Sunday, August 28, 2011

My First and Last Experiment with Snuff

My parents lived in the first floor of an old small rental apartment in Chennai during my early childhood. There were around 10 other families around us apart from the landlord who lived in the ground floor.

One of the families were a bunch of Anglo-Indians. I loved to go there and play with the ‘Akka’(means ‘elder sister’ in Tamil) there. Her family seemed huge with a Granny, a dozen brothers (or so it seemed to me!), a half-dozen sisters, a harassed mother and not-so-easily-noticeable father. Akka was the person who introduced me to Chess. She taught me the game and I loved it! I haunted her house often to enjoy a game of chess with her. Whenever I play this game, till now, her memory flits across my mind. She was the kindest person I had come across. Secretly, I used to pray to God to make her my very own elder sister.

Once, when I had gone to her house to pester her for another game of chess, she had gone out and only Granny was in the house. Granny had this small cylindrical box in her skirt pocket that she used to bring out often. She used to open the box and take a pinch of something out of it and sniff her pinched finger. Then she used to open her mouth wide and exclaim “Aaarrghhh..” as if she was in the ecstasies of pleasure.

Since no one was around that day, I went up to granny and asked her, “what is in this box?”

“Snuff,” she said.

“Can I see it?” I asked.

“Ok but don’t drop it.”

I opened the box as delicately as possible and peeped inside. I was disappointed. It was just some dark-coloured powder inside.

“Want to try it?” Granny asked. Her eyes sparked mischief. I nodded my head. She took a small pinch of the powder and placed it in my palms.

“Sniff it in now,” she said.

I did just what she asked and then it started.

“Atchooo… Atchooo… ATCHOOO… Atch.. Atch… ATCHOOO….” The sneezes were beyond the control of my 7 year old self and the laughter was beyond the control of the 70 year old. Sometimes, I still hear that loud raucous laughter in my dreams.

Akka entered just then with her mother.

“Granny, what have you done?” Akka seemed really angry.

“I don’t know. She only wanted to try it,” Granny said.

Akka looked at me and I could only sneeze twice more in reply. Conversation was beyond my capacity.

I was given a glass of water and packed off home. I didn’t breathe a word of this incident to anyone. (In fact, this blog entry is going to be a shocking revelation to my parents!)

Years later, we moved into our own house in the tallest high rise building in Chennai at that time. Akka and Granny became distant memories.

Recently, I met Akka again at the Gynecologist. I was 8 months pregnant with my second child and Akka was so happy for me. Sadly, she was married but childless. God is unfair at times! He does test people’s faith. I remembered the love Akka used to shower on all of us kids and prayed to God to bless her with a child soon.



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