From a very young age, I have had an eye for home décor. Even in the small company quarters where I grew up, I used to improvise things and put them up as living room embellishment. Our pockets didn’t allow elaborate furnishing or ornamentation for a long time, in fact it remained so for several years even after I came to the Gulf. But the taste didn’t melt away, and I used whatever we had at our disposal to add glamour to our interiors. Our first centre and side tables in Muscat were cartons wrapped in colourful bed spreads. Show pieces were cheap stuff that I showcased like souvenirs from faraway lands. Slowly I began to collect curios that would make for decent living-room trimmings. Nothing lavish or outlandish, but cute little things on display that could elevate our home from being a mere four walls to a happy, harmonious living space. A small paradise that paraded things from sea shells that I picked to vases and figurines that I purchased. But things are not always as pretty as we perceive. It takes no time for the lens to shift and a charming picture to become distorted. It was the festive season of 2008 and we had invited a few friends home for dinner. One of them had a two year old, eager to reach out to all that were on display. The mother who was struggling to keep her little one’s hands off them suddenly said to me, ‘your house is not child friendly.’ I took a moment to gather my response, and said gently, ‘Yes, no children here. So we can afford to keep it this way.’ Not child-friendly. The phrase stuck with me for some unknown reason. Not in a bitter, rueful way, but there was something unsettling about the way it was uttered. Years later now, I have a two year old next door. Our house is still littered with bric-a-brac of various kinds. But little Aarav has his favourite thing. MANJADI KURU (called lucky red seeds). There is nothing else that draws his curiosity. The seeds that I have placed in front of a Krishna ensemble is the only thing he will lay his hands on when he is here. As soon as I open the door, Aarav barges in and darts straight to the brass crucible of manjadi. He runs his little hands in it, laughs with mirth and lisps excitedly, “manjadi, manjadi.’ Now and then, he runs around and returns to the red seeds as if it was where his soul lay. We caution him not to spill them. Yet a few fall on the floor as he holds them in his tiny fist. He picks them and puts them back dutifully. And the childish amusement continues. ‘Baby Krishna!’ I exclaim inwardly as I watch the spectacle with unbridled joy and amazement. One must not strive to explain such happenstances. So I just soak in the emotion it evokes until the end of play time. I am now ‘manjadi aunty’ to Aarav. And every time I open the door and let him in, I hum silently, ‘Swagatham Krishna, Sharanagatham Krishna.’ The lens has shifted again. The house that was once described as ‘not child friendly’ has now become the Lord’s favourite play area. Blessings and grace don’t come in prescribed forms, do they?
(P.S: For those uninitiated, Lord Krishna is believed to have a special love for manjadi seeds. Hence it is kept in all Krishna temples across Kerala. )