8 June 2024

When three Bengali ladies meet at the farmers’ market

This being a Saturday morning, Sharmila and I headed for Alpharetta Farmers’ market like we normally do. The idea, as always, is to pick up some fresh vegetables. Jay Jay – while no fan of vegetables himself – unfailingly leads us. Usually, we have to coax and cajole him to come back. He loves watching all the people there and the occasional treat he gets from strangers.

We ran into Seemita-di and Paromita at the first vegetable stall we approached. What followed brought back some flashbacks of overhearing housewives chatting while buying vegetables in Horsho Market (actually, the real name is Horse Shoe Market because of the original shape of the market) near where I grew up in Durgapur.

Not to occupy too much of the stall space in the front (there were other customers), Jay Jay and I stepped back a few feet to give the three women space and time to buy their stuff. Ten minutes later, I realized that they had not picked up even one piece of vegetable but were talking to each other in a very animated way.

Stepping a little forward, I was able to overhear some part of the conversation. The topic de jure was two particular greens the stall was featuring. The aforementioned excited discussion was happening in chaste Bengali much to the amusement of the shopkeeper. She finally asked these three “Would you like some of this?”. One of them explained what was taking them so much time. “Oh! we are teaching each other various methods to cook these two greens.”

Sharmila caught me unawares by suddenly turning around and asking (in Bengali) – “Do you want to eat পুঁই শাক (pui shak) or কলমি শাক (kalmi shak)?” So, I am supposed to let her know if I was going to eat Malabar spinach or Water spinach. To put this in perspective, if you showed me those two greens and some Bermuda grass next to them, I would not know which one was the grass. I do not care much about food at all as long as it keeps me away from being hungry.

But experience has taught me that answering seemingly innocuous questions with two equally likely options is not a smart move. Unbeknownst to me, there is always a “right” answer (regardless how the question is framed). And totally beknownst to me, I pick the wrong answer.

“Let’s take both?” I offered – hoping to take a neutral position that would make the Swiss proud of me. And it immediately hit me that I would have nothing to offer if she, somewhat irritated, asked me “Who is going to cook all these?”

Fortunately, she turned away from me after receiving no help.

Somewhat to avoid any more questions and somewhat because I saw that the three had finally started putting stuff in their bag, I backed out of earshot distance and busied myself greeting all the young tots and dogs milling around.

I saw them paying the lady.

So, I turned around and started walking. A minute later, Jay Jay stopped dead in his tracks. He had looked back and noticed that Sharmila was still there at the stall. In fact, the three were again in yet another confabulation.

A bit of keen observation led me to realize that now they were busy sharing with each other what each had bought!!

I suspect spinach is not the only vegetable I will be eating this week!!

Gotta stay away from the Bermuda grass though!!!

7 June 2024

Patiently waiting for mom

We had run out of milk. The three of us took this opportunity to put in a morning walk to Publix. Jay Jay and I hung around outside while Sharmila finished her shopping. When I say “hung around”, I mean Jay Jay just planted himself outside the glass doors and kept staring inside looking for Sharmila. And I stood there helplessly, sipping a cappuccino.