Saturday, August 3, 2013

Fishy Memories of Romance and Love

One thing I love about contests is the topics I get to write upon. It often takes me back in time, unfolding parts of my life which have been forgotten in the busy routine of daily life. So when Smelly to Smileycontest said “Tell us about the nostalgic memories you associate with different smells or fragrances in your home to win!” I went down the memory lane and started smelling fish and feeling romantic. It is kind of tricky that fish smell should be associated with romance but life sometimes makes impossible happen.
There is nothing fishy in my feelings when I tell you that the smell of Fish (fresh, cooked, rotten or any kind) reminds of my husband and our initial married days of coziness. Though born in the coastal village of Byndoor, I was brought up in Whitefield, since my parents had shifted there earlier for many reasons. I was out of my native village even before I saw my first birthday. Most of the people my parents were associated with were vegetarians; therefore, we grew up eating fresh vegetables and fruits more than the non-vegetarian dishes. My mom was great cook of Biryani, but it was reserved only for the special occasions or when guests came home.
Fish was something which was cooked just 2-3 times in a year due to its unavailability in the place we lived back then. There was just one Malayalee guy who would bring fish on his bicycle. On most of the days my Mom would find it not fresh enough or too expensive to buy from him. I did not care much for fish and avoided it during meals. I did not eat much of any non-vegetarian dishes as they were too hot and spicy for my palate. I was used to eating bland food without much spice, salt or chili.
When I got married to a guy from my native village (believe me, my Mom had found him eligible for me when I was Byndoor and not yet a year old) and shift there, I had no idea what a cultural shock it would be for me. After all I wasn't even moving out of my state. But the place was totally different, especially the food, people and the smell. Though I had been there earlier during summer vacations, we stayed with my Mom who took care to meet all my needs and also cooked the food I loved. Now, I got the taste of real coastal India with all fishes, prawns, mollusks and other weird sea food. There was no telephone connection, cooking gas or running water in the house I was supposed to live in. Though for people living there it was just the way of life, it was shocking and very scary for me. On the third day itself I was regretting what I had gotten myself into and was seriously thinking on deserting the person who had faced opposition from his family, gone against everyone and married me. Somehow, I was pacified by various means and then slowly settled down in the house.
My husband had no idea that anyone could dislike fish or sea food, so he went out of his way and bought all different kinds of sea food for me taste. That was the best he could think beside collecting all kind of yellow things for me, like suitcase, saris and mugs because I had once told him I like the bright yellow color. His enthusiasm, my newly wedded status and also the newly married wife’s love for her husband made me keep quiet and not tell him how I hated the smell and the sea food. Too much of Yellow was getting on nerves as well.
The wedding rituals were done; guests had gone back home and my cruel parents left me behind at the in-laws and went back to Bangalore. This is when the real married life at the in-laws would begin for me.
My husband sensing my desperation and fear of the new environment made sure that he would not upset me. Wonder what he did? He went out and bought some good fish for lunch. BTW buying fish was not all he could do. He also pulled out a carrom and some cards for us to enjoy along with the stories he narrated of some adventures from his life. Those were days without internet and TV, in case you wonder why he did not hook me to internet if he really wanted to express his love. Lucky him, he could get all the attention he wanted from me back then which is so difficult now with tough competition given by daughter, son, blogs, facebook, work and internet in general. According to me, a man is at his best during the initial days of marriage when he ignores all the flaws of his wife and loves her unconditionally which makes it so easy for the wife to love him back.  Those were the good times when I did not have to deal with problems which entered my life later on and those days of initial love were filled with smell of fish all around me. No wonder I do not hate the stink of fish anymore.
First day after everything was settled; we as a newlywed couple were left alone to do whatever we wanted. We decided to listen to songs and play some card games in our free time. I had always been a loner kind of person who enjoyed books more than company of people. For once I was very happy to have company of a person and spend some alone time with him which was kind of shocking. So, there I was not an abnormal woman after all and I could fall in love too. After spending some cozy times playing cards while listening to some soulful bollywood oldies, I was feeling a bit hungry. I did not know what to do in the kitchen because the set up was completely different. There was a hired woman who was managing cooking,  so I was shooed off by her until everything was ready. 
It was all about fish, fish and more fish....
Lunch was served. The rice was different. It was the boiled rice with big brownish grains. I loved white rice :( . There was fish curry which was called Khatta Salan, fish fry and spiced fish.  My husband watched me as I ate my lunch, and he must have felt proud that he bought all that fish so I could eat it as much as I want. I was in a dilemma whether to please myself or him. For some reason I decided to please him and pretended to relish the fish. Wrong move! True love makes you blind, dumb and stupid. The dinner was served and we had fish again for dinner. Shocked, but still not finding my voice, I ate a bit of it. Next morning I could see they were cooking Dosa. I heaved a sigh of relief. Breakfast would not have fish served. Only if I knew how wrong I was! Dosa was supposed to be dipped in the famous fish curry. I gulped down the dosa carefully touching just its tip to the fish curry. Afternoon the lunch was served with fish, dinner was with fish and another day began with breakfast which was served with fish curry. 3 days went by and I suffered in silence, which was very unusual for me. I am one of those people who cannot suffer, and even if they have to suffer they make a lot of noise about it. Newly wedded brides do change a bit for those initial married days I think. At least I was behaving differently from my usual ways and eating fish day in, day out without making noise. The time between eating fish was strewn with some love, romance and games with my husband. We did not go out anywhere much other than places nearby and in hotels the good food meant fish dishes. By the end of the first week of our married life I could feel a burning sensation in my tummy and I started to throw up.
My worried husband asked me what was wrong. I said I don’t know and that is when people started throwing suspicious look towards me. OMG! Couldn’t a woman vomit without pregnancy? We went to a doctor who told me that I suffered from tummy upset and asked me whether I had changed my eating habits. OH YES! I said. The excessive use of red chili, coconut and other food had played havoc on my digestive system. With some medications and advise from the good doctor, the problem was temporarily solved. I started eating light food and took it easy after that but there was no way I could escape from the smell of the fish. Everyone ate fish, fish and more fish there. Every home sent out the smell of fish being cooked through their chimneys. Thus was life in Byndoor.
Now I do cherish eating fish and also do not hate the smell of it because my heart (or mind) has got it associated with those happy married days of my life which was filled with new clothes, carefree days, new people to meet, new places to visit, new found intimacy with another person, fun, love, games and loving husband who attended to my needs. Even to this day, I cannot eat fish day in day out like many people do in my native place but I do not hate it either.
Life is never a smooth ride always. Things began to change with birth of children, cancer, work in another country for husband and other problems in our lives. The carrom was stored away in the attic, the cards were dispersed and there is not much alone time for us now. No more do we sit together and listen to old melodies from bollywood, share jokes, make future plans and just talk and talk without arguing or debating over topics. I cook the food I want to and I am not forced to eat fish every day. Unfortunately with the absence of fish curry, there has been loss of those good moments of our lives too. Those moments were something I cherished back then and to this day they do bring back kind of soothing feeling in my heart.
Whenever I cook fish at home I do find solace in its stink. Even though Ambi Pur can chase away all the fishy smell from my home, I do allow it to linger on for some moments as that takes me back to the happy times like some kind of time machine.

This post is a part of contest Smelly To Smiley Contest on Indiblogger by Ambi Pur 


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