Quality test anybody?

I have had one of those blissfully ignorant childhoods where I thought tomatoes and potatoes are just vegetables.

CuddlyCoo

And then I got married. And suddenly tomatoes and potatoes were way more than ‘just vegetables’.

So when you are just married and in a joint family, you try to do all those tried and tested things to get into the good books of everyone in the family. Imagining me as one of those sari clad Hindi soap opera heroines will only be a slight exaggeration I would say, because I may have checked everything in the to-do list of a good daughter in law.

As part of the exercise, I decided to be proactive.

Wrong decision. It is only later than I realised that proactive was ‘the ultimate’ word only in a corporate. On the domestic front you NEVER (well, almost never) do anything until asked to.

A few days into wedding when my entry into most territories at home was restricted (because I was under probation so I was expected to just observe everything and then get into the role gradually) I decided to please my MIL by buying veggies home.

It was May in India. Damn hot. I will save her the trouble of going out in the heat and buying stuff, I thought.

I just bought a little bit of everything from an air conditioned super market.

Came home and kept them in the sink to be sorted, washed and stored. (C’mon in a few days I at least realised that buying veggies and dumping them straight into the fridge was a big NO NO)!

Enter MIL.

She sees the veggies and does not show even a slight change in expression.

Picks up every single tomato and inspects.  She then studies every stem and leaf of the bunch of spinach that I got.

Lets out a deep sigh and says: ‘These are no good. You have done this once but I expect you to do it NEVER again. We will finish them since YOU have gotten them.’

I hate disappointing people. I mean not that I am a people pleaser but when I do something to please them, I expect them to be pleased and not disappointed..

I summed up the courage to look at her – not quite into her eyes but all over her face, trying to fix my gaze at something – the mixer behind her, her earrings .. something!

‘Amma, what’s wrong with these??’

What ensued was a long lecture about :

  • The different varieties of veggies and how they need to be handpicked.
  • How vegetables are made to ‘look’ good in these supermarkets but rot as soon as they are brought home.
  • How the vendors and shop owners cheat us of our health for petty money.
  • Waxed apples, artificially ripened mangoes and grapes, endosuphane coated curry leaves etc.
  • How there is that one vendor which promises to sell only home grown veggies and how only she can find him!’

Attention all the supermarket owners, the AC and the convenience doesn’t seem to appeal my MIL, so time to rethink your USP guys or you’ll lose out on one valuable customer!

She then drops the veggies in the sink looks at me in the eye feeling deceived and says: ‘What good is all the money you earn if you cant have a meal worth your tummy? You earn primarily so that you can fill your stomach with quality food, good food good health…’

So I got a agriculture-horticulture-dietician crash course in about 20 minutes.

Too much to handle. I phase out.

I had to listen to the disappointed groans every single time the food was served. I was like the outlet for any food made bad – ‘the sambar tastes awful – blame it on the tomatoes.’

Quality surpasses anything and of course MIL does better quality check than the food co-operation!

Now that I have a son and am training to be ‘The MIL’ someday,  I am gradually acquiring the talent.

Handpicking the best quality veggies (and looking down upon your naïve daughter in law) seems to be the ultimate quality of ‘The MIL’

Am getting there, slowly but steadily!

Meanwhile I’ll just go to an ‘organic store’ and get everything from there.

There you go; take home lesson :

  • Always let your MIL do grocery shopping.
  • Healthy family happy family.
  • Money that can’t buy quality food is no more than paper.

Well?!

Am sick – Hurray!

As a child I was quite healthy. I have never been hospitalized for anything. My first hospitalization was to pop out Dhruv (Oops I think I see all the world’s evil conspire to get me sick now…)

I was those unfortunate few who got a certificate for 100% attendance – (FYI : All my colleagues that was in school, now I genuinely fall sick – Aging does that to you.)

I was one of those who desperately wanted to fall sick or get a fracture so I will be pampered. My parents have always treated fever, cough, cold, stomach pain, headaches as normal and so if I make a fuss of it I only get a lame “It is all part of life” for an answer (I know! Talk about deprivation!!)

Here! I grew up longing to get a fracture just so that I can get the cast signed on by my friends. How cool was that!

And then this past week I got an awful head/shoulder pain. So much so that I could only look straight – a perfect 90 degrees between the chin and the neck.

CuddlyCoo

If I had to pick up something from the ground, I would sit down, head still straight, eyes down and pick it up and then get up, my upper body as balanced as a kuchipudi dancer balancing a pot on her head.

