Recipe for the perfect Avakaiyya pickle and a Terribly Tiny Con

Today I went to BMSCE for Creative Writing event and their prompts were


2. Bangalore Traffic

3. Cartoon character from childhood reliving in present times

I obviously went for the vaguest of the lot, and since it was the first day of #NaPoWriMo as well, I wrote a, well, kinda slam poetry. I got off on the auspicious start of winning, yay.

Here it is, with a few refineries.

Illustration by: Shailja Jain Chougule

Recipe for the Perfect Avakaiyya Pickle

If you want the perfect pickle

That you will want to suckle

Step 1 is to gather the enveloping simmering summer heat

Toss it in hard mangoes, until it burns my skin to a scratchy red

Add dashes of Ammamma’s loving chuckle

When she dices green mangoes raw as her chafed red heels

From tottering to and fro the veranda and her kitchen.

Leave the seed cover to suck at its marrow later.

“You think you are biting it,” she says, tapping my cold red nose

“But it bites your teeth for days to come.”

If you want the perfect pickle

As spicy as the south wind in a market’s till

“You must not touch the sensitive skin near your eyes, my dear,”

She says quietly,”The chilli  marinade in your red eyes will burn

Like your heart of a slap from your mother.”

Then she bathes the mango cubes in red masala, fragrant with flavour

If you want the perfect pickle

Of the right consistency; like you will

“Pour the oil into the vat, gently”, she murmurs softly

“For a spill will be harder to wash off than regrets

Of a childhood lost or words said in red-hot anger.”

If you want the perfect pickle

For sensory overload each time un-culled

Sprinkle salt in heaps, prepare the brine

And the penultimate ingredient (Step 4, are you keeping track?) is the red blood of your menses

For all the tiresome symbolism of restrictions inevitable with womanhood.

“Don’t touch anything, you are madi!”,Ammamma admonished with a steel handle.

Mix this magic concoction in a ceramic white pot with a red lid.

Seal this potion. Let it soak, let it be.

Over months it will be done.

Fermented like your aspirations

But the perfect pickle, for me,

Is the one in my mouth;

Swishing, languidly lolling about my tongue.

I enjoy it with the blandness of curd rice –

Life has a way of balancing storms with eye of the storms –

Red against white, not unlike the symbolic virginal bed.

I relish it with sambar or rasam-

Red spurts on squishy dal terrains

Or with bajjis and bondas in dollops.

Or even, in a steel cup, all on its own.

It does not matter, so long as I remember Ammamma.

Remember tugging her thick long black braid adorned with red roses from the temple.

Remember wrapping her in red and gold silk saree,

Fingers taut and stretched out to measure the folds.

Remember her not quite red (maroon, perhaps?) kumkum,

My younger self thought, it was for playing holi.

Remember the fire I was named after.

Indian raw mango pickle
Illustration by: Veethika Mishra



Then there was a Terribly Tiny Tales round

Two brothers, orphans, con men,                (5)
                       Fawned when,            (2)
A naive heiress grieved for her parents        (7)

Alas, they fell in love with her, unrequited.  (5)


Illustration by: MICHAEL BYERS




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