Tuesday, August 04, 2015

The ungrateful me!

A slip.
A small slip.
Blood started flowing out of the finger where the knife landed.
The sliced onions now looked like beets.

As I sat resting my racing heart and my now-bandaged finger, I thought about my mother, my grandmothers, my aunts, who, I know, have been in such situations and worse.  I could easily picture in my mind my mother cutting vegetables and cooking with a finger that is wrapped with a rudimentary cloth bandage which is stained yellow from her trusted Burnol.  

What made me uncomfortable more than my throbbing finger is this: I have not thanked enough my mother, my grandmothers, and my aunts, for all the cuts and burns and everything else through which they worked in the kitchen and produced all those tasty dishes and sweets and savories.  

I suppose I am not different from many others in how such realizations come much later in our lives.  At least, I like to console myself that I am not the only one who failed, and failed miserably at offering my thanks.

It is not as if I can tell my grandmothers how much I appreciate all their work--they are long dead!  The death anniversary of one of them is only a few days away.  Decades have gone by.  But then perhaps that is why we set aside time to remember those who went before us.  At least after they are dead, we will be able to thank them, even though when we missed out when we were young and ungrateful.

Wisdom, unfortunately, arrives way too late in life.  I wish I knew when younger what I know now.  I had become an old, greying, and balding man when during my last visits and phone calls with a great-aunt who died a few years ago, I used food-talk as a way to connect with her and to also slip in my thanks.  "Slip in" because there is no real tradition of offering thanks in the old country's culture.  I, therefore, worded things such that she understood how much I owe her for the phenomenal care, comfort, and security that she provided us along with the tastiest foods.

I finished cooking after a few minutes of rest.  Yes, through the throbbing, which continues even now as I am typing this.  I dread the clean-up that awaits.  But, then I know that my mother never walked away leaving a messy kitchen even if her finger hurt. So, off I go to continue along the path that those who went before me cleared for my ease.


Anne in Salem said...

I think many people come to realize the full extent of their gratitude for their parents and all the parents did when they become parents and do the same for their children. Nothing like staying up all night with a sick child to make one appreciate that mom or dad did the same for you.

I am certain your grandmothers and aunts knew how much you appreciated what they did when they were alive. They could see it in your expressions and in your pleasure at returning to visit, as opposed to a grudging obligation felt by some family members. They undoubtedly felt great satisfaction in feeding and caring for you.

Now call your mother and tell her what you just wrote. And do it for real - not digitally. Let her hear it. This is definitely a situation for a digital detox.

Sriram Khé said...

Yes, as you note, my mother and grandmothers and aunts knew/know really well how much I appreciated their work even without me explicitly telling them ...

Many posts like this one, which I tag as "life," I collect them at some point, edit them, assemble into a booklet and then print for my parents. So, they know really, really, well about all these ... plus, yes, last night my mother got to hear about this ;)

BTW, you might like this one from a couple of years ago:

Ramesh said...

That generation would have been mightily embarrassed if we, when we were younger, verbalised our thanks. It is a cultural thing. Open displays of affection or thanks were not the done thing. Gratitude and pleasure were expressed subtly. I am sure you had said many a time that something your mother or grandmothers made was very tasty or nice. That would have produced in them the same effect that a verbal thank you would have done.

But yes, we learn to be more thankful of what we have as we grow older. It is probably an evolutionary thing - looking for more and constantly moving on is probably a survival instinct hard coded in our genes.

Sriram Khé said...

Yes, that was the old culture in the old days ... but now, there too, as is here in the US and elsewhere, "thanks" often seems a lot more superficial than ever ... Genuine emotions, in thanks or in anything else in life, seem to be rarer and rarer as years go by ...

Shachi said...

As I type this, I have a burn from a kitchen accident that has gotten infected on my left palm....I am a leftie so that's my dominant arm...and I have no choice but to cook and feed the family :). Hope your wound heals quickly!

I am sure you were grateful growing up - you just didn't verbalize it. I grew up the same way. And as Anne said, I am way more grateful for all my parents did for me, as I raise my children. In fact, my parents continue to do that for my grandchildren....and I wonder if I will ever be able to match up to them?

Sriram Khé said...

Ouch! A burn is way worse.
I suffered a nasty one when living in CA, when the frying oil exploded as I dropped the stuff in ... had to rush to the ER ...
You write about an infection--I trust the medics have looked at it and taken care of things ... Ouch is all I can say ...
But then it is in your dominant hand? Ouch, ouch, ouch!

Yes, we will try to match up to the standards our parents set ... That's the problem with having awesome parents ;)

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