Friday, June 3, 2011

On Becoming a Person

Today, while cooking Aloo Paranthas for the family. I was suddenly taken back 27 years. The year was 1984. I was 19, almost the same age as Atreya today. I was newly married and recently introduced to that space in the house called the kitchen. During my last visit home, I had learned from mom, verbally, how to make Aloo Paranthas. And here I was, proudly making paranthas for my new non-Punjabi family- a doting husband, an equally doting father-in-law, a little cautious with her feelings yet supportive mother-in-law (or mama as we called her), and an indifferent brother-in-law.

I recall feeling horridly hot and sweaty in the kitchen but very proud of my crispy great smelling paranthas. The secret was in the amount of ghee each was getting soaked in. It was criminal (ghee was expensive and a health risk, there was shortage of money, and mama was a health freak) but I was totally unaware that I was doing anything remotely wrong. I didn't care because I didn't know. I remember seeing mama's face looking a little concerned, but she did not say anything. Perhaps she was afraid of being the proverbial critical mother-in-law or perhaps I was too happy and unaware to see through her expressions. The dinner was a smashing hit, with the family devouring over 30 paranthas, which had in turn devoured a whole can of ghee!

This incident is more than just a random memory. It illustrates my personality in the first few years of my marriage and my relationship with mama, my mother-in-law. When I first got married, I was too young to have strong opinions and boundaries. I accepted mama as a person to be respected and listened to. I was blind to her reservations about me and her criticism of me and even if someone had told me that she had valid reasons of disliking the girl who married her young son too early, I wouldn't have understood. In any case, no one told me. She, in turn, warmed up to my simplicity and became kinder to me than was her nature. We were truly close and fond of each other and things remained like that for the first 4 or 5 years of my marriage.

It was the change in my relationship with her that first signalled to me that I had finally grown up into a person with a specific identity. It is sad that my becoming a person robbed both of us of the simple trusting and kind relationship we shared with each other.

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