Navratri has a special place in my heart . Being the women lib types, nine days dedicated to the female form has to be one of my favourites . Married into an Assamese family this festival now has greater importance and this Navratri was spent with the in-laws.I thoroughly enjoyed the pampering,was thrilled at the gifts waiting for me and loved getting decked up to attend the durga pujo mandals!
Coming back to the title of the blog; On the 9th day Tamilians celebrate Saraswati Puja. This day has people getting all their academic books out ,praying to the goddess to give them 'buddhi' and calling the neighbours home for 'vetla pak'.
So FIL and MIL were called by a Tamilian family in the building for vetla pak . They innocently informed the neighbour that they too had a Tamil speaking member in the family , Neighbour gets excited and forces Husband and me out of our evening beauty sleep to come home and take vetla pak.
As I enter their house, the neighbour-wife pounces on me and starts a continuous chatter in Tamil. I try escaping with the excuse of washing my hands.She follows me quickly to the wash basin and asks me in hushed whispers:
Neighbor Wife(inquisitive look): " Iyer or Iyengar?
Me ( wondering how that matters) : " Ehh .. Iyer"
Neighbor Wife ( concerned look) : How do you manage with the food? Who cooks at home? Must be difficult na with non veg and all? Whenever you are here visit our place, you can have the food you really like.
Me ( Smile Feebly) : Thanks
I shouldn't have just smiled . I wanted to tell her that I love the food at the in-laws place. First, cos MIL is a great cook and she makes everything with great love . Second I really like Bong/Assamese food specially the non vegetarian fare. I do not miss the Tam food cos I never liked it much.
And most importantly however innocent her question might have been, how does it matter if I an Iyer or Iyengar and is that the question you want to ask someone who has come to your home for the first time! What if I wasn't from either of the sub castes? I sometimes marvel at the fact that 60 years post independence such definitions that have lead to continuous division of our society, still matter.