I am in Atlanta right now. At my son's place. He has done his best to make us comfortable by stocking his kitchen with grocery and his fridge with vegetables, milk, fruits and of course 'desi' yoghurt. My husband cannot gulp down a single meal without 'dahi'. I remember the time we landed in Patna on a hot evening in May. After a refreshing bath we went around looking for rice and curd - typical of the Tambrahm couple we were. Little did we expect that procuring plain curd and rice would be such a difficult (nearly impossible) task in the capital of Bihar.
Plain rice at night? Curd? People looked at us as if were aliens from another planet. All that a few places could offer was sweetened curd and fried rice. We managed without curd that night. My husband put on a 'sour' look that seemed to say that it was my fault not to have brought curd with me from Jamshedpur.
I digress. Coming back to life in America...........
With all good intentions my son had purchased a food processor. I wish he hadn't. Or that my husband hadn't noticed it.
"Why don't we prepare idlis"? he asked eyes lighting up at the thought of idlis as an alternative to multi-grained bread that I gave him for breakfast. Now, please don't get me wrong. I have made enough idlis in my forty three years of marriage and was really looking forward to an idli-free vacation in America. I have written about my experiences with a manual grinder here.
"I don't think it is sturdy enough to grind rice" I said. I was happy to put the fear of God into his head.
"If it gets spoilt, fixing it will be more expensive than buying a new one. We don't have Munna here".
Munna was the electrician who repaired our 35 year old Sumeet mixer in Jamshedpur. My husband is so full of praise for him that he doesn't let my friends throw off their old superannuated mixers offering to get them repaired by Munna.
But as God would will it, my better half spotted a packet of idli rava in the Indian store and picked it up right away giving me no time to think of a new excuse.
"Now you only have to grind dal". He was elated and went looking for dal and found it in no time.
"We are here just for two months" I tried to dissuade him. "What will R do with all this after we leave"? My protest fell on deaf ears. Son was smiling to himself understanding my ploy but refusing to take sides.
The very next day the idli project began.
"Did you soak dal for idli"?
The man is after my blood. I decided to mess up the proportion and make really horrible idli and blame it on idli rava. I am glad to say that I almost succeeded. The idli came out really hard and the project was a disaster.
But I have married a scientist who worked in a research lab. He doesn't give up easily. The next time he asked me to try a different proportion, stood by my side while I soaked dal monitored my efficiency in using the food processor saying 'stop' and 'start' at the appropriate moments advising me on when to add water.............
To cut a looooong story short, Idli came out perfect and he is bent on buying another packet of idli rawa before we leave. To add to my sorrow he is hinting at trying out 'adai' and 'vadai' offering to guide me if required.
I almost hear you ask -
''What is the connection between life in America and preparation of idli''?
Idli is easy on the stomach but a lot of preparation goes into serving this health friendly breakfast item. I truly wish that one didn't find a mini India in every corner of America and would have loved to live on milk, cereal and bread rather than using the delicate food processor that I have here. It has a single jar made of brittle plastic and cannot be left in the sink like the metal jar we have back home.
My domestic help Baby would have taken care of washing the jar in Jamshedpur. Out here I am a new incarnation of Baby and till I wash, wipe and put away the jar and mixer I remain tensed. I really wonder if idlis are worth the trouble. Of course juicers, mixers and grinders suited to the pounding, crushing and grating techniques employed in Tambrahm cuisine are available here. But I truly don't want to burden my son with gadgets that he may not use and to see them gather dust after we leave would be equally wasteful.
Do I really want to put my better half on cereal and bread for the entire period that we stay here?
Of course not. I was just joking. He also adjusts a lot and has no complaints against the food I serve him.
I had earlier written that I feigned to be deaf. That was in an different era - eighteen years ago to be precise. Now I am half deaf and so is my husband. We keep saying "What? Eh? Oh?" to each other all the time. But with all my selective and actual deafness the truth is that I cannot deny him the food of his preference once in a while. Our 'nok jhoks' have reduced drastically and a realization that we only have each other, with whom to share our joy and sorrow, in this alien territory has set in. Please don't imagine that we are absolute angels. Once we reach familiar territory the 'spice of life' will automatically be added.
And of course we have Eddie to fuss over. He has been adopted from a rescue home by my son and is an absolute delight. My husband runs miles from canines but Eddie is an exception. He loves to stroke Eddies' back and for his part Eddie puts out his paw to indicate that he wants he wants to be stroked more. He takes turns to approach us merrily wagging his tail.
Yes life in America is different. It has its merits and demerits. The internet access is definitely better here and the online library facility helps me read books on my i Pad something that I have come to appreciate and makes me want the same facility in India. Exercising (read walking) on the treadmill in the gym is something I will miss when I return. I must look out for a gym near my house and monitor my exercise routine when I go back. Walking in the crowded park near our house tends to make me cautious and reduces my speed. Moreover, one tends to meet known people and with a 'hello' and 'namaste' thrown in morning walks turn into social interaction. I do miss it here but walking for health benefits is also important.
I wrote two papers after I came here on the 'Role of Multimedia in Higher Education' and 'Improving the Quality of Higher Education in India' and felt good about it. So life here is not just about idli and vada or pulling husband's leg for his food preference. Life in America is about spending some quality time with our children and understanding about their life in foreign shores.