Dada loathed vegetables and greens in his growing-up years.
I was less of a rebel, although I do need to admit that there were indeed some that I detested deeply, radish, turnips, squash, neem leaves and a host more.
The reactions to us fretting over vegetables and greens were quite diverse at home.
Didi was the by far the most lenient, she would conjure the most ingenious of means to ensure our fuss didn’t reach Maa’s ears.
Then came Bapi. They shall learn as they grow up, he would counsel Maa, before proceeding to remind us of the milieu of benefits of vegetables and how depriving our diet of such nutrients could mean illness that we wouldn’t wish for sure.
Maa would patiently try at the onset, exhorting us to not create a ruckus. But when we persisted with our stubbornness, refusing to even touch the veggies, she would fly off the handle. You folks are so pampered. She would scold. Do you know how many children don’t get a proper meal every day ?
Grandma however remained as composed as ever.
They shall all learn Bouma, Grandma, sitting on her easy-chair in the red-tiled verandah, the leather-bound Ramayana resting on her lap, would pacify an irate Maa.
One mellow autumn-melting-into-winter morning, an effervescent Grandma invites me and Dada to the garden behind the kitchen.
Manikkaka is at work – armed with his ancient shovel, he is overrunning a small patch of soil, with the dogged determination of a mighty conqueror, brutally uprooting weeds and tossing them mercilessly over his shoulders.
Do you want to sow these ones, Grandma asks us, opening her clenched palm, revealing a crumbled paper on which rests a pile of seeds.
Dada and I, thrilled at the proposal, rush to her and before long, the seeds have been scattered over the cleared patch.
The first saplings appear from the caverns of Mother Earth.
What plants are these, a curious me asks Grandma.
Patience, my dear Princess, she responds with a smile.
Manikkaka waters them religiously every morning and evening, chases away the birds and squirrels that come for a feast and keeps an eye on weeds that threaten to stifle the fledgling shoots.
And then one morning, Dada, bubbling with excitement, bursts into the room. Come over to the garden, he says, panting for breath.
We rush out.
And there they are – pretty pink radish, an odd dewdrop glistening on their mud-smeared bodies, peeping coyly through the soil.
We revel in creator’s pride. After all, it was us who planted these pompous pink beauties.
Another two days Ginnimaa, Manikkaka advises, and they they should be ready to pluck.
And then comes the day.
Manikkakas adept hands loosen the soil around the radish heads and with an experienced snatch he pulls them out of the safe refuge of the earth.
Dada lends a hand too and successfully dislodges one from its cosy resting place.
We are overjoyed. Our first very own vegetables.
Radish features on the lunch menu that morning.
Didi’s earthy yet delicious Mulo Koraishutir Ghonto.
And for the first time ever, Dada and I eat radish without a complaint.
I even ask for a second helping of the Mulo Koraishutir Ghonto.
Grandma and Maa, I observe, exchange a smile.
It took me years to understand Grandmas trick.
She hadn’t screamed, hadn’t grumbled even for once when we had steadfastly, despite Maa’s pleas, refused to eat radish.
Instead she had got us to plant our own radish, tend to it, and by the time the vegetable had arrived, we had been beaming with pride.
We were converts.
How could we not love we one had grown ourselves ?
Didi’s sublime Mulo Koraishutir Ghonto. Fresh radish. A throw of green peas. A kiss of asafoetida. A hint of cumin and coriander. The luxury of a dollop of ghee. This is blessed for sure !!!