Sunburnt Scarecrows

These days, I try to follow a good skin regimen, as I can no longer take my skin for granted.

As I vigorously apply sun block, I remember the halcyon days of my childhood, when we soaked and drenched in the blazing sun, without a care in the world.

Where I grew up, winter evenings were bitterly cold, but the days were very hot, with a piercing sun that beat down mercilessly.

For all our moms, this was the season for ‘vadams’.

Vadams are made from cooked rice or sago, with green chillies, salt and asafoetida added. The whole mixture is cooked till it bubbles, and looks glass-like. The mixture is then scooped out with ladles and transferred to plastic sheets, shaped like small patties. These are then kept in the sun for 4-5 days till completely dry, stored in air-tight containers and fried, whenever required.

The back yards of all homes bustled with activity. We children were given the roles of scarecrows to keep away crows and other birds.

We would spend the whole day in the yard, shooing away birds, playing hide and seek, cards, and other games.

We looked like roasted potatoes, as the sun dried both the vadams and our skins.

The best part about this whole activity was when the vadams were semi-dry; dry on the outside but still gooey on the inside.

As we scarecrows ran in and out, we quietly helped ourselves to the half-dried vadams. On a single day we could eat about twenty or thirty such.

Breakfast and lunch were also eaten in the yard as scarecrow teams from other yards waved out to us.

My grandma sat with her back to the sun, on a low stool, warming herself, chuckling as she saw us gobble-up the vadams. She named us ‘the sunburnt scarecrows’.

We were sorry when the season ended and school reopened.