Saturday, July 29, 2017

Of granulated garlic and maternal conspiracies

510g of granulated California garlic might seem like a very unusual gift to take back home, but there is a story behind this.

The day my grandma heard that I bought my tickets to Kolkata, she packed her bags and parked herself at my parents’ home. It didn't matter that I still had 2 or more months for the trip. Grandma wanted to have front row seats to the show of my arrival.

My best conversations with grandma are those where she tattles against Ma. Grandma is a great conversation-maker (unlike my Ma, who either speaks in monosyllables, or asks me one of the two questions, no matter what time of the day it is-


অফিস যাচ্ছিস?

Have you eaten? Are you on your way to work?.

Grandma told me about a conversation she had with Ma, deeply disturbed.  She said that ever since she arrived, Ma has stopped cooking.

Grandma: রান্না বান্না করছিসনা, বসে টিভি দেখছিস, কটা রসুন ছাড়িয়ে রাখনা, মেয়েটা এলে রান্নায় রসুন লাগবে তো।

Grandma: You haven't been cooking ever since I arrived, why don't you at least peel some garlic while you watch television? We'll need the garlic for cooking when the child (me) visits.

Ma: ছাড়ো তো,  এসে রসুন ছাড়াবে। ছুটিতে আসছে , ওর অনেক সময়।

Ma: She can peel the garlic when she arrives, she will be on vacation and will have lots of time.

Grandma is very concerned that Ma refuses to help in the kitchen, and wants to pass it on to me. Now, I do not have any problem with peeling garlic. Just that the ones you get in Kolkata do not have fat cloves like the ones in the US. They are only a tiny bit fatter than angel hair pasta. I have spent hours trying to peel them and chipping my nails in the process, my prehensile capacities seriously compromised after that.

It was time to confront ma. "Ma, is this what you said?" I asked. To which, she confidently answered, "I thought you love peeling garlic. Especially the ones that go in kosha mangsho, spicy dry mutton curry."

This is what emotional manipulation looks like. To think that very soon, my usability will be shifted to peeling onions, peeling thin garlic cloves, filling drinking water in the bottles, and opening the door when someone rings the bell. From the world traveler and leader and grant money negotiator and international collaborator and faculty and book editor and academic mentor and motivational speaker and the other different and cool hats I wear, I'll soon be the designated onion and garlic peeler, door opener, weight lifter (the person who lifts heavy grocery bags up the stairs), and the drinking water collector.

Forewarned is forearmed, and grandma has done her job well. The next challenge is for me and grandma to fight the evil forces around us together. Hence 510g of granulated California garlic- the first thing I packed in my suitcase to take back home.


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