“I really don’t care. Order something”. That was my lackadaisical response to my brother’s query “What do you want to eat?” as we started settling down at our table at Pan Asian restaurant at ITC Sonar hotel. And therefore, that is what he did. The usual Bengali favorites of hakka noodles, fried rice, manchurian gobi and so on. I was more focused on spending time with him than what I was going to eat that evening.
Something curious happened in the next couple of minutes. Just as the waiter had started walking away, my brother called him back “Ektu salad diye jaaben?” (“Can you get us some salad?”). Very proud of my brother that he was eating his vegetables – and obviously caught in a location context warp as I realized later, I commended him for eating leaves and vegetables. Ever concerned of his health, I enquired about whether he was focusing on the proper dressing too (stay away from the creamy ones, you know).
He stared at me blankly. “Maaney?” (“What are you talking about?”). It took me a couple of seconds to recognize what had happened. You see, in India, “salad” really means a plate of condiments – usually comprising of sliced cucumbers, onions and tomatoes and sometimes carrots and even green chillies with salt sprinkled all over. The sophisticated places might even give you beet-salt.
Chuckling inside, I told him that he should try and eat green vegetables too.
“Knacha ghaas paata khabo?”, he asked indignantly. (“You want me to eat raw leaves and grass?”). I replied in the affirmative explaining how our digestive systems cannot digest cellulose and therefore those leaves are great as fiber for roughage and bowel movements. Other than the obvious source of vitamins.
Thoroughly unimpressed, he dismissed me saying “Amader deshe ogulo goru-tey khay”. (“Here in India, cows eat such stuff”).
“The health benefits of leaves and vegetable salads are well documented”, I persisted.
He gave it some consideration and then burst my balloon. “Toder deshe-r kota goru-r khub bhalo figure?”. (“How many cows in your country are proud of their figures?”).
I gave up and started digging into the salted cucumber and tomato slices that had arrived at our table. Ooh! They were very tasty 🙂