The smell of hot coconut oil wafts into the room and wakes up Mittu from her nap. She smiles to herself, stirring half asleep. Her Amma would be getting ready to make her favorite snack, pazham pori. Even in this blissful state between dreams and reality, she could see her Amma slicing up the bananas, thin and smooth, as the knife slides into the flesh of the bananas, so as to make them extra crispy, just the way she likes it. She would add in a pinch of tumeric to the batter next, giving the pazham pori a nice golden color, making it all the more appetizing.
Mittu hears the bananas dipped in batter being dropped gently into the hot oil, the sizzling sound confirming her suspicions about her favorite snack. Reluctantly, she wakes up. The smell is too tempting, though her sleep feels disturbed. She walks into the kitchen and sits on the kitchen counter, closing her eyes, relishing the delicious aroma that has filled the entire house. Her mother looks at Mittu and smiles, she knows that this is a sure way of waking up her daughter.
They don't talk; words are unnecessary between them right now. The freshly cut and washed banana leaves sit on the counter, waiting for the fritters to be placed on them. This was how her mother always served up the famous pazham pori. She was a stickler for doing things the traditional way, unlike Mittu, who made do with instant things in an instant world.
As soon as the first batch is fried, Mittu grabs one and takes a bite, burning her tongue slightly on the steaming hot fritter. The flavors explode in her mouth, making her eyes water. After the first one, she waits for the rest to cool down, her craving satisfied for the time being. No matter how hard she had tried to master the recipe, hers always turned out soggy, the batter and the bananas separated, turning it into a pathetic mess. She had abandoned the attempt the first few tries.
Outside, the rumble of a thunder breaks her from her reverie. She goes outside and sits on the verandah, waiting for her mother to join her. Tomorrow she would have to go back to work, away from home, from her Amma. But for today, she wanted it to be just like the old times, just the two of them. Her mother comes from the kitchen and joins her with the rest of the pazham pori and two cups of piping hot tea. There is a gentle breeze that rustles up the dry leaves on the ground, sending them quivering and dancing, never failing to amuse her, like they have a secret life all of their own.
As the rain begins to fall, Mittu looks up at her mother. She sips her tea, her eyes distant, looking at the grey horizon, but not really seeing. What is she thinking about? Is it about Achan? Of why he had decided to vanish from their lives one fine day, without any reason? Or was it about the loneliness that would shroud her till her next visit home? What were her secrets, ones that she seldom spoke about? No matter how hard she tried, her mother refused to leave home and come stay with her in the city where she worked. For her, this was home, this was where she had turned into a wife, a mother. The walls plastered with pictures from the various stages of Mittu's life, right from childhood to her adolescence. Yes, this will always be home for the both of them.
Mittu scoots on the floor next to her mother and lays her head on her lap, watching the rain begin to fall outside. Tiny droplets of rain water falling on the verandah, on her face; drenching them both slightly as Amma's slender fingers runs it through her hair, massaging her scalp gently. Lying on her lap, Mittu smiles to herself and watches the rain while it beings to pour down as the smell of wet earth rises up and lingers in the air around them, mixing with the fragrance of the pazham pori and tea. For her, no matter where she is or how many years shall pass, this shall always be the smell of childhood, of Amma, of longings, of where she belongs; of home.