I grew up in Delhi in a Himachali joint family. I was 7 when my younger brother was born and the responsibility of overseeing my day-to-day activities and keeping my naughtiness in check fell upon my grandparents. It is from here on that my Dadi, whom I lovingly call Mataji, and I grew close. After my Dadaji’s sudden demise, Mataji and I became even closer, dependent on each other to keep the memory of my Dadaji alive.
As a kid, the only time I would enter the kitchen was to grab a bottle of water before heading down to play gully cricket with my friends. The aim was to exit the kitchen with a bottle or a snack before an adult sensed your presence there and assigned you some boring chore. While I was the Tom Cruise of many such mission impossibles, one day I wasn’t so lucky.
Mataji was in the kitchen. She saw tip toe past her, caught my hand as I tried to sneakily grab a packet of Parle-G and said, ‘Aaj tu nahin ja raha khelne. Yahan khade hokar ye khajoor todo.’ (You’re not going to play today, help me break these dates into smaller pieces.)
I asked her why she could not just buy dates that came in smaller pieces? Her only response was thrusting a packet of dates in my hand and pointing me towards a stool that was to be my workstation and a large plate for depositing the pieces. I sat on the stool and little did I know that this was the first time I’d see my grandmother’s dates pickle being made. Once the dates were broken into smaller pieces, I set out to squeeze galgals (hill lemons) and that was quite the task. Mataji then patiently took me through the steps of making the achaar while also asking me about how I was doing at school. When we were done making this batch of pickle, I rushed downstairs to proudly proclaim to my friends that I’d cooked something with only one adult to supervise. They didn’t believe me and rightly so.
But this memory stuck with me like the little grain of ajwain that often nestles itself in the hardest-to-reach crevice of the mouth. That day I felt like I’d done something and that too in the kitchen, a space that’s unfortunately never a natural habitat for young boys. Which is why when I started this business, it felt right. My memories of Mataji’s dates pickle aren’t just limited to how great it tastes, how it brings back memories of a simpler time, of family meals spent eating too much and talking even more…my memories also include bonding with my grandmother. As she grows older with each passing day, this pickle and that day feel like a solid bond rather than just an ephemeral memory.
P.S – “Aweri” is a small village in Himachal Pradesh which is also my grandmother’s hometown. Name of the brand is a tribute to my grandmother!
That’s it for this weekend. I hope you enjoyed reading the story.If you liked it, do leave a comment below and share it with your friends and family!
Until next time! 🙂