Memories are funny things! They spring up whenever, from wherever, about whatever! On one hand, it doesn’t seem long when all of us first cousins (about 13-14 of us) would gather at any opportunity available and have dhamaal, and on the other, it seems as if that happened in a different lifetime altogether, of which I have completely lost touch!

There were many things that brought us all together, birthdays, weddings, vacations, group study marathons, family crises, holi, diwali, death anniversaries of our ancestors, and many other numerous occasions. Whatever may be the occasion, one thing that would be constant throughout was the food. Oh, the food. And I am not talking about things that were prepared in the house, but of a certain ritualistic way that we had for eating it! All of us cousins would sit in the verandah right outside the kitchen, where all our moms and aunts would be thronging, and get a huge thaali. We all would share the food, and it would always get over before it could even be placed in that thaali. Garma-garam rotis would be gorged upon, with everyone fighting for the middlemost part, for it was where the most ghee would be! Rice and noodles would not wait for the spoons and forks. Hands were more than enough. No one would know how much one has eaten, and we would not eat for hunger as much, as we would do for the fun. My mom tells me that this is how I learnt to eat all the veggies without making fuss about them. It was a great way of bonding, as nothing gels well more than food.

Sometimes, we would have shared cooking sessions too, sneaking in the kitchen in the late afternoons, when the moms and aunts would be busy gossiping in the inner courtyard. The eldest cousin would take charge, delegating work like a super-efficient boss. We all soon be cutting and peeling vegetables, in an effort to try out Maggie in a new style altogether. I guess that’s where my love for experimental cooking stems from too! Making cool sharbats, salads and milk-shakes was my personal favourite part of this exercise, which I mastered quite well too. Each one of us would develop a personal strength of one’s own, and in every subsequent cooking session, would take responsibility of getting that right! We learned to cook, and to share, to garnish, and to serve, to eat, and to enjoy, and most of all, we learned to love. Our love for food brought us all together, in a manner that was most beautiful and implicit of all.

Now, who says joint families aren’t fun?