Getting married is something you can never be fully prepared for. And if it is one that crosses boundaries – be they of religion, caste, language, geography – or whatever other dimension that serves as a division and not a union – it serves up surprises all the time. For me one of the surprises was of summer madness in the family I married into.
I had observed with an element of amusement (and many a time gnawing hunger) how breakfast was a `might happen’ in the new family, how an entire meal could be composed of what I earlier classified as dessert (e.g. modaks), that rice is eaten before rotis in the meal sequence, that plain cooked arhar dal without any garnishing or chaunk is an accepted, integral part of a home meal and so on. But four months into married life I came up against a shocker. The family that worshipped a thousand deities like most Hindus abandoned all of them in favour of paying obeisance at the altar of just ONE God.
Come morning, noon and night this God spread its tentacles to every nook and corner – hiding in straw under the bed to occupying significant shelves in the fridge. It was truly omnipresent in our home. It manifest its presence in various hues – from green to reddish tinted to yellow to golden. It permeated our spirits in various forms – from firm to soft to liquid. It was demanding – it dominated all conversation and significant energies were spent in ensuring it was cared for well. Routines were established for its care, responsibilities farmed out to family members – who would go out to identify the best ones, who would ensure it was well `nested’, who would pick the ones for special attention each day and so on.
To my utter dismay slowly all cooking was abandoned and the kitchen counter tops too were relinquished to make way for its increasing tribe. The Ratnagiri Hapus (Alphonso) ruled over us and for three months of summer we became a family that ate, drank, talked, walked, dreamt mangoes. Now I liked mangoes too. Maybe more than liked .. a little love. But what I saw here was sheer madness. My saying `No thank you’ to a fifth mango of the day begot me incredulous looks and I could almost hear the cries of `Infidel’ `Traitor’ and suchlike that remained unsaid only because at four months of marriage I was a bit of a novelty too.
Now with fifteen years of this under my belt and exposure to many other similar zealots I am beginning to appreciate some of the positive aspects – like locking away the kitchen for three months. But I am yet to succumb to being snooty enough to turn down any mango other than the Hapus! My son is on his way there though – the Ugandan one we had yesterday barely got an appreciative nod and the Raaywal’s I once tried to tempt him with met with a `why not just sip on the Mango Slice bottle’ look L
As for me – the sight and smell of raw mangoes sprinkled with red chilli powder still makes my heart skip a beat (for reasons that don’t all quite fit in with the subject of this post 😉 ) – and the Hapus can wait for its turn on MY table.