Pyar ka Swaad

I first tasted Sindhi curry when I was in the UK doing my specialization nearly forty years ago.

My late wife’s mamiji (wife of her mother’s brother: mama – or mamou locally) lived in London where she was a consultant cytologist. She was a sindhi, that is, originally from the province of Sindh in the Indian subcontinent. We were in West Yorkshire, and used to come down to London every so often on a weekend to replenish our stock of food items from well-known Southall, and would alternate between staying at Mamiji’s place and a cousin of my wife who was in Middlesex.

Like many of her generation, Mamiji – bless her, still reasonably well at 80-plus – was an ace cook. Her two children were already independent professionals and had left the parental home. Whenever we visited, she and Mamaji welcomed us with much love and affection, sparing no effort to make us feel comfortable and genuinely at home. For those few years, indeed their home was to us a home away from home on the several memorable occasions that we spent there. And the highlight was always special dishes that Mamiji would prepare, among which was Sindhi curry which I understand is almost a brand in Sindhi gastronomy. No need to say that, mixed with steaming white rice and eaten with the hand, it was finger-licking good. So too used to be the Sindhi-style fish curry in which coriander had a prominent place.

When we got back to Mauritius, we made sindhi curry a few times, but it was never the same as the one made by Mamiji. A couple of years ago I happened to look after a friend’s mother, and they are Sindhis. The mother was of Mamiji’s generation, and in the course of our conversation I let out my liking of Sindhi curry, which she promised she would make for me when she was better. Bless her too, because since then I have had the pleasure of enjoying Sindhi curry, reviving memories of Mamiji’s touch in London. And it was no later than yesterday that, as I was about to step out from home, her son was at the gate: Mummy has made Sindhi curry, he said, and has remembered you.

In an article titled ‘Food is Love’ that I wrote a few years ago, I gave the example of a working mother whose school-going son would place his ‘order’ every birthday, and how meticulously she fulfilled her child’s wish. And I pointed out that it is mother’s love – any mother – that makes food prepared by mother’s hands taste so good. We may rant and rave at times – we all have, haven’t we – when we act naughty with mother regarding food, but when in our later years nostalgia grips us, we realise the real value of what went into the food prepared by our mother. Mother’s love in food is a unique ingredient. The happy thought of it, in our later years, is too deep for tears, as the saying goes.

Which means that mothers do leave us too when the time comes – or, nowadays, it is the young who leave to set up their nuclear families. No regrets here, it is the cycle of life, because the new mothers-to-be and mothers soon have to learn the tricks of the trade to feed their own ones. Still, how many stories could I recount, that I never stop hearing, of daughters who have moved not far away and pop in at mother’s for takeaways from time to time, for various reasons – will be late home from work, Mom has said come over ‘cos she has made the daughter’s favourite. And so it goes on.

I quote the following two extracts from my earlier article that I have referred to:

‘Food, shelter, clothing – in that order, are the basics of survival, and all the fights and the wars that mankind has engaged in, and continues to wage, have been primarily about securing the resources to provide food. And as individuals that is also our core purpose when we go job-seeking. It couldn’t be otherwise, could it?’

‘Taste, value and convenience are what people look for when shopping around for food. Food is no doubt good business, and to feed increasing numbers of us – approaching seven billion soon – no doubt food needs to be produced on an industrial scale. All the more reason for rigorous standards to be set and adopted around the world, and for codes to be agreed upon, respected and the provisions adhered to and enforced by regulatory bodies at country level.’

It shouldn’t surprise that everyday there are articles about food that are published all over the world, and regularly there are magazines and journals that have special issues or series on food. A very recent one is this month’s National Geographic magazine whose cover headlines ‘THE NEW FOOD REVOLUTION.’

The author puts the question: where will we find enough food for 9 billion people? – the projected world population by 2050. Observing that ‘it doesn’t have to be industrial farms versus small, organic ones. There’s another way,’ he goes on to detail what he calls a five-step plan to feed the world. He strikes a note of optimism, and is confident that if world leaders, governments, businesses and civil society work in collaboration, the enormous wastage of food that takes place worldwide (up to 50 %!) can be halted, and with more efficient and innovative use of existing and developing technologies, the world can definitely meet the food needs of its population. Arthur Koestler, renowned thinker of the 1960s/70s, had already advanced a similar view in his writings.

In September 2013, Scientific American was a ‘Special Food Issue.’ Food, reads a short note on the cover, started as fuel, became a passion, ignited a global crisis – and made us human. From calories to GMOs to barbecues, it covers a range of topics, each one as it were whetting our appetite – to know what’s in the next article – as we read on. Processed food and the lack of physical activity are the bane of the world we are living in as far as human health is concerned. The sooner we liberated mothers and gave them the time we need – flexitime? – to prepare the proper, healthy food (as opposed to the processed variety) for our next generation, the better it will be for all of us, bref for humanity.

Are we ready to reverse, by even a small step to begin with, the industrial rat-race pressure on mothers and allow them sufficient time to be at the hearth? That is the most urgent question that we face for our future wellness.

 


* Published in print edition on 16 May 2014

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