“Do you remember ever eating a perfect mango when we were small?”, my cousin asked in one of our non stop going back to childhood sessions. We were talking about our grandparents and the numerous holidays that we spent with them. Summer holidays and mangoes – was there ever one without the other? We had this post lunch and dinner ritual. My grandfather would be at the head of the huge dining table with his wife ever present at his right and the posse of grandchildren around him. As soon as the lunch was over, he would call out to one of us to go get the mangoes. As soon as we would get up, my grandmother would say, “take the ones that have started turning bad”. The mangoes would be arranged neatly on hay in one of the rooms and we would go diligently search for the specks and dents and bring them back. The perfect ones would be taken out only when there were special guests at the table. But then, us kids would be banned from the table those days.
What my cousin said was true. It was very rare that we got to have a perfect mango, that we would sit, relish and slowly devour. Isn’t that what we normally do with most of the things in our life as well? The other day my son asked me, “amma, why do you make good food only when there are guests?” And I thought, ” oh my God, am I turning into my grandmother?” What he said was also true. The care and time that I spend preparing special dishes for guests rarely gets into the daily cooking which is anyway mostly delegated to the help at home.
Sometimes it takes an innocent question to shake you up. At times, you may not be so lucky. I remember reading a true life story in Readers Digest years ago. This lady finds her brother in law clutching a shell shaped soap with tears flowing uncontrollably from his eyes. Her sister,his wife had just passed away that morning after fighting for months against cancer. He tells her, “she was saving this for a special occasion which never came. She didn’t realize every day was a special day”. How true and how easy it is for us to forget this in our mad daily rush. It has been years since I read this but somehow the image of that shell shaped soap still sticks with me. When things go wrong, when people hurt me, when I feel down without any reason, when life seems to be too much at times, somehow this image keeps coming back to me.
So now, there are no shell shaped soaps in my bathroom, most of the candles in my house have been lighted at least once, I don’t save my new dresses for a special occasion and yes, my son gets his brownies and cup cakes often these days.