Monday, June 11, 2007

My dear - 49

To her

I don't know why I was thinking about you today. Your birthday is only in November. And that day is not until August. It must be because of the song I was listening to. Not the one with your name. But the one that we used to sing together. The one that you would sing hopelessly off-key. The one I teased you so badly about. And that was not the only thing I used to tease you about. The way you used to stutter mildly before any sentence. The way you scratched your head often. The way your hair curled into tight rings. Just about everything was a reason to taunt.

How could I forget that day when we went to the beach and I demanded that you return the dress you were wearing because it belonged to me? Yes, right then and there. I wanted my dress back. And yet, you kept your head about you. You just ignored me like you always did. And that infuriated me even more. I tugged and pulled at the dress. You continued to ignore me. How I tortured you! That I was only 8 or 9 years old then was no excuse. Looking back I'm shocked at how my behaviour was allowed to go on.

Luckily, you didn't have to suffer me for too long. And after a couple of years with us, you went back to living with your parents, my aunt and uncle, in that remote northern town. And we only met during holidays. Until that year, when we were both 16 years old. I still remember being woken up in the middle of the night and being asked to pray. You had contracted meningitis and were in a critical condition in the hospital. And collective prayers alone could save you. Sadly that was not enough and you succumbed to the disease. After that, whenever I saw your mother, I was weighed down with inexplicable guilt. She would see me and burst into tears. You too would have been going to college. You too would have started working. And like my mother, she too would have been looking out for a suitable groom for her daughter. I was a constant reminder of the life that her daughter could no longer live.

But the real reason I'm writing to you is because I'm a mother now and I fear for my child. You know what they say about the sins of the parents coming back to haunt their kids. And I often worry that there's a bully waiting to get my son.

I know I didn't say it when it mattered. But I'm saying it now. I'm sorry for what I did. I really am.

Monday, June 04, 2007

My Dear - 48

To the one I'm jealous of

I cannot remember when I came across your blog first. But I do remember that I was instantly captivated. The photographs were stunning and the recipes really delicious. You had me hooked. I was in awe and to be honest, a tiny bit jealous. You see, for the past eight years or so, for as long as I’ve been married, I’ve struggled with cooking. One day, I was the one being fed. And the next, I was the one doing the feeding. And the transition happened so fast that I barely had time to come to terms with it. What was worse, I did not even have a choice about it. No, that’s not entirely true. I didn’t allow myself the luxury of choice. I didn’t think I could employ a cook or do a take away or allow the husband to take over. That would not be the right thing to do. After all, cooking’s a wife’s job. To forsake it or to hand it over to someone else would tantamount to abandoning my family. And tell me, what good wife would do that?

And so, for the past eight-something years, I have struggled at every single meal time. The conflict between my heart and head would reach such dizzying levels that it have caused many a culinary warfare in the household. I would look at women like you and your legions of admiring fans (almost entirely women, why?), your impeccable kitchens, your elaborately pain-staking recipes (so much soaking, peeling, grinding, stuffing), your boundless enthusiasm for things like onion seeds and wonder what was wrong with me that I don’t enjoy it as much? You know, when I read your blog, I hear my mother-in-law’s voice. I hear her saying, “What have you been feeding my son? He’s lost so much weight”, “Bread is for the invalid and the toothless”, “So, what did you make for Srirama Navami?”, “In our house, we make kuzhippaniyaram for varalakshmi nonbu”, “No wonder the grandchildren are so thin. That’s what happens when they eat cereals for breakfast”.

Please don’t get me wrong. What you are doing is fabulous. You’re getting people excited about food and that’s great. But you reinforce the guilt that is always lurking, just below the surface. I feel inadequate when I read your recipes. Like the Big God forgot to put in a crucial part while creating me. And now there’s a big idli-shaped hole in my soul (btw, I have never made that wretched thing in all these years!)

Again, please don’t mistake me. Your food is lovely and my secret wish is to be invited to a dinner party at your house someday (though I think I may’ve ruined whatever slim chances I had, in the last 5 minutes). But I really wish I could take a short-cut and jump straight to the end-results. May be I should try a take away for dinner tonight.