Larder Raids

As brothers, Manoo and I shared our boyhood years together in Mangalore. And with it many an experience, most often joyful and sometimes not so; rarely knowing which way the tide ran.

A favorite pastime even before we went to school was to expectantly hang around the chickencoop, betting on our respective hens, as to which particular one would lay her egg first. This wasn't really as complicated as it may sound. At crack of dawn when mother opened the coop to let the chickens out to graze, - to catch the early morning worm as they say, - we watched her carefully as she blocked the trap and picked up each hen, only to let free some and put back others. To be freed later, after they announced loudly the relieving of their oval burden.

We never questioned mother's mysterious powers to know exactly which ones were laden with eggs. Satisfied, we were, as long as there were some to bet upon, experience having told us that all those imprisoned within, are sure to lay. So, amidst our other pre-occupations never for a moment did we let out main concentration stray from the chicken coop.

Not always was our fun as innocent as the one associated with collecting eggs. Especially, when we decided to raid the larder. By this time, we were a few years older. As I recall, everything that we then considered best in the world was inside that larder -- from Christmas goodies to exptic fruits that father never failed to bring home from his frequent and regular trips over the week. All locked up.

For this major operation, we had to enlist the help of Meera, our little sister, who by this time had happened on the scene. Her one ambition then was always to better her brothers in whatever we did. But having made her appearance two years after Manoo, she was then at a little disadvantage and had to be convinced to take on a lesser role and be a mere sentinel or watchdog.

So it was Meera who kept watch on occasions when mother stepped out of the house, to forewarn us of impending danger of discovery, while with meticulous military precision, we the brothers executed what seemed then, a colcolessal operation for gaining entry into the larder.

First of all, the dining table had to be dragged to the wall that separated the store from the dining room, then the help of the chair to get on to the table. From the table to the wall, then, using the wall-cupboard shelves as rungs of a ladder, scrambling up the wall bit by bit, propped up Manoo who at times had to collapse on to his bended knees to invoke the heavens to protect us from discovery, or that his brother may not suddenly slip and break his head.

Then to the top of the wall, to slip through that niche separating it from the roof and thereafter, it was easy. For the rice 'Murrahs' stacked on the other side acted as a veritable staircase that always led me easily to the treasure trove.

It was years later that Manoo and I met recently during Mother's diamond jubilee celebrations when be returned to the country of his birth for a brief spell. Reminiscing on food memories of those lovely childhood days, we told mother of our exploits of yesteryears that had gone unnoticed or undetected.

She surprised us though, when we could not convince her of the same or shake her stated belief that her own children couldn't ever have done such ghastly deeds. She is quite firm in her opinion that these episodes are but mere figments of our long cherished and fertile imagination.

We wonder though! For as we now recall, on every one of those occasions of Larder raids, mother had, soon after, and invariably, showered on us those very goodies in quantities even our greedy little mouth's could not consume.

It is our imagination, …. Or had mother always known?

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