orange - ajinkya
"In India Women Have a way Of growing old My mother for instance sat on the floor A hundred years Stirring soup In a saucepan…” - A Poem by Srinivas Rayaprol It’s my grandmother’s barsi (death anniversary) today. I think of her often - sitting next to the stone grinder. Grinding the hours into that chicken curry, as the men sat outside under coconut trees, drinking single malt, with fish fry. She loved when the grandchildren came. I’d sit with her in the kitchen and listen to all her stories and make fun of her, as I got in the way of her cooking. She taught me that you must put oil on your fingers when you undress jackfruit, that you should put a small spoon in the curry vessel during big parties so then people will serve less. Such a small word jugaad is.
She dreamt for many months about a grand 50th wedding anniversary, with buses coming in from her native village bringing all her brothers and sisters and family for a grand do. She’d carefully planned gifts for all the people she loved, a golden ring for Krishnanna, who worked in the fields and helped in the kitchen, a pawan (gold coin) for Kesari Akka who was the help, who came to cook with her. She liked her whisky, only foreign scotch, with little water. I remember her getting into trouble because she made me pour some whisky for the nurse who spent the nights with herand me towards the end.
She was very very unwell before she passed, and we had to bring her to Bombay for treatment. I think she lived on until her 50th wedding anniversary through sheer power of will. The party wasn’t at the scale she imagined, but she smiled that day. She died less than a week after.
I miss her.
I often cook the chicken curry she taught me, even though I don’t eat chicken that much myself. It reminds me of home. That perfect orange she managed.