Share Your Thoughts

I have a recipe book like no other. It is a diary of memories. Written in long hand, it bears the distinctive scribbles of individuals who are not with me. Some have passed on and some live elsewhere.

When I began my life as a bride, it was propped up on my counter, much like a kitchen deity. I opened it daily, often twice or three times a day and recalled the weaves of the nib as it scratched into the pages. I remember the hands that have written into it-the one with the scar on the wrist; the dainty many-bangled one; the gnarled nail-bitten one.

When it was determined that I was going to leave my home and my life in India to join my husband in the United States, my father bought a notebook at the local grocery outlet. It cost him next to nothing and became my most precious possession.

During its evolution, my father recorded the treatment of vegetables, obsessed over measurements, argued about garnishings and observed the precise umlauts of cutting and dicing. The details were carefully crafted and a narrative derived. Visiting aunts, cousins and friends were persuaded to add their versions of curries and kuzhambus to the pages and my father painstakingly ledgered the names of the new recipes to the table of contents, that he had thoughtfully left room for.

Re-starting life afar from what was familiar, the recipe book became a bridge spanning the distance between longing hearts. Opening its pages made me feel, viscerally, the hope that had been invested into my happiness.

You know that recipe book that our father gave you, my brother reminded me recently, it’s time for me to get my share of it.

Long accustomed to fighting for my place and holding fast to what was mine, it seemed like an alien concept. After all the book had been written for me and had borne witness to the major events in my life: the ups of my marriage, my endeavors with computer science, the joyous birth of my twins and my re-generation as a writer.

It has supported me well. The recipes are cemented in my head, as are the memories. I have used the book to serve the people I love and now it’s time to broaden its reach. Brother, it comes to you with my affection. Make from it what I have.

Jaya Padmanabhan

Jaya Padmanabhan is editor emeritus, contributing writer, and board member of India Currents. She is a veteran journalist, essayist, and fiction writer with over 250 published articles and short stories....