If someone calls me from the left or right, I would do a full body rotation like those endorsing work place fitness DVDs.

Hmm..So this was turning out to be a revelation of all the other things I can do with my life – a kuchipudi dancer, a fitness guru..

Hot packs did not work nor did all the pain relief balms and sprays.

Extensive research followed, all search engines got to work and Sabarish sort of concluded on cervical spondylitis.

Whoaaa!!!!

Meanwhile Dhruv interpreted my pain quite differently.

So he would go behind me and then call for me and I swirl around since I can’t turn. He giggles. And then again and again and again.

Anything for entertainment!

Meanwhile I decide to give it one more days’ time. I was sort of confident a good night’s sleep will relieve me of it.

At night as I was going to bed, Dhruv happily purring by my side, I tell Sabarish ‘If this neck thing kills me, tell our son his mom truly loved him. Tell my parents and your mom not to fight and that my son would need everybody’s collective love to make up for mine!’

Sabarish stared at me ‘Drama queen – sleep.’ He stopped at that.

‘Oh and ya..I love you too.’

‘Sleep. NOW.’

Next day it wasn’t any better, we decide to go to the clinic.

I see the doc and feel like a kid again, almost hoping he gives me a candy.

‘Mrs Sabarish..’

Off goes the candy wish out of the window…really…when am this sick you call me ‘Mrs’???

‘What is the problem??’

‘I am dying out pain – here –on the neck and shoulder region. Cannot turn. Head hurts too’

He doesn’t take a second look, says ‘It is nothing, a simple sprain maybe or a posture issue. 2 tablets a day will relieve you of the pain in 3 days’ time.’

How can it be nothing?? All this pain for nothing? A sprain?? That doesn’t even sound fancy!!

‘Oh No No No! I have a 2 year old son Doc. I can’t behave robotically with him. He thinks its fun and robot-robot is our new game, my batteries may run out soon!’

‘OK, I will give you a heavy dose of painkiller, Injection. Will relieve you soon.’

Hmm..well..

I continue putting on my illness face. Go to the casualty and sit down sighing heavily. They beckon me to a bed – I get up, slowly, still keeping the illness face.

I lie down and they put in the pain killer. Instantly I could turn my head sideways to about 70 degrees. Science I tell you!

I went home happy as happy can be. The short handicap sort of opened windows of reality in my life and I conclude : Falling sick while still a kid maybe fancy but falling sick when you have a kid is far from fancy!

The wish to fall sick for attention is sort of irrelevant when you have toddler back home who thinks robot robot is an awesome new game!

I reach home and yell ‘Dhruv!! Amma’s home…neck is better!!’

‘What?? No more robot robot?? I loved it maaa!!!’

There you go…parasite!

These moms I tell you!!

The memories of how Dhruv popped out of me is becoming vague now. But there are some things I remember – mostly blunders – quite precisely… After the popping out process, I got transferred to a private room in a humble nursing home, which is about 5 minutes from my mom’s home in Cochin. My mom, aunt, the new born and I were in a room. I was in a haze and it was raining like crazy outside. I drifted into sleep every now and then, occasionally look onto my right to see the new born.. Till that night I had never ever had such a close encounter with a new born. CuddlyCoo He wakes up with a start sometimes and falls back to sleeping mode. He needs to be fed every 2 hours they say. So we have to pinch him, rub his ears like he were a puppy, blow near but not onto his face and so on – being very careful, all with just the right intensity to awaken him. And then we have to desperately try to get him to latch and feed himself! That has been the most painstaking encounter I have ever had in my life. By now 2 my fancies of a new born were completely broken. Cute Chubby Baby, pliable, easily fed and the rest would take a week or 2 to be broken… During one such session that night, after he was fed, he took a deep breath in and let it out. Yeah Yeah he sighed! What is the big deal anyways? We sigh all the time. We sigh when we are tired, irritated, sad, maybe when we just need some extra air, even relaxed or after a satisfying meal… Hmmm..but why would a new born sigh?? Satisfying meal?? Nahhh!!! My brains switched to active mode. I looked at my mom and we knew we were thinking the same thing… She quickly kept her finger in front of his nose to check if he continued his breathing streak…what if he thought one big breath and he could take a break for a while?!?!? What if he thought coming out wasn’t a good idea and chose to go back to slumber?! I had a million ‘what ifs’ running in my mind that one split second. I pushed her finger off and kept mine – like the transformation from a pregnant woman to a mom a few hours ago would magically make me sensitive to the minutest air tremors from his nose. Nope.  Couldn’t feel a thing. Realized God hasn’t given me that ‘moms always know’ powers yet.. We were paranoid. My mom unwrapped him and we stared at his small tummy intensely trying hard to figure out if it is inflating and deflating. Stared harder. Nope. Not a sign. Oh Boy!! We were all looking at each other and then at him frantically for some sign. I was welling up, my mom was about to push the panic button when he finally thought it was enough of torture for us on the first day and he stretched – taking in all the air he forgot to take in the last few seconds. He stretched and crawled like a bear after hibernation and then went back to his sleeping mode, very pleased at his accomplishment of freaking the hell out of us. I stared at him and thought ‘You have it all figured out don’t you – Ill figure it in a bit – and then we shall see..’ SO now he falls off over and over again from midway of our stairs or off the window grill, I look up, raise a brow and get back to doing what I was doing. Ha! The fake cry will not budge me. No No Not a puppy face. Don’t you try that on me! Damn! You win again! I find myself running and picking him up. These moms I tell you!

