Sunday, September 18, 2011

The fifth daughter; harvest meal

From left to right: (front) Celia, Prima and Anita;
(back) Sandra, Lynette
My parents had two children – my brother and me.
But I have four sisters.
As a little girl, I spent all my weekends with the four Fernandes sisters – Lynette, Sandra, Celia and Anita. I was the little tagalong. I learned my values from both, my parents and theirs: Uncle John and Auntie Jeannette. Uncle John was my father’s mentor and guide; he helped my father so very much in countless ways, and I learned much that cannot be quantified or qualified from Auntie Jeannette. The four Fernandes sisters and I occupied a universe that no one else was completely admitted to – not even my brother Mohan – though we expanded that orbit now and again to include cousins on either side, and even Kevin, who used to come to the occasional birthday party. We knew each other’s relatives rather well, and spent huge amounts of time playing under makeshift tents (made by tying bedsheets between the window bars and closeby chairs), rowing on ’rafts’ (straw mats) on the floors of our living rooms (or ’halls’, as we used to call them), and going on carriage rides before we realised that they were cruel to the horses.
Then we grew up. The Fernandes sisters married/ left home/ got busy with life. Anita and I, the only two girls left in Bombay, continued to meet. And eat. Then, even that petered off. I got stuck in the quagmire of working at Femina and raising Zach, and Anita in the busy legal world of Kotak and then Barclays. And occasionally, I yearned for those days when every Saturday or Sunday meant an uncomplicated meal of ’chow’ (noodles with ham/ bacon/ wild boar, lots of veggies we had helped cut and lashings of different sauces that only Auntie Jeannette knew the combination of)...
Anita, Sandra, Prima, Celia and Lynette

Then we all met again – at Uncle John’s 80th birthday this year. All of us together. It was wonderful.
Anita and I met again one Sunday evening when we threw a casual dinner party, the menu of which I shared with you in this post.
And today. Today, I went to the Fernandes house for novem. Mangaloreans will know it as the new grain/ harvest celebration. Family in Mangalore sends a few grains of the new rice harvest to family around the world, and this is served in a ceremonial vegetarian meal. When I entered, Uncle John said, “My lost daughter is back.” Miraculously, no weepiness ensued. We sat down to a meal that was as Mangalorean as Mangalorean can be – channa (or sonne, as we call it in Konkani) with coconut, tendli with cashews and coconut... drumsticks, beans, a curry... rice... and of course, shevyo with coconut milk infused with jaggery and gentle spice. Uncle John, Lynette, Anita... and the family – Kevin (Lynette’s husband), Shefali, Sonia and David (her children) and Daniel, a cousin of theirs – and me.
Tendli with cashews
Thank you for welcoming me back.
The Novem table

Sonne with coconut


  1. Beautifully written with animated words...i never knew Anita's sister was such a good writer too. Thanks for sharing the harvest treat with us...Regards Dhvani

  2. Thank you Dhvani! And thanks for stopping by; I hope you will again! Prima

  3. Full of warmth & affection. It is these wonderful relationships that keep us going.

  4. Brings back memories as my father the only uncle of our large clan organised this meal every year and the hordes descended the previous day to chop, grind and cook. And of course after the sumptuous meal we all joined in and sang "Laudate dominum", without knowing the meaning of the words.
    Thanks Prima

  5. Dear Rachna,
    Thank you for stopping by! Hope you will visit again...
    Yes, it is the relationships that keep us going - well worth rekindling.

  6. Dear Maggie (Margie?),
    I think as we grow older, we realise that memories are what make both the past and the future so much more meaningful.

  7. Loved your note Prima... very warm and these are the little things that make life wonderful and memorable, love, Viv

  8. Dearest Viv,
    Sad that we missed you this time... another memory to make!

  9. Prima, beautifully written! It was a wonderful afternoon and I look forward to many more good times together.

  10. Anita Darling, as Zach would have put it some time ago, let us make sure there are many more!


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