LITTLE HANDS MAKING LITTLE CHEEDAI
It was the day of Krishna Janmashtami and Amma and I were in the kitchen, deeply engaged in the task of making cheedai, sweet and savory rice balls, traditionally made as an offering to Lord Krishna on this day. Earlier in the day, we had made Vella Aval, yet another customary prasadam made on the occasion of Janmashtami. Making cheedai is finicky business at best, they’re temperamental in nature and even the best laid plans and recipe can go awry very easily. So here we were, tending to the vella cheedais (sweet balls) ever so gently, coaxing and cajoling them to hold their shape, analyzing minutely why they were disintegrating on being turned over and racking our brains for a solution. Outside in the living room, Meera and Arjun were playing with their friends and Appa was rolling tiny balls from the Uppu Cheedai (savory) dough. He called out to me excitedly and asked me to come out immediately and see what was happening. When I went out, all the kids had surrounded my father and had started enthusiastically rolling out cheedai, their tiny hands pulling out dough and rolling, their tiny minds trying to figure out the right size of the ball. I was amused and alarmed all at once. Oh no! These little devils are going to make a mess of the balls, I thought. They’re going to be be irregularly shaped and are not going to fry evenly now. Should I ask them to step away? I wondered. Cheedai is a tough dish to get right on good days and to have 5 kids working on them didn’t bode well for the dish or for Krishna.
I snapped out of that thought just as quickly and I was in turn filled with a deep sense of gratitude and joy. I had an epiphany out of the blue. Everything that I love and enjoy about festivals was unfolding right in front of me. There was food involved, there was the coming together of people spanning multiple generations, the air sweet with the laughter and amusement of little children, they were so thrilled to be contributing and they were just being goofy about it ( they wanted to make star and heart shaped ones), the very things that Krishna himself embodies. At that moment, I knew that these imperfect cheedai, infused with the love and laughter of these beautiful kids and their thatha, is the perfect offering to the Supreme Lord.
P.S. The cheedai turned out alright in the end!