Tuesday, August 20, 2013

If Grandmother Could Read My Blog ...

(Read the post to know why I used the photo.) 

 Dear Readers,

Some of you will know about The Fifty-2 Weeks of 2013 project that we are doing on Facebook. Of course, it's well over seven months old and we are no longer accepting members but I am glad to say the project is going on. Well, chugging on.

This week's theme, Aparna's idea, was this:

Write a very short story beginning with the following paragraph. Your story should begin with this paragraph and then you make it all your own.
"It was past ten at night. I had finished clearing up after dinner, and locked up for the night. The rest of the family had turned in for an early night. I was looking forward to a hot shower, and then snuggling under the covers for a quiet read before dropping off to sleep.
That's when the peal of the door bell startled me. Who could it be this late at night? ....................."


It was past ten at night. I had finished clearing up after dinner (actually we had eaten out) and locked up for the night. The rest of the family had turned in early. I was looking forward to a hot shower, and then snuggling under the covers for a quiet read before dropping off to sleep.

There’s nothing like turning on the AC and the fan and curling up under a thick, warm blanket with a book in hand. My grandmother would always, say, though, that she found it absurd – why fan, AC and then cover yourself, she would question. Dear Ammamma, who would neither cover herself nor sleep on the bed. She would sleep on the floor with her hand under her head for a pillow.

I was smiling to myself, remembering my granny, now gone for two decades. That's when the peal of the door bell startled me. Who could it be this late at night? I looked through the peephole but I could only make out a vague shape. It looked like a woman of a certain age, head bowed, waiting …

I opened the door – and froze. It was my grandmother. No, really, it was. As alive as ever. Not a day older than when she died. 72.

“Papa, give me some water. I’m thirsty,” she said, before I could scream.

No doubt, it was a dream. I was not going to be afraid, I wasn’t even going to pinch myself, I would just grab the dream and spend a few more minutes with her. I got her some water, of which she had a long drink.

“Hammayya! That’s better, I feel more alive now,” she said, settling down comfortably in a chair at the dining table. “Didn’t go to work today?”

“No, it’s my day off,” I said. “Oh, what did you do then? Cook?” she asked.

“Nothing. We ate out and I have many leftovers.”

Grandmother went over to the fridge, looked at the many containers of various sizes occupying the shelves – rice, bits of dal, bits of vegetables, chocolate – and turned back to me.

“How old is this stuff?” she asked.

She looked bemused when she saw me trying to recollect – and downright disgusted when I told her the oldest curry was five days old.

“What is happening to you, Sra?” she said. Now it was my turn to look bemused. Since when did she call me Sra?

“Sra?”

“Yes, I read your blog, I know this avatar of yours. I know what you’re cooking, who your friends are and often, I find myself mentioned – I am flattered, of course – I also know you keep saying you’re busy and lazy and are struggling with leftovers but I didn’t know you let things moulder in the fridge this long!”

“But Ammamma, things never go bad.”

“Maybe, Sra, but I know you. You never enjoyed eating the same thing more than twice, and from what I gather, you don’t enjoy it now either. But instead of cooking afresh, you’re now eating out, and letting all this stay in the fridge.”

“The others don’t mind eating it. And I feel guilty to waste food. Some of them carry it to work.”
“But five days? Five days? Aren’t all of you bored out of your minds seeing the same things day in and day out? The same old things?”

Some get eaten up more quickly than the others, I told her. And yes, after some seven days, I do throw it away, fresh or not. Every week begins with a new resolution that I should not waste food, and every week the fridge groans under the weight of the leftovers.

“But it has gotten better, Ammamma, it’s not as bad as before. I don’t waste as much raw material now, maybe now I have to learn how to cook just enough for a day.”

“Yes, if you’re making mixed vegetable curry, cook with one carrot, one potato and 1/8th of a cauliflower instead of a quarter kilo of everything. That should work,” Ammamma said.

“And when you don’t have the time, don’t cook, just take it easy. Your family can eat at the canteen or get takeout. I don’t even understand why you’re so keen on cooking, I didn’traise you to cook and talk about cooking and go into raptures about it – I wanted you to do something in life and make something of yourself! Why don’t you write a proper book? Win the Pulitzer? What is this every week writing something in the blog about this curry, that curry – and then when I visit you, you’re not even eating well!”

“But cooking is a life skill …”

“Life skill, my foot! Looks like this kitchen and this fridge are sucking your life away!” said Ammamma, and opened the fridge again. I stood up but she pushed me back into my chair. She went into the kitchen, brought my dustbin and proceeded to throw in everything into the dustbin, steel containers et al. She threw off the bits of imported chocolate carefully preserved in bits of foil, she threw away the eggs after checking the dates printed on their smooth exteriors, she attacked my vegetable crisper, the the pantry and then the storeroom with a savage energy that could only have come from spending twenty years in the world beyond! She didn't even spare the onions, and we all know what prices they command these days!

By then I was a burning ball of shame and sadness. Shame because there was no rest for my grandmother from looking after me and my affairs even at this age. And now that Operation Fridge was over, I was sure the dream was going to end and I would lose her all over again.

Suddenly, Grandma was back, she had had a bath and I am pretty sure she had napped too, on the cold bare floor in her usual style. She looked fresh and as if a weight had been lifted from her. “I’m off now, but I’ll be reading your blog and watching over you – don’t let me see all this rubbish in your fridge again. Cook if you enjoy it, but cook just a little, eat well and be well. I’ll see you soon. And win the Pulitzer,” she said, and walked towards the door.

