Nimar walked into the kitchen with dread, he had practiced his forthcoming talk for months now. He had just come home a week ago.
For the past four months he’d been in England, Nimar had seen many marvelous and unusual things. One of them had been when one morning, he saw a young girl wheeling out her father to an old age home, reassuring and hugging him the whole time. That would never happen in India.
An idea sprung into his head as he thought back to his mother hundreds of kilometers away in Punjab.
Now, Nimar leaned on a counter and inhaled deeply. As ever, the kitchen was filled with the aroma of fresh ghee and the sizzle of the hot pan as his mother slapped a rounded corn chapatti on it.
Her face was alight with the glow of the flames and it struck Nimar how young she looked for her sixty years. Her temples had grayed and wisps of hair in her braided bun had turned silver. A few lines had appeared on her brow and she moved just slightly slower than years ago, but otherwise his mother appeared quite robust.
‘Oh puttar, there you are.’ she said, handing him a plate laden with chapattis, fresh yogurt and salt. ‘I don’t know what Angrez khana you’ve been eating all these days. Just bread and tea, those people never eat real food anyway.’
‘Thank you,’ Nimar said, breaking a small piece of the fresh chapatti.
His mother raised an eyebrow. ‘Taught my son some manners comma did they? If your father had been there today, I’d have shipped him along with you comma’ his mother said lightly, but sadly.
Nimar’s father had died seven years ago, on Nimar’s 23rd birthday. They hadn’t celebrated his birthday for three years after tha‘Indian men, no manners at all comma’ she continued. ‘Just cross your legs on the table and call for tea, water and food. I bet, one of these days they’ll have to get a machine to put food into their mouths too. Don’t need to stir at all.’
‘Mother, I need to talk to you,’ Nimar said.
‘That’s why I advise our neighborhood girls,’ his mother continued dismissively. ‘Marry a nice white man who can cook his own meals. Our countrymen will never change.’
‘Oh, go ahead. Why do you keep asking me?
‘I was wondering, don’t you get lonely here sometimes?’ Nimar asked, carefully. ‘Wouldn’t you like to mix with people your own age?’
‘What’s there to be lonely about?’ his mother countered brightly. ‘You won’t believe what a crowd we have and so many gatherings. Me and Tanu’s mother are busy anyway, looking for a match for Tanu. She’s a graduate in biology, should attract good family names. You’ll have to attend the wedding, such a nice educated girl…’
‘Still, you must miss your own age group,’ Nimar pushed. ‘You know, two old age homes just opened up a few months ago and they already have fifty people.’
‘Oh yes, me and Anju heard about it. I think the whole idea’s insane, kicking people out of their homes,’ his mother said, darkly. ‘Anyway, we’re moving off topic. You’re already 30, Nimar. We’ve got to find a nice Punjabi girl for you! White girls are a horrible choice in that matter, so snobbish. Never listen to you…’
‘But I heard there are really friendly people over there.’
‘I was thinking maybe Kusum, or Jaspreet would suit well. Such nice girls, both PHD’s. Just think, my Nimar marrying a doctor!’ she said gleefully.
‘But the old age home…’
‘Oh, what’s this old age home, old age home?’ his mother flared up at last. ‘I know now beta, you want to send me there. Kick your old mother out of the house, that’s what you want?’
‘Oh no!’ Nimar cried.
‘After I nursed you in my own arms, washed your dirty diapers, attended to your every need comma’she muttered. ‘That’s what you children do, parents like used tissues after we’re old. Shameless dogs.’
Nimar paced worriedly. The whole thing was being blown way out of proportion.
‘No mother, I was didn’t mean…It’s your own home, of course you can stay comma’ Nimar said at last.
His mother’s face relaxed into a smile and she patted his face, leaving white dough on his cheeks.
‘Alright, dear. Eat your food, it’s getting cold. We have to find your wife too, Don’t you think you’ll need a good matchmaker like me?’ Her eyes twinkled.
I think of this story as a little vignette on the typical Punjabi mother. They are hot on the edges, but touchingly deep of the heart.
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I hope to see you on my next post.