Madisaru Mami

Madisaru Mami

Representative image: iStock Photo

Grandma always donned a nine-yard Kanjeevaram silk saree with a thin border and an Adyar thalappa. She moved to Delhi in the early 60s and sported her nine-yards with the same grace as she would’ve done in South. While walking through the streets of the national capital, many eyes would turn as she went past them. Not only in draping the saree, but she was also at ease driving her Premier Padmini in it. 

Sarees from the best-known looms of Kancheepuram would always find their way into her cupboard.

Despite being busy with a hectic schedule as a school principal, she took pride in dressing herself well and always found time to match the accessories that would complement the saree. From a beautiful handcrafted ‘kemp’ or pavazhram (coral) set for a red colour saree, neelam for blue, Vairam or Muthu (pearl) set for white or neutral coloured saree, the dazzling sets of jewellery would be carefully given a good clean wipe before being locked in the cupboard. 

Born into a Tamil family, like many, she too woke up to a cup of strong filter coffee first thing in the morning. At Lunch, the smell of sambar and rasam would fill the house with appetising aroma and always insisted on having avakkai pickle with curd rice.

Procuring south Indian groceries was not easy in Delhi back then, and the hankering to get her comfort food on to the table led her to this merchant, who would door deliver all her southern requirements within a day or two. From south Indian filter coffee to rasam powder to gadaranga (bitter orange)or gongura oorgais (Gongura pickle), grandma had arranged sources of supply for almost everything. This shopkeeper called her ‘madisaru (a style of draping sari) mami’ as she had described her attire to him that way. This name of hers became popular with the neighbourhood vendors and the temple priests as well.  

I was once sent on an errand to purchase a list of ingredients. After giving the address and the amount along with the list to the grocer, I started to walk back.

The store owner yelped at me and said, “I don’t know the location.” Without Google maps then, the manual road map instruction took me a good twenty minutes to explain and when I was almost done with the exhaustive description of the location, he simply remarked, “Oh! That’s madisaru mami’s house. No problem! I will deliver the goods today itself.”