My late father's man Friday and I hadn't chatted all of July. "Young ladies, where have you been all this time?"
Vinayagam asked this morning, pinging me on WhatsApp. "You've been going places. Now that your daughter's wedding is done, you're always jet-setting—with the big boss and all." Laughing, I retorted that if anything, it was he, Vinayagam, who seemed to be the jet-setter, driving up and down the hills and dales of South India with his wife. I noticed that he'd just skedaddled to a paradise 5000 feet above Madurai called Meghamalai (Cloud Mountain).
This morning, he'd promptly overhauled his cover photo on Facebook. Terraced acres carpeted my phone screen from one edge to the other. A meditation evergreen. Tea leaf wonderland. And cardamom plantations, too, I learned later.
Now that Daddykins, my father, was gone, there was no one stopping his once-chauffeur from seeing the world outside our apartment. "You have to see Meghamalai to believe it," he said. "I'll drive you there. I'm telling you, Young ladies, that it's like nothing you've seen before."
Discussing the beauty of nature naturally led to our backyard in Saratoga. Vinayagam was amazed at the photographs of our two-bit "vineyard" and its grape clusters. He raved about our banana tree and its fruit. Did I know that I could cook with every part of the banana plant? The leaves too were useful for steaming some dishes, he said. He expounded on other delicacies I must make with the benevolence of the plant whose patriarchal stance would obviously keep me chained to the kitchen forever.
"You can make fritters and chips and use the stem too in cooking" he said. "Young ladies, you can consume just about every part of the banana plant, can you believe that?" He paused. "Vazhaiyadi Vazhai", he said in wonderment, in Tamil. It literally meant "like a baby plant by the side of a banana plant." It symbolized the unfailing succession of offspring, generation after generation.
He ended the morning's Philosophy 101 with a sigh. "And one day, the plant will keel over. Just like your dad, Young ladies. Just as you will too when you're old."