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The tale of a simple grocery list

170507 - Open Page - Goceries

170507 - Open Page - Goceries  

The making of an avial and the delicate task of requisitioning its ingredients

I doubt if my mother-in-law would accept the job of creating logical puzzles for competitive examinations. She’d scoff. But I think she doesn’t know her talents. Take a simple task of making grocery lists (here in the U.S. where we live).

“I am going to get milk. Anything else?” the husband says.

“Maybe curd? But we have curd. So, no need for curd, okay?” she says.

“Milk: Yes. Curd: No. Got it.” Ever the optimist, he tries to grab the keys while the going is simple, but she hollers from the kitchen.

“I need some vegetables also. Get some radish, son. Buy tomatoes also. No need for onions, there are six or seven left.”

Another step grocery-store bound and she pipes, “Also, get pumpkins. Long since I made avial.”

Avial, that delectable dish made with an assortment of fresh vegetables and thick yogurt swims before the husband’s eyes. The mother-in-law’s avial makes many a strong man stop in his tracks. “Done!” She, however, is not done yet, and has gone to peek into the refrigerator. An act that never bodes well. “Oh! I almost forgot. We need spinach too. My God! Definitely no chillies! ”

The mind is buzzing: Milk: yes, curd: no, radish: yes, onion: no, tomato: yes

“I said to buy pumpkins for avial, right? Hmm…” and she switches off mid-way through the sentence. As if somebody hit the snooze button on her.

Sixty-three seconds later, the husband gently nudges her, “Hellloooo….I want to leave. Anything else?”

To which, she gets irritated. “Stop hurrying me so. I am trying to think whether I should buy a fresh pack of curry leaves or use the dried ones.”

“Does it matter? Ask him to get it,” pipes in the father-in-law, who has been pottering about acting as though he just could not hear anything.

The father-in-law’s statement may sound like an innocuous statement, but it hit a raw nerve, “Look at him talking as though he doesn’t care whether the curry leaves are dried or not. When I do make the avial with dried leaves, he will say, his sister uses fresh curry leaves when she makes avial.”

“So what? I only say that my sister uses fresh curry leaves in avial.”

“And, what does that mean? That her avial is good.”

“Of course, her avial is good!”

“And what about mine? When I do use fresh curry leaves, not a thing! When I use the dried ones, you have to talk about your sister! So now, I have to remember all the previous avial attempts and sift his comments to figure out what he likes. Why can’t he say something simple?”

The human mind, I tell you. It just doesn’t reflect on its own grocery lists.

The husband, meanwhile, had closed the door and settled down on the couch. Long association has taught us that the avial topic is a lengthy one. He has turned on his laptop and is cackling at some YouTube video now. A trifle tactless if you ask me. When the avial topic reaches the consistency factor, it is time for all birds flying above our home to evacuate and change their flight direction immediately; not sit down on neighbouring trees and laugh at YouTube videos.

The YouTube cackling irritates her, and she says with queenly dignity, “Just get any vegetable. I will sort out the menu later.”

As he enters the store, the daunting list swims before the husband’s eyes, and he sways a little. Milk: yes, curd: no, radish: yes, onions: yes or no? Better get some. Tomatoes: ??, chillies:?

The man has always been credited with thinking on his feet and he places an emergency call from the store. A joke is made in the home about the ability to recall simple grocery lists, and the instructions are repeated sans the avial-curry-leaf detour finishing up with the loving note, “Just get any vegetable, son.”

The man comes back looking like he had just physically hauled a dump-truck across the continent. His mother hands him a cup of coffee. The man sips contentedly when she asks, “Did you not get beans?”

“No... You didn’t ask for any.”

“Yes, but I said ‘Get anything!’ I’d have thought that includes beans.”

At the end of the day, anyway, the avial turned out to be just superb.

saumya.bala@gmail.com

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2020 12:27:02 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/the-tale-of-a-simple-grocery-list/article18400863.ece

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