It’s less than two months to go for the festival of lights. I know it is early days yet, but it is around this time that I start making plans for what I want to make for my loved ones. We know how busy it can get closer to the date. For me Deepavali is much more than just making sweets and distributing them. I like to think of it as packaging my affection in a physical form. Over the years I have found that irrespective of age people always take childlike pleasure in beautifully presented food. Long after the sweet is consumed, the container serves as a wonderful reminder.
Last year, I walked into Steel House on Trichy Road with something else on my mind. But what caught my eye instead were shiny round porcelain pickle jaadis. Aside from storing my tamarind pulp in one, I hadn’t set eyes on these in years . What got me even more excited was that they came in various shapes. My favourite was the wavy one that resembled the shape of an old 10 paisa coin. The lids with their tiny round knobs on top just added to the cuteness. I had found the perfect container for my annual sweet gifting. There was however one problem. The shop had only about five or six pieces in good condition. That did not deter me. In my mind’s eye I could already see them filled to the brim with tiny gulab jamuns swimming in syrup.
So I set off on a jaadi hunt into the depths of Town hall. After an hour spent searching for these rotund cream and mustard treasures, I hit the jackpot. ‘Glass house’ as it is referred to is a dusty, little shop on Uppukenar street. I went all the way to the back of the shop, an old crate was opened up and amidst the straw and the cobwebs lay these beautiful ceramic jars just waiting to be discovered. The jaadis were of two sizes but of the same shape , not that I was complaining. It was also priced much lower than in the bigger stores. They were extremely dirty and required a lot of cleaning and sun drying before they could be used.
So many memories came rushing out as I admired these containers. The back store room at my parents’ home contained huge versions of these jars. They were used for storing grains, pulses and condiments. These jars were not just huge and held a lot, but also had properties that ensured whatever was put in them did not turn rancid. As families got smaller, these jars , even the smaller ones, were replaced by plastic dabbas. Not many realise that these natural containers offered more to food than mere storage value. Salt is another ingredient that I like to store in these jaadis. They are so easy to keep clean and very hardy. I also have a larger one at home, with a thin crack on the side that sits on my lawn as an ornamental piece. It can easily hold about a month’s supply of rice. I am happy to add that last year both the jars and the mini jamuns were duly admired and thoroughly enjoyed. I did manage to keep a couple for myself. Over the past year I added a cylindrical one to that collection. They now nestle together on my rosewood table, filled with pickles that were lovingly handmade by dear friends and family. Wouldn’t it be a pity if they stopped making these traditional jaadis due to a lack of demand? I heard they used to come with fancy handles, dainty ladles and more. I’ve had my eye open for those. To be able to collect more of these earthen beauties would be a dream come true.