Paati means grandmother in tamizh (and not tamil, I hate that spelling). She was making what we relish as murukkus, which are a snack made of rice flour and a complex web at that. This is what a murukku looks like -
And I wondered isn't this magic. I was looking at the sharp twists and turns and was wondering at their preciseness and I remembered science. Wasn't science all about preciseness and a kind of beauty that lends itself to mathematics. It was the same case here, but this was made by my paati. Well I wondered this is not science but what I learnt long ago called as tacit knowledge, which is reinforced by years of practice. It is very interesting that small events and anecdotes build one's knowledge which in retrospect seems very obvious. A typical example would be to see how her fingers roll around the rice flour to make this perfect shape, which she says she finally achieved in 1982, quoting "25 years of service". Do I say "ROFLOL", no. I said you are wonderful darling.
My paati says she has been making them since she was 10 and her mother used to make one on each hand i.e. two per person and my paati was using one hand. And I wondered how ?
Then I asked, has she ever wondered who can make them like she does and she was blank. Then it stuck me like a loss staring at me, that will catch up unawares sometime in the near future. Interestingly, she said her daughter can match up with her, sometime. Interestingly, none of her maatu-ponnu ( daughter-in-laws) can ever achieve this level that she has managed to achieve. I wonder this is six-sigma or not. So I thought then on, what happens to such tacit knowledge which gets filtered across generation. Why does this get filtered? Well is it a question of interests or relevance or priorities or sometimes just the vicariousness of the experience or just that because it is available outside? Tomorrow the next generation would forget that someone in their own family used to make it by their own hands labouring for 4 hours for 2.5 kilograms of rice flour.
Will someone preserve this tacit knowledge? I sure wanted to and made a start today and this is what I managed. I have made a start but wonder whether would I be able to capture all that my paati has in her head before she becomes inaccessible? Do I know is a wrong question because no one else knows? After all does this change the end result - everything is crushed in our mouths and it does not matter from where it comes. Just that if my paati makes it, the relish is much more exponential.
Will someone preserve this tacit knowledge? It matters to me and I realise I have at least taken a step forward and hope someday I will be making them the way my dearest paati made it.