I am that person who begins planning my next meal as I am eating my current meal- or worse- inquire what my next meal will be so I can make an educated decision about whether to overeat at the current meal or save extra room for the next one. In my home, dinner is an essential part of my family’s day. My mom and I happily spend two hours leisurely cooking a meal while sipping wine and being blatantly ignored by my father who prefers the news to our chatter. The food we cook is important but even for me the food is secondary to the time spent with my family. Once I started attending Bard my mom and I would call each other as we simultaneously cooked our separate meals, we both understood exactly what “I’ll call at wine time” meant. And if I’m not talking to my mom, I am feeding my friends or being fed by my friends because food is something to be shared and savored. It is this that I miss most while being in India. But, tonight I got my family dinner.
My volunteers and I will leave Project WHY on Friday and as a thank you for their hard work I wanted to take them out for dinner and as an even bigger thank you to Rani’s family for taking care of all of us, I wanted them to join us. I laughed as all 18 of us piled into a car and onto two motorcycles. We ordered far too much food which was all far too delicious but as in any good family dinner, the food was secondary. There was constant laughter, the children migrated from lap to lap sampling food from any plate which suited them, there were hugs, there were jokes, there were elephant noises! There was family.
Rani always shoos away my thank you’s at the end of every delicious meal her family cooks for me which always includes my favorite dish, baingan bharta. I think her family will stage a coup if it’s cooked ever again! I am saying thank you for the food, but more than that, I am thanking Rani for letting me be a part of her family and giving me back the best part of my day. And it made me so happy that for one night my volunteers got to feel what it’s like to be a part of the Bhardwaj family, too. They’re an incredibly special family.