Friday, April 10, 2015

Our Life Together

I grew up in an urban unit family: father, mother, sister and I. And when I married we were another urban unit family: father, mother and son. Now my son is married and he and his wife live nearby. Urban life is all hustle bustle and we rarely get together. So it was a very special time for us when the four of us went on a two day trip to Goa.

Although we enjoyed Goa thoroughly, the most memorable moment for me was the dinner we shared on the train. For many train journeys when my son was a little boy I used to pack food. It must have been the memories of those meals which made me cook up a storm: thair sadam (curd rice), lemon rice, pickles, some leftover caramel custard, a dry grated carrot sabzi, an aloo hari pyaz sabzi, some puris and my version of Vathal Kuzhambu. It was deeply moving for me to sit with the three people I love most in the whole world and share this hodgepodge of foods while the train raced through the night. 

There is something very sacred about having a meal together with family. Most of the time, nowadays, we eat while watching TV or something on the Internet. Even in my childhood, my sister and I would read and eat. My sister and I would spend time drawing on our plates with our fingers when the meal was over. It was a kind of bonding-and I have seen my college days bestie also teaching her younger sis how to do this. 

I have seen a family where the father would quiz his sons at table. It was not as boring as one might imagine as he was well read and a charming gentleman. These days, more often than not, shared family meals are either in silence with only the clinking of the utensils or fertile grounds for little squabbles. Yet, the highlight of a life together is eating together.

When my husband and I began life together, we had nothing. Our friends at university, which is where we met and began our new life, brought us a broken pan and a kerosene pump stove left behind by my youngest brother-in-law when he had left the same university. I vividly remember my husband reading to me from James Joyce as I wrestled to create a meal in that one pan which also served as our plate after it was cooked. 

After that, his life was increasingly so taken up by the rat race that we rarely had a family meal. But the girl I'm blessed to have as daughter-in-law made a world of difference. Whenever she is around we become a family. Besides the train journey dinner, I shall also cherish the memory of a meal we all cooked together when they were staying in another city and had come to visit us. 

They had to leave early the next morning and wanted to make some sandwiches for the journey. We took out various leftovers and all of us got creative. My daughter in law made a really yummy fry out of various leftover meats and my son made some toasted sandwiches. Each one was busy chopping, buttering, roasting, frying and whatnot! There was laughter amid the hustle bustle rather than only the regulation "Pass me the this or the that".

It is that special time together which made me think that if I'm ever lucky enough to not only own a home but also design it, I would want a large kitchen cum dining room. I've already started that hunt! I found that on this page I could click on the icon for flats and get a 3 D view of the plans. 

It's been a confusing search but I've settled on one website upon which to build my day dreams. A dream is the first step to reality! 

All this food talk is making me hungry and so I shall leave you for now with this advice: make your family or couple mealtimes an occasion for bonding. Smile at each other often. Savour the food and offer unreserved gratitude to the one who cooked the meal. 

All religions have rituals to be observed before a meal but it is not necessary to be so traditional or formal. Gratitude is an expression of love. And Love is all we all need at any given time. 
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