Sharon, who is based in the US, wrote: “My partner never helped me in the kitchen nor household chores for the last 10 years. He was pampered, spoilt and completely unaware. Covid-19 quarantine has been a blessing. [With] work from home, he realized how much I do at home which was unnoticed. Now he is the one who does dishwashing, kitchen cleaning, laundry which has made it so easy for me to cook and manage the house better. He only makes coffee and fried egg. You need passion to cook, and I don’t think he has it or will try to cook. My husband is not proud of himself for not helping me all these years. Better late than never.”
Sometimes when we travel, the husband and I are often the only people in a restaurant who are Asian or brown. A lot of people at the other tables know each other, especially if it is a small town or village and I feel as if we stand out by our brownness and our relative lack of knowledge of the food on the menu. Sometimes, it leads to funny things. Like ordering a pudding that isn't sweet, a cheese that is moldy but not gone off and good to eat, or a lobster that attempts to fly!
This past week was Diwali. Since this was to be a Diwali in lockdown, my husband and I weren't expecting much. We had bought a few packets of sweets from the Indian store to give to our neighbours and had thought of putting the boxes in paper bags and leaving them outside their doors. Apart … Continue reading What inclusion feels like…
Growing up, food was often shared between neighbours. That way, I experienced food from different regions of India. Thalipeeth (a savoury multi-grain flatbread) by the Maharashtrian aunty, rajma chawal (kidney beans curry and rice) from the Punjabi neighbour, savoury as well as sweet appams (pancake dish, made with fermented rice batter and coconut milk) from the South Indian family, a khichyu (savoury snack) that was special to the Patel community sent by the Patel aunty whose family owned the day-and-night pharmacy store in the old city. This was also the aunty I would go to when I felt like sipping on an aerated drink, especially Gold Spot, since my father did not allow us to stock or consume aerated drinks at home. (She used to have a crate with a mix of different aerated drinks and would always offer me one when I visited with my mother. And I would jump at the opportunity and say yes to her offer!)
As an Indian, I have grown up with the familiar sound of a pressure cooker whistling each morning. Sometimes, you would hear a lot of whistles at the same time or in the same hour - it would be your neighbours doing their cooking and their cookers whistling in sync with yours. So the sound of the whistling is not alien or discomforting to me.
When you borrow, return and lend things with your neighbours, you also build something. You build friendships, trust, interdependence. You realise that we all need each other. And that it is okay to ask. For a little sugar, a plate or two, a serving bowl when you have guests over, a potato or two. Return what you borrow with a little of something of yours - something you made, a beautiful conversation, a little love...
Humorous, funny incidents have a tendency to suddenly burst upon you - like a shower of rain on a particularly sunny day! That is what happened when a friend and I visited Sweden, and it made for some of the most memorable moments ever - ones that make us laugh out loud even on a gloomy, desolate day.
If this were a short story (and an absurdly short short story!), it would say - two Indian women went out to buy groceries. They came back with a mysterious whole chicken that was priced at 20 euros. No one knew why. It looked like a chicken. It tasted like one. It was packaged as one. But 20 euros for a chicken?
One of the elements of the expat or the immigrant life is the longing and the loneliness. The longing for friends and family who live in another part of the world, the loneliness - at least initially when you don't know a lot of people and miss the deep friendships that you once had. And so, when a festival comes up, you wish for both - companionship and friends to celebrate the good days, to revel in shared customs and traditions and to repeat over a hundred times how one misses the home that one has left behind.
There's something about a feast that is served on a banana leaf, with as much as 26 different varieties of food, all vegetarian and to have people serving you with a lot of love and affection. It is for this feast of Onam sadya, that we took a bus, wearing our traditional Indian outfits with husbands and children in tow, and head to the North of Dublin. Because how can one possibly resist a feast so divine?