As a young girl I had imagined myself doing all sorts of things. These ranged from teaching in schools to working in a bank, from being a actor, to giving interviews for magazine (yes, yes!), but never had I imagined myself making achaar.
That was a task reserved for dadi, or sometimes, mummy too. To be honest, I had never even noticed achaar being made. It was always there at home, resting in large glass bottles, being fussed about by someone or another.
One reason could be that I am not a fan of achaar myself. I hardly ever eat it if at all, and when I do, I am extremely picky. Another perhaps was that it was a task that, in my mind, was not supposed to be done by posh girls (Yes, I thought myself to be it! Too many revelations I tell you!). So it was something that mummy and chachi did, or nani and dadi did.
Nothing changed for many years. After nani and dadi, mum kept making achaar and I kept dismissing them.
When mother fell sick some years ago, it was in the peak of winter. She was in the hospital fighting every single minute, and I was at home helpless. It was also the time when chillies were in season. Everyday, the sabjiwala outside mummy’s house would get fresh red chillies and ask me if I wanted to make achaar. Everyday I dismissed him — I had no idea what to do with them; I did not know if mum would be able to ever use them.
But God is great. Mum came back, she also pickled some mirchi. It was the worst achaar she had ever made, but I ate every last bit of it. I did something else. I learnt to make achaar.
For past four years now, every February, I buy mirchi. I then call mother and ask her how to make the achaar. My mother being my mother, has no measurement to give me. She tells me to take a handful of this, a pinch of that, and some patience. (Which she has more than me, though her’s is quite low too). And then I set out for my achaar adventure.
Let me tell you that I make terrible achaar. It has no taste of my dadi’s expertise and no trace of my mothers love, but it has one thing: a genuine effort to retain all that I can of my aging mother, of my dead dadi.
This afternoon after much procrastination, when I finally sat down with messy hands to fill the mirchis, I could feel my dadi next to me. And I am sure when I eat the tasteless achaar, I will be reminded of the times I have rejected my mother’s effort.
But, I am glad, I am finally turning into my my mummy and chachi, and hopefully soon into my dadi and nani.
P.S. You are welcome to come over and sample the achaar, just remember to say its nice.
For my foreign friends:
Dadi & Nani = Granny.
Mirchi = Chilli Peppers
Achaar = Pickle
Chachi = aunt