Blog post by Pavithra Varadharajan
Growing up, a sight that I was privy to, in all its non-dining table glory, during our visits to my father’s side of the family was the process of Echil Ittufication (cleaning-up the floor after a meal- for dummies). Echil Ittufication is a perfect amalgamation of art and science conceived, tested and implemented over centuries in Tam-Brahm households, that is sure to give your Scotch Brite Sponge Wipes (substitute with favorite brand) a run for its money. Now let me walk you through this enchanting ordeal, if you will.
Step one: Thelichafy the right amount of water (not too much, mind you!) on the Echil. This will provide the right amount of lubrication required for step 2. (All you dirty minded Abishtoos out there; I know what you’re thinking!)
Step two: Agathify your legs and bend right over, and with your right hand at a slight angle keeping pushing the food debris forward (the word crumbs just doesn’t justify the gooey mess that needs to be cleaned up) from the bottom end of the floor, in forward car-wiper like movements as you walk ahead, bent-over. If you’ve followed Step 1 to the T, this step should be a breeze. And don’t you dare sit on your haunches when following this step – Vagadharava, nanna kuninju echil idanam.
Step three: Once you’ve managed to successfully car wiper and push all that icky mess to the farthest part of the floor that needs to be cleaned, here comes the tricky part – with one swish of your right hand, grab all that mess you’ve just managed to so meticulously collect and don’t you dare use both hands! You shall discover the reason soon.
Step Four: Using the other hand under the right one as a catchment basin to catch any drippings (told ya), walk away to dispose the debris into the kuppathotti especially reserved for Echil collection.
Step Five: The final step and one that employs ultimate technique is when you would then take a dry Chaana-choornai (waste cloth) and walk over to the farthest portion of the floor you’ve just cleaned, bending over, yet again, walk backwards while employing the car-wiping motion to wipe dry the surface with the aforementioned waste cloth. Walking backwards during this step is the Cardinal rule of the Echil ittufication process as it will ensure your foot prints on the wet floor get wiped out as well. (Please note the point, Your Honor!)
Apaada! Oru Vazhiya Mudinjidhu! Room poattu yosinpaangyalo?! (Oh Common! An occasional Non-Brahm, Kollywood inspired mind voice should be allowed!)
My cool, Bangalore bred, TamBrahm mom albeit lenient with regard to Patthu, Pathinonnu and a bunch of other TamBrahm pet peeves when Paati wasn’t visiting us, always insisted that I learn the wondrous art of Echil idafying. She believed this would be the test my Pukaathu manisha would use to determine if I would make a good Maattuponnu. And boy did that day come!
Scene: First post-wedding Sumangali Pondugal at Pukkaam. Yours truly, in my Ombodhu Gajam (madisaar), Adakkam odhukkama trying to impress all the Athais-in law, Perimmas and Chittis in-law and pakkathaathu, edhirthaatha maamis and their respective mama’s thrown in for good measure. Burly, pot- bellied Vadhiyaars squatting on the floor eating Sadhya post poojai, promptly letting out satisfied burps after every course. I ask my new found Amma (Maamiyaar) if I could help out with Valambafying the Vaadhiyaars and she very generously replies “ Nee Pudhu Ponnaakkum, idhelaam onnum nee pannanda ………..(hope inducing pause) Aana Echil mattum ittoodu kettaiya (and crash!). Really?
Time freezes and all those instances of Echil ittufication training my very wise mother put me through despite all my protests, flash before my mind’s eye (with opera-ish background music playing). Silently thanking my mom, I put Veera nadai with a glass half-filled with water to start Step 1 of the process, only to realize … my mom hadn’t quite prepared me to clean up what looked like a war-zone after a Sadhya fight. The sheer amount of debris lying on that floor would require me to use not only 2 but 4 hands if I had them, thus rendering Step 4 impossible to implement to perfection.
Deciding to play it by ear and mumbling a Bhagavaane kaapaathu under my breath, I start with Step 1 under the unflinching gaze of my audience. I move on to the Car-wiper step and just as I wonder how on earth I was going to collect all that mess with one hand without making multiple trips to the kuppathotti and looking like a clumsy amateur, hope knocks on my behind (literally). My Onnu-vitta Oarpodi (cousin co-sister :D), also a Pudhu Maatuponnu, in her Aarva Koalaaru to do her share of impressing fetches a Chaana-choornai to embark on Step 4, right after me, in the wrong direction! Thus breaking the cardinal rule of the Echil Ittufication process and making me look, well… not so bad after all!
As she enthusiastically wiped the floor dry after me, I heard the Athais gasp in shock, as they had, for some odd reason, decided to put their money on her to begin with. And then, this Miss know-it-all Athai goes “ Appadi alla Idanam…”.
Although my heart went out to the poor girl, I managed to get away with my share of Echil-ittufication faux pas, which paled in comparison, and emerge redeemed!