Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Chalks and Chopsticks : With the toss of a Lime

She said “Amma, I am coming home”…a deluge of emotions and feelings flooded my being. My baby was coming home. What a journey the past three decades have been…from the moment I knew Vani existed my body craved lime – like Kali assuaged the darkness with sour and pungent – Lime Rice, Lime Pickle, Lime Juice became a part of my existence for the next ten months. In fact, the meal I had the night I delivered Vani was Lime Rice and a spicy Lime Pickle. Her coming was not easy – the night was long, the pain intense and of course she had to make her entry feet first…she had a lot of reasons to cry for and cry hard she did – born into an orthodox Brahmin family where the girl was taught to be submissive, with an impulsive mother who saw herself as a thwarted artist…an autocratic father who was rich in material matters and yet impoverished when it came to emotions. When Vani was two, we moved across the oceans to an unknown land where the sun was pale, the air cold and the food was tasteless. Yet, we learnt to make it home – I planted a Lime Tree in the back yard which over time grew big, beautiful and strong like my baby. Ironically, Vani’s comfort food of choice was Lime Rice or Chitrannam as she called it – every time I knew she had a tough day I would boil a pot of rice. In a few minutes I would pluck a couple limes from the garden and have her favorite meal prepared with crisp papadam and a home-made pachadi.
Time flew, my baby grew up all of twenty one – the sweetest and gentlest daughter a mother could hope for – yet there was a part of me that wished she stood up to her father a little bit more. Instead of saying Yes to all his aggressive choices for her life and career – I just wished she had learnt to stand up for what she believed in….or maybe I wished I had taught her to follow her dreams…instead of being the silent hand that comforted…the unsaid left unsaid. When her Appa said – marry Sanjay – he is a doctor, a prime catch, he owns a house and is of our caste– she agreed silently. I saw the disappointment in her eyes, and yet we left the words unsaid. Every year she came visiting, I saw her losing a bit more of herself…I gave her the Chitrannam and Pickles – comforting with food where I should have been comforting with words and actions. Sanjay, the doctor turned out to be not such a prime catch – a womanizing lout with not much time for his simple wife -- I never told her to leave him, or that I am here for you. Vani’s Appa blamed fate but I silently blamed him – one day he was not around to blame anymore. I lived alone in my big house with the lime tree in the backyard wishing I had taught my daughter to stand up for herself. So today, when I got this call almost a little too late – a part of me grieves for my poor Vani and another part rejoices that my baby girl has been set free…maybe just maybe we can turn back the clock  and learn to live again. I finish cooking the Chitrannam and as I am adding the final sprigs of Cilantro to the rice, I hear the bell ring…

To make Lime Rice –

  1. Heat Sesame Oil
  2. When the Oil is shimmering add Hing.
  3. Add in the urad dal, mustard seeds, chopped ginger and green chillies and curry leaves
  4. When the urad dal is golden brown and the mustard seeds are spluttering, add in ½ teaspoons of turmeric
  5. Add in the boiled rice (2 big cups).
  6. Add in the squeezed juice of 3-4 limes (as per taste).
  7. Garnish with fried peanuts, sprigs of cilantro and lots of love and hope.
This story is pure fiction and title credits go to Padma Vishwanathan who wrote a splendid book "The toss of a Lemon"...however the story line is original :)

Chalks and Chopsticks is an idea concepted by Aqua and this month's event is being hosted by Desi Soccer Mom


  1. Meenakshi, I loved your story. Very touching. Keep writing.

  2. Meenakshi, that was an excellent piece of writing. Loved every line. Thank you for such a fine piece of writing. :-)

  3. Nice story! Glad things have finally changed for Vani!

  4. Got here from Jaya's blog and this is a wonderful writeup. My heart goes out to Vani and her mom making us feel how blessed we are in life.

  5. Thanks Jaya for hosting the event and the wonderful comment. Sudha, SS and Supriya - thanks for all the encouragement :)

  6. Hey Meenaxi, Got here from Jaya's Desi Soccer mom- lovely story. I could almost feel my eyes tearing up towards the end.

  7. Wow ,truly enjoyed reading this