Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Kanjivellam………Energy Drink, Home Remedy, Hair Care & Much More…..

Food evokes memories ………the smell wafting though the air and flavours lingering on the palate is powerful enough to glide us through the long forgotten days of childhood and in my case, sometimes even a mere mention of a particular food, takes me back to those days that has begun to fade away from my little brain. That is exactly what happened when Mathew wrote “uppu itta kanjivellam is a favourite drink of mine..:-)”, as part of his comment for my post on Kanji Pidi.

While reading that comment, I did not have the slightest clue that I would end up writing a post on Kanjivellam which is nothing but the rice stock you get while cooking rice. When I read that comment, my first reaction was “ewww…” as I always associated it with those days when I was down with fever and vomiting……. I remember my mother giving me a glass of the same and asking me to take small gulps every now and then, after a series of my throwing up into that red plastic bucket, kept near the cot!! I remember my father massaging my hands and legs and me swallowing it like some poison as it was unbelievably bland and my requests for flavoring it with some ghee or pickle was denied ruthlessly because of high temperature and stomach upset!! Kanjivellam flavored with a dash of salt was our indigenous home remedy to cure stomach upsets, prevent dehydration of the body and regain physical strength.

Though I got absorbed in my daily routine, at the back of my mind this thread linking back to my memory lane, was going on in a loop. As the habit goes, knowingly or unknowingly I started plowing through my memory fields which opened up a deluge of images that came flashing back to my mind. I saw our maid, Omakutti Chechi, asking my mother for that hot kanjivellam, just drained from the Kanjikalam, rice cooker before she left for my uncle’s house….it was a sort of energy drink for her. It was the same case with the worker Chothi, whom my father appointed every year to clean up our yard after the monsoons……..a hot bowl of Kanjivellam fetched him energy to dig the yard with a shovel for a couple of hours.

At this juncture of my thoughts, I shared what was going on in my head with CJJ and I saw his face lit up with a smile at the mere mention of “uppitta kanjivellam” aka salted rice stock and he added how the field workers in their estate knocked at the back door of their kitchen asking, “Chechee…..kurachu kanji vellam kitto…?“ meaning, “Ma’m …can we get some rice stock? " !!!! That’s when it struck me how this humble ordinary homely drink is woven into the lives of a Malayalee …..and I knew it was time for me to bring Kanjivellam into the limelight :)

Kanjivellam is not just an energy drink or a simple home remedy, it turns out to be our traditional alternative to modern shampoos. Yes, it was also used for hair care!!! I remember, in my early childhood, before I gained the courage to buy that blue bottle of Clinic Plus Shampoo, our hair wash on weekends included ceremonious soaking of a crushed and dried variety of herb called, ‘enja’ in Kanjivellam and later mixed with another leafy herb called, ‘vellilathaali’ as an organic alternative to shampoo. My maternal grandmother soaked ‘Pappadam’, Kerala wafers in ‘Kanjivellam’ to wash her was used to make the hair more stronger and shinier... So I would call this as Kerala’s ‘organic shampoo’ :)

This is again Kerala’s indigenous yet clever discovery for wrinkle –free cotton ‘Mundu before spray starch and powdered starch made its entry into the market. Washed clothes got a quick drench in Kanjivellam diluted with water and then hung on ropes to sun-dry and later ironed to get wrinkle free clothes and a crisp finish!

This might sound strange to some but if you go to a small town or village in Kerala, you will see men using Kanjivellam for mixing ‘Pinnakku’, a type of cattle food to feed cows…..I remember my uncle doing the same before milking the cow every morning when I was there to collect cow's milk, just up from slumber, with puffy eyes and hair standing in the air like that of Fido-Dido of 7Up!! You might also come across people using one-day-old ‘Kanjivellam’ as a plant food for Plantain or banana trees!

So that was ‘Kanjivellam’ playing the role of organic energy drink, home remedy, hair care, laundry starch, cattle food and plant food! :)

If you find this whole post silly, blame it on Mathew…he is the one who fired up my dead memory cells :) On a serious note, Thanks pal… did help me recollect some of the images I haven’t thought about in almost a decade!

Moral of the story – be careful while leaving comments in this blog, consequences can be as dangerous as this post :)

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