Care for some breakfast cereal and milk???

I had an expat friend visiting me a couple of days ago.

Frankly, it was a very bizarre situation. I almost relived the culture shock of a new bride at her in-law’s.

So this is the first scene in my kitchen every morning:

  • I buy a packet of milk, cut it open and pour it into a vessel, especially designated for milk only (or else the water smells of milk or the milk may sour up and the endless possibilities to freak my mom in law!)
  • Then I put it onto the stove and watch it – patiently as if it were a work of divine art – I am pretty sure if I stared at any other inanimate object with so much concentration I could reduce it to ashes.
  • It warms up then boils and rises till the brim –which could be about 8-10 minutes. I further simmer it for another 5 minutes.
  • So that the milk is ‘purified’ which sort of translates to making it devoid of most vitamins A-Z. Any further heating and the milk might just decide to become colorless.
  • And then throughout the day I find myself subjecting milk to constant torture of warming, heating and cooling process – Heat it up for tea/coffee – let it cool so I don’t burn my tongue etc.

Expat’s question: ‘Why would you subject milk bought off the store to so much cruelty? Boiling – heating – cooling – warming – cooling??? ‘

I bite my lips and put on an intense look in my eyes and say – ‘that’s how I like it’. (Later I google and discover apparently milk is supposed to be boiled not more than once and then warmed not more than twice so as to keep its nutrients intact – Oh yea Science, I dare you to tell my MIL this!)

Thank God I came up with a conclusive statement rather than an honest justification which could only go: ‘Umm because my grandma did the same, so does my mom and mom in law – I don’t like to question existential practises. I like following tradition – quite blindly.’

The expat doesn’t stop there. ‘So, do you like your breakfast cereal with warm milk too?’

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My mind says : Damn! I may like to have boiled brown rice with ketchup or bread dipped in orange juice! Stop questioning my practices!

Instead I say : ‘Umm..Nahh of course not. However breakfast cereal is a very western concept and we believe in elaborate cooked meals – rotis, idlis, dosas, upma. (o boy! We do!!).’

The expat’s eyebrows curl up at these random syllables put together – dosa idli roti upma???

Never mind. Then, I hurriedly change the topic to global warming, polar belts melting, pollution –  anything to ward her attention off my small world and dutiful routine!

I wait for her to leave and then ponder over the milky discussion.

Really is there another way of having breakfast cereals and really can milk be just poured off the packet and drank?

What a waste of my 20mins every day (Precisely why I haven’t actually risen to the heights I am capable of conquering – those 20 mins may have made all the difference – imagine Newton boiling milk when the apple was supposed to fall on his head – see the point?).

I have never till date enjoyed having breakfast cereals. I had a pretty deprived childhood which involved all things junk but not breakfast cereal – maybe the sugary goo doesn’t really qualify as junk!

So I introduced myself to them only when I started staying alone and had little time to cook, which is when I wondered why on earth would I eat this soggy slushy mush when I could just have a toast of bread and a glass of warm milk?

Never really went back to cereals till this conversation happened.

I then poured a glass of warm milk and put it in the refrigerator (more milk torture!)

After about an hour I took it out. Emptied some cereal into a bowl and poured some cold milk into it.

Put a spoon into my mouth – Crunch Crunch Crunch – really??

My disconnected mind thinks in patches ‘cereal not equal to soggy? Crunchy – really?’

All these years of ignorance! Now I know why half the world wakes up to breakfast cereal. Bye Bye Idli Dosa Upma – I have now found my nirvana – Now my family will wake up to the goodness of breakfast cereals!