Sensory Pleasures In A Malayali Household

Every Malayali household has a certain array of things that distinguishes it from households from other parts of the world. Things only Malayalis can relate to. Who else would relate to the ‘Chakka season’ with the relish and anticipation that we do? There are also sensory pleasures and scents that can immediately evoke the ‘Malayaliness’ within you no matter how far away you are from home. Those familiar but little things that immediately flood your heart with memories of home and unleash a pure nostalgia.

Varuth Aracha Thenga

Ha! We know you almost smelt it in your head. This wonderful aroma that wafts from the kitchen to your nostrils has that innate power to soothe all your wary nerves. It makes us forget all our tensions momentarily and we subconsciously go, “Innu kozhi curry aano amme?” Once we step out of Kerala, we have all been mocked for our Fevicol bond with coconuts – from the oil we massage our hair with to the food we eat to the ‘chakiri naaru’ we use to tie our parcels, we are a walking epitome of why coconut tree is called the ‘kalpavriksham’. And if you can’t relate to the emotion behind ‘vartha aracha thenga’, sorry we can’t be friends anymore!

Sensory Pleasures in a Malayali Household:  Varuth aracha thenga
Courtesy: Cheenachatti

Kunthirikkam

Who knew that the ‘kunthirikkam’ we burn in our houses, at least every fortnight, had a fancy name in English – frankincense? This is commonly used as a natural mosquito repellent in most of our homes owing to its strong fragrance that reaches right up to our brains. And having said that, burning kunthirikkam is also said to help alleviate stress and anxiety, perhaps one of the reasons why we feel a sense of calm and tranquillity when the aroma is in the air.

Sensory Pleasures in a Malayali Household: Kunthirikkam

Vellam Veli From Wells

Most of us have a well in our household and we Malayalis take immense pride in ‘owning’ the water we use. The blissful splash of the bucket when it hits the water, followed by rhythmic squeaks from the pulley, is one of those sensory pleasures embedded in our memories. The freshness from taking a bucket bath with the same can never be stressed enough. Who needs AC to kill summers when we have ‘kenattile vellam’?!

Sensory Pleasures in a Malayali Household: Vellam veli from wells
Courtesy: Ramana’s Musings

Pappadam Podikkal

The sensory pleasures that the crunch of a pappadam gives! Every time you have a pappadam, the meal itself becomes first-class. You cannot start relishing your meal until you have crushed a ‘pappadam’ into steaming hot rice and curry.

Sensory Pleasures in a Malayali Household: Pappadam podikkal

Alakku On The Alakku Kal

That gray slab of stone in your house that your mom always has a soft corner for no matter what high-end washing machine you get for her. While you know that your washing machine is the best in town, what you also secretly know is that the dirt behind your shirt collar or the stain on your ‘mundu’ is never going to go away with a mechanised washer!

No matter where you go in Kerala, there’s one thing that remains constant across district borders – ‘thaalam’ of ‘alakku’. Being a Malayali, this is one of those things that has been with us throughout our years of growing up. Forgotten and overlooked, but they’re all the same.

Sensory Pleasures in a Malayali Household: Alakku on the alakku kal
Courtesy: AlmostEVERYTHING

Meen Varakkunna Manam

You are pro if you can identify the fish being fried from just its aroma. The soft sizzle of the fish, marinated in that ‘thani naadan’ masala, when it is getting pan-fried in coconut oil is enough to let us float in ecstasy. Dear vegetarians, I guess this is equivalent to frying…umm…pazhampori? No offence.

Sensory Pleasures in a Malayali Household: Meen varakkunna manam

Muttam Adi Routine

Obviously, all of us don’t wake up to ‘kozhikooval’ or ‘ kausalya suprabhatam’. If you are a relatively early riser, then you probably wake up to the sound of your ‘muttam’ being swept with the ‘irkkili chool’ aka ‘kutichool’. No matter how inauspicious a broom is said to be, this sound is a pleasant reminder of normalcy at home. A sign that people are up and about and that you have a ‘chavaru free muttam’ to gaze at while sipping your morning tea and contemplating on your life.  

Sensory Pleasures in a Malayali Household: Muttam adi routine
Courtesy: Chantal Jumel

Aroma Of Kaachiya Enna

Coconut oil is an inescapable element of every Malayali household. You have been certified a Malayali if you have your hair dipped in coconut oil and your food has been prepared in coconut oil too. While coconut oil remains a natural conditioner, we do have the tradition of enhancing its properties by adding ingredients that have been passed onto us from forgotten ancestors. ‘Naadan’ herbs like thulasi mixed with aloe vera, curry leaves, and a bunch of other secret ingredients are thrust into hot oil and heated over until you see the colour of it all seep into the oil and it is brought to a boil. The aroma that wafts from it is pleasant and it reminds you of your grandmother’s hair which has the exact same whiff.

Sensory Pleasures in a Malayali Household: Kaachiya enna aroma

While there may be many more aesthetic memories that remind you of your home and folks, we have listed out a just few.

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What are your favourite aesthetic pleasures around your home? Do let us know in the comments below! 

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