“After two critical days of ailment, the first thing Indira asked her son-in-law to get was something triangular in shape topped with spicy vegetables. She had seen people eating it on television. She was talking about Pizza and made sure that she got one delivered that night.
Indira Devi faces death everyday. Whether she is admitted to the ICU or in palliative care at home, Indira never gives up on her desires, especially food. She wrinkles her nose when her caretakers serve calorie-counted, easily-digestible food. She, instead, asks for mooli ka paratha with pickles and curd. Indira displays wit, anger and even self-pity to persuade her caretakers for a morsel of her favourite dish.
Indira had lost her husband in 1997. Accepting the prescribed norms of her society, where a wife quits eating non-vegetarian food after her husband’s death, she stopped eating anything non-vegetarian. She did this despite her fondness for mutton and fish. Though Indira has been a rebel, standing up for her daughter’s inter-caste marriage, she couldn’t take a stand on this one. Most of the widows change their lifestyle post their husband’s demise; so did Indira.
After almost 20 years, Indira has kept aside these norms and put her desire first. She passes on her ancient recipes for mutton and fish to her daughter. She eagerly waits for the first bite and spices it up with her advice. Her favorite dish these days is illish macch wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed in rice starch. She nibbles at them, barely able to finish even half a piece. Her appetite might have reduced but a bite of delicious food fills her soul with joy.
At this stage of her life, when her being alive every morning is a pleasant surprise for Indira and her family, she has decided to simply follow her heart. She often tells her granddaughter with a mischievous smile, “I know I have taken over your room. You must have come home from hostel thinking about sinking in your bed and spending your day there. But I can’t help it. I like your room and I like to sleep alone. You will probably get your room back only after I leave this world.”