By Uma Balchand
Every year as Mother’s Day approaches, we read many tributes to that special woman in our life. It’s predominantly about a mother’s struggles, how she overcomes super-human challenges, her will of steel, how influential she is in her own quiet way, the impact she has had on her children’s lives.
But for me, I remember the simple, happy moments I shared with my mother. Those fleeting yet memorable moments of immense joy. Those unexpected moments that warmed my heart. Those endearing mother–daughter moments that I have carried with me through the years. Well, I shall share one today.
I was probably in kindergarten or lower primary school. Like most children, I was a picky eater. I didn’t like anything very colourful on my plate. I was very happy with just rice, tairu (yoghurt) and papadum. But of course, mothers don’t usually approve of such meals devoid of vegetables, do they?
“Let’s take all this rice and make little rice balls. You make one, and I’ll make one. Let’s see how many rice balls we can make, ok?” Amma told me.
In a bid to outdo her, I frantically challenged her to make the rice balls faster, just so I could lay claim to making more rice balls than her on my plate.
“Aah, now we have 20 rice balls! Let’s see what shape we can create from these rice balls. You want to arrange these rice balls in the shape of a fish or the sun?” Amma asked
“Fish!” I squeaked in delight.
And we began arranging those rice balls, akin to joining the dots to form the basic shape of a fish.
“But fish need water and food to live. They live in a colourful environment, you know.”
And Amma takes a ladleful of sambar (lenthil curry) and pours this gingerly around the outer shape of the fish we just created. That was the “lake” for the fish to swim.
“Now, lakes have plants growing at the shore.”
With Amma’s precise manoeuvres, the leafy vegetables and carrots are scattered around on the plate. Then she crushes a papadum and sprinkles the bits over the “lake”.
“Now, the story is, there was a giant terrorising this little kingdom. Lord Krishna said, whoever succeeds in eating the last rice ball will get all the strength and might to overpower this giant and become the saviour of this Kingdom,” Amma said, as I became more curious.
“Now, you choose which rice ball is to become the last rice ball,” Amma told me.
I immediately pointed to one of the rice balls. “This is the last ball! I will eat this and become strong. Then I can also fight the giant and win!” the child in me shrieked.
“Well, if that is the last rice ball, you will have to finish all the rest first,” Amma said. To my delight, she pours the tairu over all those rice balls. I hold one finger on that “last rice ball” and eat all the rest. Amma cleverly pushes the veges and the dhall onto the tairu so that they go into my mouth just as quickly.
“Done! I have eaten all the rice balls and this is the last one,” I boast.
“Clever girl! Now, hold on to that rice ball. Close your eyes. I shall say the prayer so that you shall receive the strength”.
She says the silent prayer and then instructs me to put that last rice ball into my mouth. I was certain that I was going to be very strong.
Sneaky as it was, Amma succeeded in making her picky daughter finish her entire meal. She made me eat a nice, healthy vegetarian meal without creating a ruckus.
I have not really succeeded in using this trick with my own little girl. Perhaps, somewhere deep within me, I want the delightful little rice balls episode to remain something special between me and my Amma. My little girl will have enough stories of her own (and very good ones, I hope) about me to tell her children someday.
But for today, I will have little rice balls for lunch. Happy Mother’s Day, Amma. Rest in Peace.
Uma Balchand is an FMT reader.
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