The Great Indian Kitchen

In all practical sense, a grinder here works like a malicious bot, clever enough to strike at the right, er, wrong time


Suresh Pattali

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Published: Thu 19 May 2022, 10:34 PM

Rushing halfway down the stairs, which lands in the mouth of the kitchen, he gestured to his mum to stop whatever activity she was indulging in. She seemed to be at ease with the chaos and commotion of the typical Indian kitchen that precede those unbelievable moments of contentment at the dinner table.

She fiddled with the switches of the instrument she was operating, mimicking music maestro A.R. Rahman’s exactness of finger movements on the piano. Like a pedantic, pernickety composer, she took great pains to satiate her soul, while her son waited for the concert to crescendo so that he could reason with his mum.

She didn’t quite understand what exactly her son wanted as he was gesticulating frantically. As if the roof of the ‘concert hall’ had caught fire. Horror and disbelief were among the cocktail of emotions writ large on his face.

Half sleepy after producing a 108-page historical edition, I sat on the edge of the couch like a backstage usher, watching the drama unfold. Wifey was in no mood to budge. The joy on her face reminded me of the poster girl of the Walkman player. Lost in a world of her own, oblivious to all the ills of the world.

“What’s that you want?” I asked him in sign language, not risking meddling with wifey’s kitchen affairs. Almost in tears, he walked across the kitchen floor and literally pulled the plug on her instrument, the great Indian mixer-grinder.

“This is one of the conditions we agreed upon when I came down to work from home for six months,” he shouted in a whisper.

“God’s sake, please do not operate a mixer between 11am and 7pm when I am on conference calls,” he argued.

“Food won’t come to the table unless I operate this,” wifey reasoned, pointing at an India-make grinder. “Idli, vada and dosa all need spicy condiments,” she said, wiping the white spills of grated coconut on the grinder jar.

“Why do you always get a noisy Indian machine? There’s no dearth of international brands that won’t wake up the entire neighbourhood.”

“Indian spices need a rough and tough machine. Never mind some noise.”

“It’s not just noise, it’s commotion. It’s bloody hell. You know this is one of the reasons Germans in Munich refuse to rent out their apartments to Indians. Your kitchen noise and spices not only pollute the air, but also shatter the tranquility of the locale.”

“Kadavule, Europe has corrupted this boy,” wifey lamented.

Never mind the make, grinders in the Indian kitchen seem to have an ingenious mechanism to spring to life on their own — at the wrong time. When the daughter-in-law struggles to put the baby to sleep with a soothing lullaby. When the breadwinner husband is just about to start his morning Zoom calls. When the daughter, who studies literature, struggles to memorise the last stanza of Ulysses. When the husband’s female colleague calls to ask for a car lift. When the son and his partner huddle up on a weekend, sharing their AirPods. When the pretty hospital nurse calls to check on the husband’s last blood pressure reading. When the husband on a graveyard shift struggles to get a wink of sleep. When the last over is bowled in a nail-biting IPL match or when a Premier League shootout has just begun.

In all practical sense, a grinder in the Indian kitchen works like a malicious bot, clever enough to strike at the right, er, wrong time.

“Amma, the point is all the home appliances you own, except dad, are cacophonous. They make life miserable.” He went on to lecture his mum about how tech has made life easier and how silence has become the sixth element. Even grandma had the old grinding stone that made less noise than the modern machine.

“Noise is never forgiven in Europe,” he added as he returned to the study upstairs to resume his conference call.

He came down at lunchtime, yelling midway. “What’s there for lunch?”

“Shawarma from last night’s order. I can make a noiseless club sandwich if you want.”

“What the heck, Amma. Gimme some rice and spicy sambhar?”

The hubbub of the grinder in the next-door Ukrainian kitchen shattered our newfound silence.

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