Food For Thought – A Mother’s Day Tribute!
[dropcap]O[/dropcap]n an overcast, grey rainy afternoons, I always picture my late grandmother sitting beside the fireplace in her kitchen, fire ablaze and cooking her favourite meal – ‘Galho’. Side by side, charcoal roasting one green chilly and a tomato. When it comes to chutney, my grandmother was exceptionally particular, and usually her chutney was made for one person – herself. On a same day, I imagine my mother sitting atop her elevated, self-designed stool. Overlooking her steaming pot, cooking her signature dish of gravy full of local herbs, king chilly and some chunks of smoked pork. Growing up with two strong, principled, opinionated, hugely generous and hospitable women, I and my sisters had lots of ‘do’s and don’ts’ when it comes to cooking, eating or food in general. My late grandmother and mother had very contrasting methods of managing food or things at home.Grandmother was extremely strict about the two main meals of the day. Whether one was hungry or not, she would insist, food be served for the whole family. Her belief was that, when a family eats together, there is abundance at home. My mother on the other hand, is more liberal. She’d advise, ‘eat only when you are hungry’. Grandmother also used family eating time as the time to share her thoughts, make announcements and do some needy ‘scolding’, if required. My mother on the other hand, does not allow or tolerate talking during meals. The only common trait between them when it comes to meals was that both of them view second helping totally unnecessary and leaving food unfinished is a strict ‘NO WAY’ in our home! My late grandmother used food as a metaphor for many things. Sometimes, she used food habits as a standard in judging people. Years ago, we had a helper, whose manner of eating pleased my grandmother immensely. She’d say, ‘this girl will grow up to run a good home someday’. No matter the menu, she ate just the exact amount and never a second helping. Her eating habits were such that, she’d neatly start to work through her plate from one corner and by the time she finished eating , her plate looks almost washed. As we grew up with our grandmother in her home, she had a great influence on us and she had the same intuition about each one of us as she did about her daughters. For serious matters, she would call for my eldest sister. Whenever she felt the presence of spirits (she believed in them) she would call for my second sister, for she trusted in her strong spiritual aura. And whenever I am home, she would insist that I serve the family meal, as she believed I am gifted with the blessings of food. In our household in Kohima, since both my mother and my grandmother are early risers, the whole family is up and abuzz by 5 o’clock in the morning. Today, living miles away from Kohima, the alarm in my head still wakes me up by 5 am. My heart cringed a little, every time I see people serving a full plate and leaving it unfinished. I even find it highly uncomfortable eating around people who try to make a seemingly valid point, with a mouth full of food. And like my grandmother and mother, I am beginning to believe sleeping way past 6 o’clock in the morning is a total waste of time. It is such incidences, which makes me realises how much I am influenced by my mother and my late grandmother. On October 30th, 2013, 10 hours after I arrived home in Kohima, my grandmother breathed her last. In her final days, she’d planned her funeral. She wanted everyone who came to her funeral to share a meal in her memory. Her daughters acted upon her last wish and prepared in advance- sacks of rice, sugar, tealeaves and other necessaries. In the midst of deep mourning, I felt a sense of joy and pride, believing only the blessed could live to plan their own funerals. She lived for nearly 95 dedicated years. This mothers’ day will be the first, without her. In her nineties she started reminding us, ‘I’ve lived my life, don’t be sad when I am gone, just strive to live a meaningful life’. It is difficult for us not be saddened by her absence, but knowing we have learned so much from her, we remain grateful each day. What we miss most is sitting around our kitchen and listening to her recounting sagas, fables and rituals of another time, another place and of course, telling her our dreams and waiting for her interpretations! Today, I imagine my mother would wake up early, cook big pots of great yummy food, do some home deliveries, and also invite few mothers to our home. My mother generally likes cooking. But every mothers’ day for the last couple of years, she has made it a point to cook special meals for some mothers. It’s her way of honouring motherhood. To my mother, Neidonuo, my late grandmother, Vinyü-ü and all special mothers for the spiritual and cultural values that has been passed on to us and, for the priceless life’s lessons – I salute! Happy Mothers Day’!