When I was a young girl, my grandmother (dadi) will often say indulgently, “Dear, you would have a loving m-i-l…” Perhaps my long neck and dimpled cheeks were signs enough for her! That is what she said, she based her predictions on!!
I got married in the traditional arranged way. There is this ceremony where the new d-i-l has to cook for the family. When I learnt as to what was expected of me the next morning, I lost all my peace. I confided in my husband that if at all I have to be put to work, I could do all the mopping of floors, washing of clothes, but DO NOT ask me cook ! My husband, instead of keeping my secret, announces to his family right before I enter the kitchen. I was nervous and wished I had taken pains to learn some basic cooking! (being the middle of the sisters in my parents’ home, I was expected to take charge of cleaning and run errands from the market…. cooking was something which only the eldest sister had to do and what a sissy activity it seemed!) So my m-i-l came to my rescue and let me stir some ‘halwa’ and kept the pretension that I had prepared it!
We stayed together for 23 years. She was like a rock of support all these years – she cooked and cooked with such gusto that I simply marveled at her for dishing out such sumptuous spreads and insisting on serving hot to each and every person as and when they came back from work, including me..! My off and on tryst with cooking, needless to say, ended in disasters!
In the meanwhile, I toiled setting up a business with my husband. The children always had a motherly support at home.
In June, 2007, she was diagnosed with lung cancer at 4th stage and was bed ridden for six months, before she passed away on 1st Dec., 2007. I am ever so grateful that I could nurse her during her last days. I cooked and used to ask her the recipes for various dishes. She only told me, “Nisha, the day you will start cooking with love and care, the taste will follow…..there is no other recipe that I know of!”
During these years, I had seen her pray mornings and evenings….I also saw her feeding pigeons each morning. As a young bride and later a busy professional and mother, I often looked at these things with skepticism, if not disdain. There were numerous things that she did and I did not care about them. Not that I did not respect her. On the other hand, I respected her but really saw no reason or substance behind these acts of hers!
It is now three years that she is gone. What amazes me is that I am becoming like her or trying to become like her….? Perhaps when you spend your life with a dear one, it rubs on you!!!
I see myself spending more time in the kitchen. When the day edges towards the night, I want to light up the ‘diya’ and say my prayers! Come morning, I see myself spreading ‘bajra’ grains for the pigeons on our rooftop!