It was a dull evening. With every second passing by, I could feel the laziness taking its ride on me. I am a person who needs to be busy even if it’s a matter of a single second I need to do something. I guess this kind of approach towards my life was injected in me when I was studying in Little Rock Indian School.
I asked my mother if she could make some lip smacking snacks and I even intended to help her in the preparations. However, she was in no mood to make anything extra for she had already prepared upma. I personally do not have any inclination towards this particular Indian cuisine and occasionally I manage to gulp it down indifferently. I decided not to have this dish when my mother was just about to serve this cement-like dish on my plate. During this course of action between my mother and me, my maternal grandmother entered the kitchen and her facial expression was so obvious that she had heard the entire conversation.
Her eyes reflected an offensive reaction. She was deeply hurt by my action also my behavior towards the food. “Is this what I have taught you when you were little? Did you know when you used to eat this same dish passionately when you were not even having teeth? Do you even realize the value of the food? Come with me. I need to talk to you so that I can put some sense in your head” She says vehemently. I followed her words and was also having a hint of guilt. My cheeks were burning and I was afraid that I might even burst out crying in front of her. My grandmother never spoke to me with such usage of words. She always spoke to in a composed manner.
Once we both reached my bedroom, she asked me to sit beside her. She started her defensive speech for my offensive behavior. “When I was of your age, we couldn’t even afford three square meals a day. We had no Maggi, no KFC, no Pizzas and no Colas or any so-called-real-juice-tetra packs.” She says. She further adds on raising her eyebrows and complimenting her fingers with her words animatedly, “We used to work hard no matter if my mother asked us help or not. This kind of practice was also passed onto your mother as well. We were never told to do any house hold chores rather we would volunteer for it. But today’s generation needs to be spoon fed every time, be it waking them up or be it reminding them about their vehicle keys. Moreover, to save a rupee, we used to walk for miles and this would help to keep us fit. When was the last time you walked?” I was burdened with guilt now for I knew whatever she is speaking is 100% truth. I have heard this so many times from many elderly people I have met in my family. “I am sorry nani”, I say while holding her hands between my palms. She removes her hand to show how angry she is because of my one stupid yet offensive behavior.
Most of the societies and cultures revere food. There are many people in this world, despite of globalization and development, still starve and suffer from eating disorders like anorexia and malnutrition. As I was remembering this fact my grandmother intervened my thoughts and started talking again animatedly, “These days youngsters like you want everything instant. This generation is suffering from a disease called ‘instant’. Before, for us, evening snacks would mean roasted peanuts, boiled jack fruit seeds, boiled and seasoned garbanzo beans and sometimes black chickpeas. We would celebrate functions or any festivities with sweetened semolina having dash of banana and pineapple pulps, and mixture of curd and sugar. But look at you moron, you have privilege of not cooking like how we used to do. Everything comes in ready-to-eat packets. Even the masalas come grounded readily from the markets. Gone are those days when we meticulously spread the spices under the sun to sundry them, roast them and blend them until its fine powdered. These days I often see newspapers publishing news about GMO products!” When she said GMO products my jaw almost dropped. I was beaming with proud feeling as well as surprised that my grandmother knows about the GMO.
To ensure if she knew what GMO would mean I asked her politely not wanting to offend her again, “ Nani, do you know what the word stands for or do you have any clue about its existence and other jeopardy associated with it?” “You silly girl, just because you are technologically advanced and pursuing higher education, doesn’t mean you can think I wouldn’t know it.” She retorted. The day you joined journalism course, both your grandfather and I feel really proud of you. And since then I am trying to read newspapers and every articles in them. Most of them are pathetic. Why would I care if some x actor is having an affair with some y actor or x actor was slapped by his former friend? I used to read English as well as Kannada newspapers so that I was informed well. I have read about how plants are genetically engineered for having a high yields and how farmers fell into such vicious trap followed by their horrendous suicide cases! I am sickened by the government and their strategies to subjugate us.”
I was further pushed into being stunned. I knew I cannot open my mouth hereafter, and she is attempting to know things which most of us lack or rather say avoid. How many of us are actually into reading habit? I, personally only glance through the headlines and most of the time I only tend to read editorials in the newspapers. Some times when I have time I just go through the updates on the current events through online news portals. After having this insightful conversation with my grandmother, I understood the importance of the food. I apologized with her again and promised I will never have an indifferent approach over the food I am offered except for eggplants and bell peppers (I am allergic to them). She forgave me and resumed back to her usual routine.
The conversation with my grandmother was remarkably moralizing. Most of us are now following the burger culture and fast food culture. When was the last time you enjoyed the snap of a groundnut? When was the last time you had roasted lentils? Without a doubt globalization has changed the eating culture. Most of our eating patterns have strikingly flipped. Relishing different cuisine is not bad, but forgetting the old eating habit and substituting it with something which has negative nutritional value is something dangerous.
Sridevi Nayak K