My Meenasister had sent a dozen packs of Avakkai pickles from Hyderabad, for distribution here, to our relatives in USA . We Andhrites are crazy about Avakkai and the moment our pack came yesterday, I tasted and called her to tell that I liked her gift immensely.

‘Was the salt-chilly proportion OK?”

When I replied in affirmative, she posed the next question, ‘Was there too much oil in it?”

Avakkai pickle preparation is an elaborate job. Time consuming ; needs concentration. ( I have seen my sammandhi, prof. Nandur, an expert, preparing it, though I know only to eat and not to make it ). My sister took the trouble of preparing the pickle and getting it hermetically sealed on the eve of her knee surgery and it was natural that she wanted to hear that we all liked the product she had sent with love. The fun is, she is aware that her brother’s certificate is of no value, as he can hardly differentiate between good and not -so – good or even between good and better, when it comes to food taste. Still, she wanted to hear my word of appreciation.

Women are like that. I know because, I had a woman at home, a culinary artist, who used to wait eagerly looking at my face, for a word of appreciation, every times she served food.

‘Is it too spicy?’ , ‘is the salt ratio alright?’, ‘did I inadvertently add a pinch of extra tamarind?’ – she used to ask such questions, not one day, but every day, but I hardly took note of her aspiration to know my opinion. She had expected me at least to ooze out some sound, such as, ‘besh ‘ or a even make a head nod or a single finger movement, to convey my appreciation of the hard work she had put in.

But, I did at last realize the importance of acknowledging her sincere service, before it was too late and I’m happy about that. Many things I’m happy in my relationship with her and this is one among those.

Won’t you say, ‘thanks’, to a peon when he hands you over a file? Then why not to your own wife, sister or even mother, who serves your food wholeheartedly?

You need not say, ‘oh, what a wonderful food you made today!’ etc. simply smile in appreciation if it is your mom and if it is your wife, gently pat her back. If she is someone else’s wife, be discreet and be careful. If you are smiling, smile gently.

Tapping her back, never. But, by habit, I tapped at the back of a relative in India and the sharpness of her staring pierced my eyes and all the other organs on my face.
I assure you, my heart was milky white as the bleached and pressed Kerala dothi.
If you still suspect my intentions, I’m prepared to tell you what happened, so that you don’t carry my bad image.

She had prepared pAl adai pradaman and knowing my love for that pAyasam preparation, the kind lady invited me for food. She didn’t wait near my table to know how I liked my favorite sweet preparation, as she was not my wife but the woman in her could not resist the temptation, to know about it. Soon after I finished eating, she enquired, and as I was exalted , I tapped her back and said, ‘Akka, Adi poli’.
‘Adi poli’ is a superlative phrase to express extra ordinary satisfaction of any product.

Don’t you agree that I was fully justified in my action? Even the daughter in law of the good old lady agreed but when I enquired why was her MIL harsh with her looks, the
reply shocked me more than the angry look of the old lady.

“It was your addressing as, ‘akka’ and not your tap that angered my mother in law”

“But, pray, why?” I asked, “she is elder to me! Did her age step down, below mine, after she returned from America?’

“After her return, she wants to be addressed by her surname, if not by the given name. ‘Even my grandchild, Ruk is addressing her teacher as Duck. Why don’t you guys call me by my name?’ She asks.”

“What about her husband?” I enquired. ” I never heard him addressing other than by monosyllables, ‘enna, pinnae’ etc

“He said ‘no’ initially. But when my MiL refused to serve him Paladai pradaman, unless he called her by her name, he yielded”

“Does he call her ‘Parvadavardhini or Parvadam?”

“Shortened further. He calls her, ‘Par'”

“Just ‘Par’?”

“Yes, most of the time. But, when he is angry he screams,’Par, Par!’. And my father in law is always angry, you know.”

Anyway, that is not a point for our discussion.

I would like to come back to my topic and suggest that you should appreciate any little service from anyone, especially from your wife . And preparing food amidst many other distractions such as one child yelling for cleaning his back and another child for cleaning his front and the man of the house, yelling to clean his eye glasses, is not an easy job.

“And for me this ,’Par,Par’ noise too” . Adds the DIL, who is still here.

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