Belly full of love

He would ask for extra portions and leave them on the leaf for his young bride.

This ancestor of mine would certainly not have heard about Valentine’s Day back then. But to me, this man whose face I cannot put a name to, is my mascot for conjugal love.

A hundred years ago, life was very different. Today’s kids would scorn at the idea of the wife having to eat out of the same banana leaf that the husband had finished eating on. But that was the accepted practice then. I suppose, the saving grace was that the menfolk invariably polished the leaf clean!

That was not so with this great grand uncle. He saw a loophole in this degrading custom and exploited it. During festivals, when a feast with special items was served, he would ask for extra portions of sweets, appalam, vada etc and leave them behind in the leaf for his young bride!

Perhaps, his wife had told him that these goodies invariably went in short supply when the last batch of women sat down to eat. That this ploy did not go unnoticed by the others is evident from the fact that I, three generations down the line, got to hear about it from an elder! I wonder how the other women in the family reacted to this daring act. I like to believe that something changed forever in the family that day. 

This story come to my mind when I was witness to a show of similar, tender concern. It was the golden jubilee celebration of the batch of ’67. The men, all 70 plus, were lost in the magic of the evening that took them back to their good old days in the hostel. It was a lively party where joyous spirit filled the air and flowed from the bottles to the bulging bellies. But then, as with all good things, the closing time neared. The crowd was thinning as the boys, shepherded by their bored/tired wives, started to leave.

However, a fashionably-attired lady sat alone nibbling some food as her circle of ladies, who I guessed were all already acquainted, had left. I tried to make small talk with her and suggested that she too should get back to her room as she clearly looked unwell. “It is ok,” she said, smiling through watering eyes. “I am waiting to give him his tablets. He has to have them after dinner.” After a pause she added, “He is having a good time. I don’t want to interrupt that. This day is not going to come back for him.”

I don’t know if her old man appreciated her concern, but as a third person, I certainly did. And that makes me wonder if we, as direct recipients, don’t often take note of the love and compassion that come our way, all year round.

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