Do you know Maison Perumal?
Do you know Anandham Swamimalai?
No… okay … Then… Mantra Veppathur?
No, no, they are not names of people whom I know. In fact, even I didn’t know them till I saw them featured as most favored holiday home stays.
Yes, these are nothing but holiday homes which are an extension of your ancestral or patti-thatha’s (grandparents) house - a fading heritage house which has been embellished with modern comforts and special luxuries.
These home stays serve traditional cuisine for lunch and dinner. You can experience the timeless old world elegance, rediscover yourself and blend with the rhythm of the surroundings. All these are neatly packaged and marketed as holiday home stays/holiday homes.
A typical traditional Tamil home in a gramam(village) has a pillared verandah with tiled awning and stone benches called thinnais which doubles as a reception area for unknown strangers. Known people are ushered in through the rezhi (hall way) through the main solid wooden door which has beautiful alcoves embedded in the walls on either side called ‘maadam’. Diyas are lit inside this alcoves in the evening.
Inside you will find an inner open courtyard called ‘ Nadu mittam’ generally open to the sky or having grilled ceiling through which the sun’s ray filter. Around the inner courtyard on all the 4 sides you will have the bed rooms, store room and kitchen.
Behind this at the backyard you will find a place called 'pin mittam'( utility area) where you have ammi kal, kal ural,(grinding stone) and thoikkara kal( washing platform) along with kinaru (water well). This is the design of such homes.
For most of us staying in high-rises, caught in traffic locks, inhaling the polluted air and caught in the web of robotic city life, working lunch, fast food, deadlines etc., These home stays help us to recharge, rejuvenate and connects our children with age old traditions , culture and our roots.
Some of us are lucky to have old relatives staying and maintaining these ancestral traditional houses in gramam (village) while the children and grand children are at faraway places.
I have experienced many such beautiful holidays with my relatives and cousins at my husband’s grandmother’s home ‘Madhurambika Ashram’ in Lalgudi (a small town near Tiruchi in Southern Tamilnadu).
Waking up to the calls of chirping birds, the fresh scent of the unpolluted air tingling your noses and step out to the kitchen garden glistening with morning dew in the backyard or ‘mittam’ with a cup of hot frothy filter kaapi (typical south Indian coffee) in steel davara and tumbler (traditional cup and saucer) and enjoy them outside in the ‘ mittam’ under the shade of the narthangai tree ( citron) along with our aunts and cousins where huge patterns of kolam( rangoli) adorn, while our children enjoy the exercise of drawing water from the wells.
The bath water is not heated in a geyser here instead on a huge copper pot in the mittam on a viragu aduppu( chulha/ firewood stove).
Atthai patti(Mil’s aunt), chitti (MIL’s sister) and M-I-L (all of them are 70+ and very active) have their bath and get together to slow cook authentic traditional recipes with patient hands in earthern stove (aduppu) and gas stove on gentle low flames in vessels like kal chatty(stone vessels), irumbu vanali(Iron wok), vengala uruli( brass vessels), Iya chombu( tin vessel).These vessels guard and endow the dishes with essence and aroma enhancing the dishes with a distinct flavor which cannot be experienced in microwave cooking.
The dishes are made from the keerai(greens) like mudakathan,vada narayana keerai, murungai keerai( drumstick leaves), lemons, curry leaf, sundakkai(turkey berry) ,Manathakali, Narthangai, coconut all grown in the kitchen backyard or from fresh native vegetables like vazhaipoo( plaintain flower),garden beans, vazhaikkai( raw plaintain), pooshnikai,(pumpkin), senai (yam), pidi karanai etc brought from the market.
The maamis (uncle’s wives) in their 50’s help them in grinding the spices in ammi kal and kal-ural (grinding stones) while we cousins and DIL’s help in de-stemming, de-veining the keerai and chopping the vegetable.
Anna thatha(MIL's uncle) and mamas(uncles) are engaged in keeping the children busy with traditional games and storytelling.
Evenings are spent chatting, visiting nearby temple, shopping or making arrangements to take a tour to nearby places on the banks of the river Cauvery and star-gazing.(How many of us have seen a star spangled sky especially those like me staying in a city like HYD?)
We decided to have one such leisurely holiday at Lalgudi with atthai patti this December and promised atthai patti that I would be there, but thanks to the T-factor in our state, the schools have not declared X-mas vacation for a fortnight. It is just a 3 day vacation, so we have decided for a homestay, but of a different kind. We stayback at our own home for a vacation.
Happy vacation to all my blog readers and blogger friends.
Photo of mantra veppatur courtesy: The hindu