Chandrika R Krishnan | April 2022
Susan walked into the huge kitchen with its gleaming glass-topped stove and walnut cupboards. It was a far cry from her tiny place in Los Angeles. Looking around, she thought, her little studio apartment would fit into just this room!
The deep aroma of roasted Jeera (cumin) seeds tickled her nose. She watched as the older woman added ginger garlic paste. With deft hands and at lightning speed, she then added finely cut onion with enough salt for taste. She turned the ladle with an expert twist of her wrist to ensure that the onions were uniformly sautéed to the right golden hue.
As Susan continued to watch, she saw the shoulders of the older woman droop as one who had lost a battle.
From the time a very determined cupid struck its arrows without paying heed to the cultural and geographical differences, Rohan knew that it would be an uphill task for him to convince his parents to accept Susan, an American as his partner – his choice for a wife. His mother was most comfortable among the pots and pans and spoke no other language than her mother tongue- Tulu. With no formal education, and having lived in the same part of the town, she knew no other life than that of a wife and a mother.
It was the couple’s first visit to India to ensure that they got to know one another. Susan knew that in India, it was not just the couple who got married, but it was a marriage of two families, and Rohan had been quite wary about this meet and had prepared her for days in advance, lest she misunderstands his mother’s curt manner. The aromatic spread that was churned out at every meal for the last two days was poetry in itself but the atmosphere was far from fragrant. She had also found the extra spice a bit overwhelming.
Washed and finely cut greens joined the onions and as Susan continued to watch, the older woman took out the bottle of red chilli powder but replaced it on the shelf without adding any after a brief hesitation. Susan felt a sudden catch in her throat.
The sudden sniffle from her had the older woman reach over to switch on the rarely used ‘exhaust fan’ and the shrug she gave her was one of an apology at the discomfort she had caused her. Looking at Susan dressed in a very becoming blue skirt, she gave the smile of one who was embarrassed on not finding the right words to converse. As Susan watched, a mound of perfectly cubed potatoes was added to the pan and a lid placed on it. The older woman now turned to cajole the dough into perfectly round rotis. Mesmerized, Susan found herself edging forward and her mother-in-law made a place for her at the platform.
Words weren’t needed as they laughed over Susan’s experimentation with the rolling pin as she valiantly tried to emulate the mother of the man she loved as they bonded over the roasting potatoes and rotis made in the shapes of various countries across the globe.
Hearing the laughter, Rohan and his father exchanged a relieved grin as they laid the table for lunch.
Chandrika R Krishnan is a Bengaluru-based writer and educationist who likes all things beginning with a ‘T’ – talking, teaching, tales, and tea.
A people person and a born observer, she weaves fiction and dispenses ‘gyaan’ alike to the unsuspecting audience. Her 350 odd articles and stories (both in print and online media) are mostly eclectic and experiential. She is a published author, and her collection of flash fiction was published recently titled- vignettes- a slice of life. Her stories feature in many anthologies.
Photo by Andra Ion
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