'Pregnancy' has been the most enjoyable time in my life till date. Receiving lots of love, care, attention just adds to it. I almost wanted to be pregnant forever for selfish reasons, knew that this love, care and attention will then be for the 'baby'. I was in the UK when I conceived and those 9 months were/are very special in my life. After my first trimester I flew to India for my PhD defense - one big milestone in every researcher's life. Pregnancy has been dear to me probably as I achieved my degree for which I had toiled and slogged, it still is my most precious, invaluable achievement - a dream come true! Well coming back to my India journey, family was super happy to have me around. They were meeting me after the 'good news' broken over the phone. My Aai and Papa just wanted to see me and as every Mum feels, Aai wanted to make sure that I eat right and yes 'only right' during my stay in India. I too was looking forward to my journey and as every pregnant woman craves, I didn't have any specific cravings but craving for 'good food' and after all you don't have to be pregnant to crave for food. How can you take 'the love for food' out of an Indian? The first thing I wanted to have when I reach home was food cooked by Aai (Maa ke haath ka khana).
As a kid I remember assisting her to shop 'green-groceries' at the 'bhaaji market'. There weren't any air conditioned, fancy malls then and such market which still persist that are air conditioned with natural air, the air which smells soupy tomatoes, fresh coriander, refreshing mint and so on, very earthy people - son and daughter's of the soil who get their freshly cut, tender leaves, fruits to the market. The love for these fresh green-groceries was inculcated in us due to my Aai. I and my brother were never fussy eaters and we loved eating Methi, Dill, Bitter gourd or any local stuff cooked by her. So when I reached home and settled, I declared that I want to go to the 'bhaaji market' and wanted Aai to cook all my favourite delicacies. there is an unwritten Indian rule that how a Mother really works hard to fulfil her pregger daughter's every wish and my Aai was on the board. It was generally in the evenings when we went to the market, as in temperate regions evenings are a bit cooler than the day time. As we stepped out of the house and walked a few steps we met a few more ladies who also were on their way to the market. We all greeted each other, Aai introduced me to all of them and shortly started walking together. It went like this
Lady A to my Aai: Is she your daughter who has recently arrived?
Aai: Yes, she just arrived 3 days ago.
Lady B: I heard that you live in London, do you?
Me: I live near London about 2.5 hours away from London.
Lady C: Do you like it there?
Me: Yeah..kind of but I miss India
Lady A: Of course, nothing like being in India. (Lady B and Lady C agreed to her in unison by nodding their heads)
All of them congratulated me when Aai said that I was carrying.
Lady C to Aai: Make her eat Shepu (Dill) sabzi, it is good for digestion
Lady A to me: Soak a few almonds every night and have it the first thing in the morning.
Lady B to Lady A: My daughter had these soaked almonds in Milk...it worked wonders. (Lady A agreed)
Then they all spoke about everything under the sun, maids didn't turn up, no water and the hike in prices of onions and so on...
My Aai is very versatile as she is a voracious reader and I admire her for that. She just gets along with anyone and everyone. Finally we reached the market. To my right were welcoming farm fresh coriander bundles with tender green leaves were grouped. The aroma aroused my desire to have the green coriander-mint chutney. At the same time I could smell some rotten tomatoes and when I moved my neck around, in one corner I could see a few punctured, rotten tomatoes which is a usual sight in such markets. The vendors shouting or attracting the customers with their calls which almost feels like a lyrical song and very much portraying the competition amongst each other for selling their groceries. Then as we were moving ahead I stopped at the stall where fresh and purple brinjals were sold. It was a huge heap and we had to sort it out in a 'metal tokri' (basket). Aai cooks amazing peanut crush stuffed brinjal and that was my first choice.
Aai to the vendor: what's the price/
Vendor ( a guy in his early teens) : 8 Rs/250 gms
Aai: I want 500 grams and I will pay 10
Vendor: No Mavshi (Aunty) I can't..these are fresh and you won't find them anywhere here
Aai: I just saw them at the other stall and he was ready for the deal
Vendor: Looked at me and then Aai...here and there and said 'OK' adding that this deal was only for us (which was untrue)
We happily picked up nice, fresh, purple brinjals (almost visualizing them in the form of stuffed brinjals), paid and moved ahead. Aai is so good at bargaining and I am not. It definitely is an art, I just give up feeling that the person at the other is only making a living out of this and I can't be unfair to him/her. Many a times this feeling of honesty has not been reciprocated and I felt cheated. Anyways we moved on and bought more greens.
As we were passing by the stalls of Methi, Okra, Potatoes someone called 'Bai...Bai' (Madam..Madam) and we turned back. She was a woman in 50's, thin and medium height, big black eyes and with a big kum kum bindi on her forehead. Her green cotton saree with a maroon border (famous Maharashtrian-Karnataka Irkal) and her dusky complexion made her very attractive. She was the same lady who had been selling these groceries since I was a kid. I used to call her 'Bhaajiwali Mavshi'. To me name never mattered. Mavshi felt warm and there was an instant connection with any lady when you call her Mavshi. Well, we walked towards her and as we neared to her stall we all couldn't stop smiling and that showed how happy we were seeing each other.
Mavshi to Aai: How are you Bai?
Aai: I am good and how are you? I don't see you often these days?
Mavshi to Aai: I am not keeping well these days. My son or grandson come on behalf of me. I have worked hard since childhood and now can't shout and sell anymore
Aai: Good for you and I am happy that your son is helping you out.
Mavshi looking at me: How are you doing Bai? I don't remember when I saw you last but I think you were in college.
Me: Yes I remember when I met you last. I am good and I am good to see a known face in this new market
Mavshi: You are glowing..any good news? Where do you live these days?
Me (Surprised): I blushed and said Yes (with hardly visible bump she guessed it right) I live near London.
Mavshi (picked up some fruits and handed it to me) : I don't know where London is but I am happy for you...good. These are for the little one from me. They are sweeter than the one's you get in London. Eat healthy fruits and nutritious food. Don't sleep more or else the baby will be a lazy one. Enjoy your stay at your Aai's house.
Me (touched and speechless): Yes. Thank you Mavshi for these fruits. I remember you always gave me one when I was a kid and came along with Aai.
Mavshi: I am glad that you still remember and after all, it is not about money but these small human selfless gestures keep life going.
With some more talks we bid Mavshi an adieu and left the market. I was really touched and happy to meet her. Her kind gesture though in the form of fruits for the little one made me think about the difference between shopping in the malls and at such local vendors. Does anyone care about you, your life at the malls? It's easy, pick a pack and pay at the counter. Nobody to speak, it's fast but boring. I realised that I missed this human touch. Mavshi took me back to my childhood days where as a kid I always got these little perks in the form of fruits, corns and more than this love and affection.
I wanted to tell Mavshi that the fruits indeed are sweet but people like her are sweeter than anything else. People like her make a point that not all relations are due to some vested interest and this human touch makes it special.