Over the years, I've taken many things back home. Fancy chocolates. Interesting kitchen gadgets.
This time, I took home two pounds of unpeeled garlic! Yes, you heard me right.
My visits to Kolkata mean lots of good, rich food. I sometimes eat two breakfasts or two lunches on the same day. And all that food means my grandma chipping her nails while peeling a lot of garlic. If you have seen the almost two-dimensional, stick-thin garlic pods in India, you'd know how hard peeling garlic is. On the other hand, the garlic pods in the US are fatter than almonds and walnuts. The best thing I could bring home was garlic (my idea, completely).
Naturally, people at the US airport were not happy, although they should not care, since I was leaving, not entering the country. They eyed the garlic with a lot of suspicion. They ran it through scanners, tested with litmus lookalike papers. They might have wanted to ask me to chew some of them too. In their long experience of all the weird things they have seen people transport, the humble, innocuous garlic had never made the list. They did not ask me anything directly, but were holding up the line and had mobilized a tiny army of people to figure out what the hell was all this garlic doing here?
“I am attending the holy garlic festival in India this year. Have you heard about it?”
I got skeptical looks.
“You should look it up. Very pious festival. They ward off evil spirits.” As I said this, I held out my hands in front of my eyes to do a nomoshkaar.
And so, they let me go without any more questions, and off I flew thousands of miles with all the garlic.
The amount of good food I got to eat increased manifold as a result, and it might not be entirely my imagination. It did turn out to be a holy garlic festival in India after all. My own, holy garlic food festival at home.