Ace mother and a morning ritual

I picture my mother in a smoky kitchen, cooking. Boiling, straining, mashing, cutting, and graining sitting on the ground on a stool and standing.

My mother was a product of a time, born in the 1930s, raising children in the sixties and the seventies. My mother’s assigned role was the carer, housekeeper, and domestic chief all combined.

The mornings were the busiest in the kitchen. My mother got up early to cook lunch for her family. A full lunch meal for her three kids in school and her husband who would leave home for work by seven in the morning.

My mother’s kitchen back in the day was simple. The utensils were basic. Spices were roasted and hand-ground for curry blends. Rice and curries were cooked in earthen pots fresh in a smoking kitchen. It was a time-consuming and tiring affair. It took hours for my mother to get lunch ready and packed.

My mother cooked potatoes, green beans, carrots, pumpkin, fish or in its place dry fish. She did not like feeding meat to her kids. A green salad with roasted coconut was a must in the mix. The rice was brown.

My mother owned paddy fields that produced white rice, but she insisted that white rice was not good for her kids. She gave us brown rice, instead. I hated brown rice covered in bran. But there was no choice. There was no negotiation on food choices with my mother. She knew what was best for her children.

After my father woke me up, the first thing I had to do was fold my bedsheet. My father’s radio was on in the background. I could hear the preaching of Pali Gatha, a sermon by a Buddhist monk. It was followed by a Christian sermon by a Catholic priest. My father thought that it was good for his children to listen to both religions, Dhamma from Buddhism and Christian teachings from the Bible first thing in the morning. In that backdrop, I’d be ready, dressed up for the day in my white school shirt and pants.

One of my morning jobs was to go to our backyard and cut out a banana leaf. My mother would heat the leaf slightly and wrap the rice and curry in little parcels with the banana leaf and used newspaper.

When I turned up in the dining area, my father had already made breakfast. Bread spread with butter and Marmite and an egg coffee. Egg yolk beaten to a froth with coffee was not entirely pleasant. It was my father’s idea of giving his teenage son a protein supplement. My father had now tuned the home radio to the All India Radio channel for news. Listening to the news, I gulped my breakfast sitting down while chatting with him.

I picked my lunch packet, still warm from the cooking into my school bag. My kid brother was now ready to go to school.

My next job was to accompany my brother to his junior school. I left home with him, to the bus stop, a seven-minute brisk walk while ensuring my brother’s safety on the road. After dropping him off at his school on two bus journeys, I’d travel to my high school by another bus, this time in a school bus with my friends.

I would get to enjoy my mother’s food at mid-day in school, sitting under the school’s compound’s Banyan tree.

I was weaned on Sri Lankan food cooked by my mother, laboriously and rigorously from the early hours of the morning.

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Lifelong learner, tech enthusiast, photographer, occasional artist, servant leader, avid reader, storyteller and more recently a budding writer

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Denzil Jayasinghe

Lifelong learner, tech enthusiast, photographer, occasional artist, servant leader, avid reader, storyteller and more recently a budding writer