He came home to a dark flat. He paused at the threshold for a moment, straining to hear sounds of the television, of her laughter at said television, of any signs of life. He could hear the electronic wheeze of the 31-Muni opening its doors at the corner of the street. He could hear the washing machine running in the upstairs apartment. The street lamp cast long shadows through the open windows, silent and animated. There was, however, no other noise inside.
He stepped in, letting the door close behind him as he reached for his phone. He punched play on the voice-mail wondering if he had gotten her message wrong, but there was her voice telling him she’d be going home early. The past two weeks had been filled with busy days and exhausted nights for the both of them. All they had been able to do as they crawled home was stop at the small cafe on the way home. It was open late and made Vietnamese sandwiches, which they would gratefully devour standing in the kitchen at home with paper towels held under to sop up any spills. They were entirely too tired to have dishes to clean. There in that kitchen, the aroma of the smoky vegetables would help blot out some of the tiring day while the layers of avocado provided much needed comfort. At any rate, he was glad that those weeks were now behind them. Any sandwich, no matter how delicious, was tiresome after a third straight night. He preferred home-cooked food anyway, eating out only under duress or because she loved to try new places. He had been looking forward in anticipation to dinner all afternoon.
(Note: If you’d like to know what plants are included in each photo, please hover your cursor over them.)
Our gardening endeavors started with 6″ high pots on a 5″ window ledge, in a 6′-0″ X 5′-0″ kitchen. That kitchen was also where this blog was born. Friends wondered loud and long how we cooked in that little space, let alone blogged about the food. It was our very first kitchen together; cramped and quirky though it was, we loved it. Any cooking and blogging in there came with the prerequisite of some planning and involved some bickering. Okay, a lot of bickering, and also very many ’I'm sorry I was mean’ brownies. All in all, nightly dinner took more work than the plants did in a month. They were content in their little heaps of soil with just a little sun and water. We looked at that ledge over the sink and marveled at how the herbs grew, seemingly with little help from us. Sometimes, if we were feeling apocalyptic, we considered the mess they would make if the earth decided to shake things up as it so often does in these parts. That thought did give us pause, but we got past that. What is the nebulous possibility of pottery and soil in your garbage disposal compared to the promise of chillies on your window-sill right now? Plus in the event of the apocalypse, the mess of a potted plant would not qualify as a mess at all.
My favourite part about spring is the garden coming back to life and the flowers. The kale plant was the first one to spring to life with an explosion of buds and flowers! I love having things from the garden in my home. Here, I put the kale flowers together with some rosemary and a daisy.
My assigned childhood role was that of the good kid. The quiet one. The one who didn’t wreck tables and could be counted on to not torture the dog. Who worshiped books and didn’t need to be told that one doesn’t make paper airplanes and boats with sheets torn out of their history notebook. But even good kids aren’t perfect, because mom and I had our share of disagreements. Perhaps because I steadfastly refused to learn how to de-vein those prawns (ick!) properly. Or because I didn’t wipe the dishes completely dry. But mostly because my mother was convinced that you needed to take pride in whatever you do, be it writing an essay, drying a dish or folding a shirt. I subscribed to a much looser interpretation of this: that there were some things you took pride in doing, and that others were just work that you finished to get to the things you want to do. For me, folding laundry squarely fell in this category, but it was my chore. So when the day’s wash was off the clothesline, I would drag my feet over, rush through the sorting and folding and hurry back to my books and to intriguing statistics such as how much rice was grown in China versus India. I would remain thus engrossed until I heard the inevitable yell which signalled that mom had spotted my handiwork.
It was a cool and pleasant morning. I sat in my mother’s kitchen with a cup of hot chai, one she had forced upon me as she has always done. I never needed any help from caffeine growing up either and we used to argue about this incessantly. She could never abide by my no-tea-no-coffee habit. “How on earth will you find the resolve you need to galvanize into action for your day?” It was one of so many things my mother didn’t understand about her middle child. I put up a feeble protest, but my heart wasn’t in it. This time, more than any other, I was just so gosh darn happy to be home.
Home. Never thought there would be a day two distinct places would define that word for me. Our lovely apartment in San Francisco is home to me, but so is this charming old flat in Bombay, with its cool mosaic tiled floor and ventilated windows. My whole life was here before the age of twenty-five. I tried to pack as much of it into three suitcases when I moved halfway across the world. I thought I was also taking along a lifetime of memories, but then I went and left the keys to so many of them back here. Each time I’m back in this city that I grew up in, I find myself rediscovering it with all the excitement of that child I left here somewhere – reliving experiences that unlock tons of memories.
I’ve been more fortunate than most. Not only did I grow up in just the one place, it also happens to be the same place my dad grew up. So some of my childhood experiences overlap his. There was this jack-fruit tree in our front yard. Large and lofty, I spent many of my growing years playing hide-and-seek around it, just as he had. Carving my initials with an arrow under where my dad had carved his when he was eight was one of my proudest moments. We both loved that tree. Our common regret was that the tree was barren and had no fruit.
…until it magically did.