When I was a kid, amma used to write a long list of items needed and either Appa will buy and bring it home or it will be home delivered from the nearest provision store.
My job was to help amma to sort things out. The items were never packed in plastic bags or fancy jars. It always came in pottalams of various sizes. Pottalam is nothing but a packet made of newspaper (mostly made as a cone). The food items like sugar, idli rice, dal, jeera and other spices were packed in pottalam of various sizes and tied with a sanal kayiru (rope made of jute). Even if it was 2kgs of sugar the packing would be so strong that it will not break. I used to open each and every packet, fill the containers and keep aside the newspapers neatly arranged. Sometimes I even read some news from those newspaper bits. The rope will be bundled neatly and kept for future use.The best part is some days later when I take any of these newspaper they would still be smelling of the item which was packed in it.If by mistake I had preserved the paper in which jaggery had come , the whole place would have turned into an ant palace ! I miss my job of undoing the pottalams .
Another thing that comes to my mind is, even our tailor used to wrap the stitched clothes in newspapers. Especially my amma’s blouses . I really liked to open such packs , look at the blouse and pack everything again (but my packing never matched the original ones 🙄 )
And the packing of poo (flowers) is the best. Flower sellers used to have lotus leaves – sometimes fresh, sometimes dried – to pack fresh flowers and they used to tie the flowers using threads from banana stem.
All these things used to look fresh and simple, had their own beautiful smell. I am missing these things now. The reason I am talking about all these today is because , I saw my MIL opening one such beautiful pottalam in the morning and it took me back to my childhood.