A Tale of Gooseberries, Grief & Coping

Posted on December 12, 2016

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I walked into the Indian store at Dundas and Hurontario on a wintry Saturday afternoon last weekend. It was a regular day; Sid and I were just going about our business buying things we needed. There was bad Bollywood music playing. It was the complete NRI experience. And then bam, in the fresh fruits and veggies aisle, I saw them sitting there. A whole heap of gooseberries.

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I walked past them nonchalantly, pretending I didn’t notice them. And then they drew me closer inexplicably. I felt my chest tighten and my eyes fill up (as they are now). I touched one gently. Sid was standing there, and I said simply, “I am very sad.” There must have been some emotion in my voice, because he immediately held my hand and asked, “Why baby?”

I withdrew to my childhood. Gooseberries, or amla, are a winter staple in every Gujarati household. It was in ours too. My mother would buy almost two kilos of gooseberries and it was my job to help her prepare them for consumption. It was a ritual for us for many years. We would rinse them thoroughly in a colander. I was to painstakingly dry out each one. Then, mummy would make cuts along each partition. When I grew older, I would also allowed to help out with this part. This is when I realized the importance of drying each gooseberry completely, else the knife would slip and we’d cut ourselves. We’d then make the marinating water with haldi (turmeric), salt and a dash of lime. We would immerse the whole heap of gooseberries into a large glass jar. I remember waiting impatiently for two whole days (stirring occasionally) before being able to eat the gooseberries. They had to turn yellow, that’s how you’d know they were ready!

As I stood there in the fresh food aisle of the Indian store at Dundas and Hurontario, I couldn’t remember the last time I had eaten a gooseberry! Like most things, this wonderful, precious experience of childhood had been repressed deep into my subconscious mind. I stood there, tears streaming down my face. As I mourned the loss of my mother, I picked up a plastic bag and began filling it with them fruits. I solemnly resolved to make my own jar of gooseberries this year.

img_20161211_234720Last night, I stood in my kitchen. Unsure of how to proceed. It was tempting to ask my sister about proportions of water to turmeric and salt. However, I closed my eyes and allowed myself to go back to the taste of the gooseberry marinated by my mummy. I trusted myself and made my mix.

The gooseberries are in the jar, and yet again I wait impatiently to be able to eat one in an attempt to relive and redeem myself of a childhood that I long for, and a childhood that haunts me.

 

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