backpack and waited at the bus stop towards Bhadrachalam sufficiently early in the evening.
Soon enough, to my relief, a bus to Bhadrachalam came. There were only a handful of passegers, most others having alighted at their destinations mid way. The seats were cushy, it was a deluxe bus and the seats were upholstered with soft dark brown cotton corduroy.. I settled myself in one of the front seats and awaited a pleasant one-and-a-half hour journey to Bhadrachalam on the unusually cool evening of a sweltering summer season.
The bus was filled with a strong alluring aroma of Avakaya, and garlic .Some one must be taking a liberal dose of the delectable pickle to their loved ones at Bhadrachalam. I close my eyes and begin to doze. Soon I feel very sultry and uncomfortable.My body turns prickly hot and starts to itch and burn all around. I try to scratch my back and bottom and find my skin and clothes wit and sticky. I wondered as to why on a balmy evening I was sweating thus. The lights were off in the bus and I squirmed uncomfortably in the inky darkness. By and by, the bus reached its destination. In the dimly lit bus station I found to my horror that my hands, back of my head and body were all blood red. They reeked of Avakaya ( Avakaya aficionados should pardon me for using this odious and odorous term for the delicious aroma.).
I realise that it was not sweat but sticky Avakaya oil that coated my back and bottom thickly and soaked my skin to its deepest pores.Some passenger must have kept a jar of Avakaya in the shelf above my seat.
I was in two minds, whether to go ahead on a miserable overnight journey to my destination or go back to the loneliness of my room in the project hostel, take a long bath and go to bed awaiting a dreary weekend alone. If a lonely stay at the wretched barracks was what the gods had in store for me this long week end, so be it.
Then the tube light in my cranium slowly flickers in. Let me find a room in a lodge for the few hours that remained before the bus that would take me home arrived. I go around the town, but find no vacancy any where, it was summer and the festive time of Sri Rama Navami was around the corner. At last, I come to a lodge which seemed more like a hovel than a lodge. I sought a room, to no avail. When I was turned around in disappointment, the manager-cum-owner-cum clerk condescends to allow me the use of a stinky common rest room to refresh my self, of course for a pound of flesh, no not literally, for he fortunately seemed, from the way he looked at me with disgust, to have a loathing for raw human flesh marinated liberally in avakaya, and flavored over with body odours for good measure.
The rest is happy history, of a memorable weekend with my dear ones. But for a week or more, people wrinkled their noses when I approached them, I continued to reek with the strong aroma of garlic avakaya.


About versa kay

Agile, keen, versatile,considerate,patient
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