“That is some truly superior sambar and aloo curry Amma” my daughter managed to say in the middle of frantically licking her spoon clean like she may run out of taste buds any minute now. “You don’t know how much I have missed your food. You deserve a culinary award Amma” chimed in her sister on her way to the kitchen for second helpings. Remarks like these typically put a strut in my gait and a smile on my face but not today.
Don’t get me wrong. I recognize that it is not every day that children are happy to be locked down under the same roof, as parents. When they greeted me with a smile this morning and started doing chores around the house with no threat or coercion, I wanted to pinch my husband’s arm to see if I was dreaming. (Why pinch my husband’s arm? Because therein lies the beauty of marriage. When life presents tough challenges, you get to lean on or pinch your spouse’s arm to figure things out.) So together we puzzled over the question ‘Why aren’t these kids screaming and scratching at the walls, cursing at the coronavirus for this indefinite lockdown?’ The obvious answer was college food. One semester away at college enjoying its assorted offering of spice-less food and my kids have returned home as warriors brave enough to face a quarantine at home.
Getting back to the sound of my flatware being licked clean at each meal, I’ll admit that I am worried and I’ll tell you why. As the symphony of spoons scraping against bowls and plates continue with each passing day, I often find myself slipping quietly to do the only thing I could. Throw open the doors of the kitchen pantry and gaze worriedly at the stockpile of provisions; one item in particular.
I want it known that I am not unprepared for this pandemic. The day ‘social-distancing’ became the national word and lockdown became the local mantra, I marched to the Indian grocery store armed with a dozen extra-large cotton bags determined to stock up but apparently so did the entire desi population. When you are trying to beat 20 people to get to the last packet of turmeric powder in the store, social distancing is not an option. And yes, I do need the turmeric powder. You don’t seriously expect me to serve black sambar and rasam to my family, do you? That’s gross.
Believe it or not, I was agile and spry zigging and zagging through the store loading up my cart. I owe it to corona(virus) for showing me that even I could put a spring in my step. Anyway, there I was, weaving in and out of the crowd, proudly joining my fellow humans in picking that store clean. After ensuring that there was nothing edible left in an aisle, we kept moving on to the next. It was eerily similar to the scene in a movie I had watched, where aliens would destroy earth settlements systematically, one town at a time.
I am grateful for whoever designed grocery store carts and put 4 wheels on them for balance. Imagine if they had only 2 wheels like a bicycle! What would happen to people like me with zero upper body strength? How would we push a cart that is filled up in preparation of Armageddon? I guess it is true that God never gives more than what we can handle.
After doing a quick check of the cart inventory (mustard seeds, check – have enough to season an ocean of coconut chutney, tamarind, check – have enough to serve puliyodharai prasadam at the local temple for the next 5 years and, most importantly, asafoetida, check – have enough LG bottles to undertake the Ambani family’s next wedding order of rasam), I finally turned in to the last aisle all set to load up my favorite 20 pound rice bags. Wait a second. What happened here? Who took all the rice bags? Oh, the horror! At that moment, I knew exactly how Gollum felt when Sauron’s ring slipped out of his hand. Oh, where art thou, my precious?
I would have gladly traded my wedding jewelry for the 4 bags of rice in the cart ahead of me at the counter, but I couldn’t really fall at her feet and beg there, could I? With social distancing and all, it wouldn’t be the responsible thing to do.
So finally, with a heavy heart, not to mention, a heavy cart loaded with only 3 miniature 10 pound bags of rice, I walked back to my car praying that my family will somehow find the courage the face the day we run out of rice. May we survive that nightmare and live to tell the tale another day.
Hang in there, folks! This too, shall pass. 😊