I woke up, hopeful, but of course, everything in the fridge was just the way it had been before I fell asleep. It was 2 a.m. All the leftovers were in recycled plastic containers I would not regret losing. I cleared out everything from the fridge, it looked like Mother Hubbard’s cupboard. What a refreshing sight! I would tackle the pantry and storeroom tomorrow. The Great Purge had begun!

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There, I hope you enjoyed that! 

Have lots of leftover vegetables to clear? Follow this link, the many recipes there might help









28 comments:

  1. reading it over and over again :) they really are watching and how just that thought can change our lives :P Loved it.

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    1. Thanks, Soma! I really wonder what mine would think of my life now!

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  2. That's a great story! :)
    I know I would have liked your grandmother. "What is this every week writing something in the blog about this curry, that curry ....?" - love the tone of that.
    And I agree with her about the Pulitzer thing. ;-)

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    1. Thanks, Aparna! My grandparents hated me to cook, they would always say, why don't you go write something?

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  3. I laughed when i read that she didn't even spare the onions :-) i agree your should write and win the Pulitzer :-) Months ago i dreamed aobut my mom i was just drwoning in the sea and mom was there saying give me your hand to lift me up and I didn't want to give her my hand as i know if i did that i will wake up and she will be not there.

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    1. That's so sad, Finla! I didn't start dreaming about my grandparents till years after they died. Very strange!

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  4. Do you really use quarter kilo veggies to make your curries :-D????Loved the post!

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    1. Er ... Dershana, not for mixed veg curry, because that will be 750 gm of veg but a veggie by itself, yes, I do use quarter kilo

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  5. nice story and so true .. In India atleast we can give the leftovers to the maids , here it is either the trash or our stomachs

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    1. Rajitha, I hesitate to give it to my maid because she too knows when it has been cooked. :-D Somehow I finish it.

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  6. Awesome story and well written, you're grandmother sounded very cute! I hope you win the Pulitzer too.

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  7. That was a very nice piece. Enjoyed reading it.

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  8. I have the same problem, sra -- cooking with kilos and kilos (and then end up with kilos of leftovers!). I love your Ammamma's approach -- which presents itself often enough in my mind, but deserts me at the store (yep, 5 lbs of carrots is a good buy!) and at the stove. After reading this I will think twice, again, about what I need to buy. The garden is finally producing, so veggies won't be an issue for some time.

    Now, please go write that book. I will be first in line to buy it when it's done! :)

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    1. The Spouse is a big deal-seeker, Linda, so I know how that goes! Only, in our case it is usually with non-food things so that is contained to some extent - thank God Big Retail is not so big here.

      Actually quarter kilo, 250 gm, is not a big deal, but when one of us is more into pickles and podis and only a few vegetables, it does become a drag. And adding greens to even half a cup of dal makes it voluminous - I just finished a bowl of dal, it took me three days!

      And thanks for the comment about the book. I'm hoping if I say it loud enough and often enough, the universe will enable it.

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  9. Such an interesting thought Sra, cook little but cook fresh. Loved reading your story.

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    1. Thanks, Mandira. Sometimes it seems so difficult.

      I rarely think about ghosts or anything and that's all I could think of with this theme but I'm glad I came up with a friendly one!

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  10. Your grandma is such a darling. "Why don’t you write a proper book? Win the Pulitzer? What is this every week writing something in the blog about this curry, that curry" -- True Sra. Go for it.
    Like my Father said in a very surprised tone, when I told him I was writing a book, "You did your Physics and then engg. and now you are writing a book on Cooking ?"

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    1. I think I would evoke the same reaction from my grandad as well! Whenever he visited me after marriage, among other questions re my job, writing, etc, he would ask me what did you cook, and when I said "nothing", he would emphatically say "Good, very good".

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  11. I think dreams are extensions of our conscious self..but who would have thought dreams can actually act as a bridge between two generations ( you and your grandma) ..a sort of meeting point-("pleasent one") - where one can expect to share same feelings towards some neglected areas of our life....loved reading it and go ahead , please write a book..you never know Sra,where destiny will lead you ..And about cooking - less and fresh works best, although I would be telling lies if I say I don't have left-overs :-))..take care ..hugs and smiles

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    1. Jaya, thanks for the wishes. I really want destiny or myself or whatever force it is to lead me somewhere.

      I didn't really have a dream, nor do I think much about life after death, but I didn't want to make it another ghost story - the theme immediately cued 'ghost' but I wanted to be different :-D

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  12. Sra.. long time since i commented. Your grammy's story is too good! Purge away!

    -SSblogsrarely

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  13. SS, good to see you! I've been thinking about you.

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  14. Found you! I can't get over how nice this picture is, so candid and lovely.

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  15. I love this picture, it's so candid. I had a similar epiphany of sorts recently, very sweet story.

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    1. And will you tell me tomorrow what that was, please?

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  16. I hate keeping food in the fridge (lower compartment). I always freeze them in small batches and use whenever I want. In that case, you do not need to force yourself to eat the same food again and again. Frozen food takes a bit of time to get heated. But it is worth.

    I clean my fridge every Friday nights or Saturday. Clean in a sense, I check if anything needs to be thrown out. I also put a note of things need to be finished on the fridge.

    Initially you will struggle with such organising skills. But after a couple of weeks, you will get the hang of it.

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