The first distinct memories of my life are a big family and lots and lots of food. My household always had a variety of aromas to smell, flavors to taste , colors to see, and a constant almost musical tinkering of utensils, plates, spoons,, chai ke pyale (tea cups) etc. The major topic of discussion in the family whole day was food. What was made today morning? What will be there for dinner ? What will be served on Saturday when Chachajee comes with family? His daughters are very fussy about food. He is very fond of mummy’s paranthas. What is the cost of tomatoes these days? Could my father go to Mandi (wholesale market) and get vegetables? Can someone help my mother with the pickling of home grown mangoes? Who will fetch fresh ghee from the nearby village? We need to get the store fumigated so that grains would be safe there. Father, can you call someone? Oh are the Sharma’s free to come for dinner on Friday? Let’s give them a treat since it’s their last night as our neighbors! But what to cook for them? What if this coming Tuesday we could have a ladies kirtan in our house? Would the laddoos and samosas be OK to be served to them? Why are we always out of plates?
Oh my God! So many discussions, arguments, suggestions in the round table meetings of the house – day in and day out. The funniest part was the whole family, from the three year old to the ninety year old, would participate in it. No one could leave the room as food was an important part of life; and listening to all what is happening around was almost like an internship that will help you later in life to become a better person. Or else who will teach you all this?
After the day’s chores were over in the afternoon, my mother will still be fixing something in kitchen. My neighboring aunties sitting in the common aangan and chatting would call her. The flow of the ensuing conversation was always the same. One of the ladies would ask, “what were you doing, behenji?” and she would start “I was making kheer for my children. My Harish beta wants a perfect creamy kheer, Vinod beta wants lots of dry fruits in it and my Anil wants no elaichi in it. So first I needed to remove a bowlful of kheer for Anil and then add all mewas in it….” This led to a complete lecture on the anatomy, physiology, history, geography, geometry etc. of kheer, or whatever treats we were getting later. Oh God ! So many ladies talking about food and the permutations and combinations of ingredients as per their families and children. I wanted to concentrate on my game of stapoo but the discussions were so delicious. Couldn’t afford to miss them.
Amidst all these, I grew up. Finished my post-graduation, enrolled for PhD, got a job, moved away from home and finally got married. During dinner one day, I tried to start a discussion with my husband, “ listen l think we should get some good non-stick pans for making vegetables.” He said, without even looking up, “You can go to the market after office tomorrow, compare a few brands and get the best one. No problem”.
No problem!? Why, that is the problem! Miniature families, too much availability and most of all NO time for discussion. I had to learn to live with it. But I can always look back to my preserved and cherished memories …… and imagine what would my family have done and discussed to buy a non stick pan……if was a little girl.