Mother will be here tomorrow. It’s been over an year since I saw her (we had been to India last in April 2003) and in the past few days there have been signs of excitement about her arrival.
For instance, I’ve explained to her thrice over the phone that after she gets out of the flight at Frankfurt airport, she should simply follow the ‘Baggage Claim’ sign which will take her quite some distance and along the way pass through ‘passport-control’ where she must stand in the queue for ‘Non EU Nationals’ – EU representing European Union – and answer a sleepy immigration officer’s questions about the purpose of her visit (to meet your chinna, what else?) after which she must take an escalator down to the baggage-claim area where she must first look at the electronic board that displays the ‘Belt Number’ at which the baggage of her flight will arrive, and then walk towards that belt, take her luggage (can you manage alone with your two heavy suitcases?), pass through the nearest exit and find us waiting outside, all-smiles and ready to hug her.
My wife tells me that I’ve never shown half that concern and eagerness about her arrival from anywhere.
For her, there are issues that demand immediate attention. My mother’s arrival spells the end of all her non-vegetarian cooking and eating in the house; it is a sacrifice she chose to make when she “took pity” – as she puts it – and consented to marriage with a person who, although free from religious inclinations himself, came from a Brahmin family and thus brought with him all the associated restrictions such a background would carry. So her task for tomorrow morning – an act of purification? – involves emptying our refrigerator of all the frozen meat stored there, looking for bottles of prawn pickles, packets of chicken masala and other assortments that have ingredients a strict Brahmin would not touch, and “getting rid” of them (a task that I presume involves handing them over to a friend who can either use or look after them for the couple of months my mother will be with us).
Then there is the matter of territorial ownership. How will she handle things in the kitchen, my wife asks. Is it all right if I still continue to do everything in the kitchen while your mother is here? She should just take rest, isn’t it?
I suggest that instead she should take rest the next two months and leave everything to mother. It isn’t so simple, my wife explains. She has a well-defined ‘system’ in place – what will happen to it? I can understand that; almost everyday I get to hear a few well-chosen adjectives for not having kept a utensil in the shelf where it belongs. That I start laughing each time this happens doesn’t make things any better. And now with my mother in charge of the kitchen, poor wife will only have to watch with patience as her dominion is turned upside-down overnight.
It will be interesting to see how this balancing act between mother and wife plays itself out over the next couple of months. At present, however, I’m only thinking about all the nice dishes I’ll get to eat once mother is here. (If I remain silent for a while, you’ll know it is the result of the consequences I had to bear for that last statement.)