It's the time of year
to make the lemon pickle
that I make from my mother's recipe,
a pickle that I've been making for years.
(The only one that I make now-
gone are the glory days
when the children were young
and I'd make at least seven or eight
kinds of pickle every year).
Lemon pickle that I'd manage to sun
for the fifteen minutes a day
of sunshine that the
guest room window gets
every morning, these years in Kolkata.
The only pickle that my father
could eat, these last few years.
Made with no oil, no vinegar,
moderate spices and
the weight of tradition.
Last year our lives were in a pickle,
of illness and hospitals and nurses
and oxygen cylinders and nebulisers.
This year, the younger daughter
asks me if I'm making
Nani's lemon pickle.
I hadn't planned to, but
when a child reminds you
of something that you used to make
You know you should take a hint,
I bought seventy-five beautiful limes,
plunging into baskets full of them,
choosing the best
at Lake Market yesterday afternoon,
and had them weighed.
Soaked them overnight,
and then washed and wiped them dry
I sat and cut them,
remembering the time,
in another city, some years ago
when my mother cut them for me
perched upon the dining table.
( My dining table thanks me
for my kindness in not attempting
to sit on it anymore).
I measured out the salt,
and took out the last of my
the wonderfully strong asafoetida
that my Maama,
my mother's younger brother
used to get for us.
I remembered getting the news
of his sudden stroke
on a train, and how he barely
survived for a day after that.
The sorrow of bearing this news to my mother
little knowing that barely eight months later
I would bear the news of another death,
of her firstborn, her only son.
I wondered if she and my father
have been able to catch up with
their siblings and the friends and relations
who've gone before them.
Party time, somewhere!
In the meantime,
the nascent pickle looks forward to its
daily dose, (for at least a month)
of fifteen minutes of sunshine.
Edited to add: the approximate recipe is in the comments section!