This article originally appeared in the Deccan Herald
“That sambhar doesn’t look right — too much water”. My mom was watching me cook the evening meal with a critical eye. “It has to have the right consistency. Why don’t you learn from Radha Chithi?” At times she forgot that I was approaching middle age and had two nearly teenaged daughters to boot. In her mind, I was still a child whose education in certain areas was sadly incomplete.
“Do you remember the fluffy aapams that Girija maami made during Krishna Jayanthi? And Padma akka’s cheedai was so crisp, you never stopped eating them. You could still ask them to teach you.” If mom was impressed with someone’s skills whether it was cooking, painting, singing, writing, or any of the other sixty four arts, they got into “Mom’s Hall of Fame”. She kept her lists constantly updated. There were some perennial favourites in every list but rarely did anyone get bumped off any list. Cousin Gowri, my bete noire, featured in the writers and super cook list. Even if I had ever aspired “to be like Gowri” my mom’s constant anything-but-subtle reminders had put an end to it.
Uncle Andrew, our erstwhile neighbour and the resident art expert played a starring role at our post-prandial discussions when my daughter struggled with her pencil sketching. “He would bring Elizabeth Taylor to life, you could imagine blooming irises when you gazed into the eyes,” Mom sighed dreamily as she was an art enthusiast herself.
“How does it matter, Amma, if I simply can’t whip up perfectly shaped murukkus that gives you a crunchy feeling at the first bite or my articles are yet to see the light of day in The New York Times?” I argue with her.
“If I never egged you on to realise your full potential you would have ended up like me! I never had half the opportunities that you do.” My mom had had a hard life growing up, with her own mom passing away before she was fifteen. I knew I wouldn’t be where I am today if not for her prodding and support. And when I now insist that my older daughter sign up for the upcoming school debate, much to her dismay, I realised that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree!
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