Tamil New Year

On Tamil New Year morning, when the banana vendor walked down our road advertising her wares in a voice even louder than my father-in-law’s, my mother-in-law yelled out to me to flag her down.

We wanted banana leaves, only banana leaves. The Bananawoman, however, wanted to part with everything in her basket, including the chunkiest banana stem.

“Old man,” the Bananawoman said to my father-in-law, “You need to help me unload this basket onto the ground.” My father-in-law obeyed her implicitly.

Later, after a bit of back and forth of 8 rupees or 10 rupees and give me more for the money, no I don’t want the stump, what use is the stump and how much for the stump, my father-in-law was done with the buying and the paying.

He was about to go back into the house when the Bananawoman said, “Here, old man, you must help lift this onto my head, come on now, be nice.” The two of them then lifted her cavernous basket. Slowly, such that her bananas and the fenugreek and the banana stems and the six foot leaves didn’t spill out, the woman bent her body and tipped her head just so. Heaving, my father-in-law helped her place it back on her head.

Seconds later, while I was admiring the empowered woman for her power over my father-in-law, the old man, now breathless, told me that she was one demanding woman to put him to so much work on new year morning.

He stopped to look at me standing there watching the proceedings. He eyed my iPad. “Listen, you didn’t capture that on your camera, did you?” 
No, I didn’t.

You Must Not Walk

This morning the oldest man in our home tried to ban his wife from taking her first walk out here in Saratoga. “I warn you. Dogs are going to bite you. Don’t regret it!” Mo’s dad said.

“No, no, you must walk,” I told Mo’s mom, opening our front door. “You are so lucky to have such lovely weather here. Besides, it’s good for your legs.”

The octagenarian came up with new excuses for his wife.

“How will you know your way back?” he said.

“She doesn’t need to know no way back,” I said. “She’s going to go down this road. And back again. That’s all.” Meanwhile, my mother-in-law checked the door number and repeated it a few times under her breath.

Mo’s dad warned of other dubious things. “And then there might be that plant. You know, that plant that we have back in Vellore. You know, the plant that’ll cause you to forget your way back.”

Now that was a fascinating one. I turned to him. “Really? There’s such a plant?”

“Of course, there’s such a plant.”

“A plant that makes you lose your way? Wow.”

The truth is my mother-in-law’s brain is more leading edge than Garmin Edge. She’ll zip back to Saratoga even if her trail led her into Santa Cruz.

“Yes, a plant that makes you forget your way back,” my father-in-law said. “It intoxicates you so much you’ll never ever return from your walk.”