Please figure this out for me.


On every Mother’s Day, I get a gift of seeds. When Sahana started this tradition, I was immensely touched by the thought behind it. I am a nurturer, nourishing my saplings so they become big, strong trees. Ryan has kept the tradition alive. This year I received pretty flower seeds, chilli pepper seeds ( since I hail from the land of hot peppers) and a tomato plant.

After careful nurturing and waiting and observing for the better part of summer, the pepper plant has beautiful peppers, the flowers are gorgeous and the tomato plant has plump, green tomatoes. We are all very, very excited because we are not a family of green thumbs. We end up killing our green children. This one time we did not and understandably we all smile widely as we walk by our flowers and our produce.

My resident entrepreneur, however, is at his mercenary best.
“Mom, I have decided to give you a family discount. For you, and only you each tomato is going to cost 75 c and each pepper is going to cost a nickel. For others, tomatoes are a dollar and peppers are 20 c.”

“Wait! What?? How did the produce become yours, might I ask?”

“Well, I weeded and I watered them. So I labored and so the tomatoes and peppers are mine. But I will sell them to you at a discounted price!”

“But they were my gifts! You gave them to me! And I paid you for weeding! You were my employee! You can not claim ownership!!!”

A hot debate ensued. He did not understand my logic. He was illogical to begin with. Finally, I became the mom voice and said, “Forget about it. The tomatoes are mine, the peppers are mine. You, my friend, are mine! So deal with it!”

He has not given up yet. The issue of tomatoes and peppers come up often. Nothing has been harvested. I am expecting a blood bath when I actually pick the vegetable. Stay tuned for the epic war.

Never a dull moment.

Difference


I was often asked in the early years of my marriage to a man of different ethnicity, how do I deal with the cultural difference. I scratched my head and pondered. Was there much of a difference? Sean and I were different culturally but the core values were (and still are) very similar. We both firmly believe in honesty, integrity, transparency, we are both stubborn, control freaks, we both love being parents. We have similar views on world peace, gun control, liberalism so on and so forth.

There were some cultural differences though. And the differences came to mind as I slit two green chilies and threw them in the egg curry I was making for supper a little while ago. When we were newly married, he called me a hot chick and I took extreme umbrage at the endearment. I lashed out at him for not respecting me as a woman. He was flabbergasted at my reaction to his effort at being romantic and quickly mollified me by saying, ‘Must be a cultural difference, I meant you are attractive!’ After asking around and being laughed at by our mutual friends I accepted the fact that he was genuinely trying to be cool and romantic.

He called my purse ‘pocket book’, I never figured out why.

“Why do you call this a pocket book? It is neither a book nor is it a pocket!” I exclaimed.

“Well that is what it is called. Not purse. Purses are small!” He countered.

Then we would get into a major argument over it till we decided to let it go by terming it as a cultural difference.

He laughed hard when I swatted at him and said, “Don’t give me that cock and bull story!”

“What is cock and bull?” He laughed.

“What!!!! Don’t tell me you don’t know what that means! You are a native English speaker! Hello!! Do I need to teach you English now? I laughed back at him.

“We call that bull shit!”

“Well, I am classier than that, I guess!” I came right back.

One time we fought over the meaning of ‘karma’ all morning. We both got dressed in a huff and ran over to Enoch Pratt library to look at dictionaries and encyclopedias. This happened at a historic time, pre Google. Can you believe time existed, life existed before smart phones and Google? There you go, I went ahead and dated myself.

And we joked constantly over British English and American English. It took me a while to drop the ‘u’,s in favor, color. But eventually I did. I conformed. I gave in. Although I am still an anglophile at heart.

After 20 years of knowing him we don’t think of cultural difference any more. Now the difference of opinion is in our choices of football teams and baseball teams. So why did I think of the cultural difference as I evilly threw in the green chilies? Because Sean, despite his fondness for Indian food, can not tolerate the smell and spice of green chilies. And I can not ever become American enough to forego my love for it. I put green chilies in dal, vegetable, paneer either as a garnish or I make a puree of it by processing it in the food processor. I assure you, I go easy on the number of chilies I put, but if Sean happens to chew on one, he yelps and hiccups. I feel slightly guilty and decide not to add them next time. But when I see the golden daal simmering beautifully in the pot, the Bangali in me reaches for a lovely, lush green chili (errr…maybe more). It looks so beautiful and familiar, it smells so fragrant and yes, familiar. How can I resist it? Similar with achaar (Indian pickle). I have indoctrinated my two children into loving achaar – lime pickle. Their meal is not complete without it. While Sean can not stand the smell of it.

“You are not a true Indian!” I say to him. “I have failed to Indianize you!!”

“Uff, I don’t know how you can stand that stuff!” He replies.

And then, when he discovers a green chili in his daal, he says to the kids, “Your mom is trying to trick me again. She is trying to kill me! Help!”

You will think of me as very mean, but I will go ahead and confess that I laugh hysterically (although soundlessly) after he bites into a green chili by mistake. What? It has some vitamin or other. It is good for him. As they say in India, you don’t really grow up unless you learn to eat green chillies. I am just helping my husband grow – culturally.

🙂