Sunny flowers, lined up bouquets, arrays of Chocolates, claims from businesses that they have the perfect gift for mom. This was the build up to the Mother’s day this year as it is every year. I never paid much attention to it in the past. It was after all just a made up day to Celebrate Moms and I did not need a particular day to do that.
Yes, I would wish my Mom a happy mother’s day and she would reply with a twinkle and jingle in her voice “Thank you !Thank you!Same to you!” Her way of really meaning the Thanks was to say it twice.
This time around it was a constant reminder of my Mom not being there any more. A vacuum, a pause and then a tearing silence. She wouldn’t be at the other end of the phone saying “thank you !thank you! She wouldn’t be there when I call her at midnight to ask for a recipe that she had already explained a 100 times before. She wouldn’t be there when I want to call to share my little triumphs and epic defeats.
Yet I had to be at the other end of another conversation, answer the same question again, be the inspiration and the motivator and be a sounding board to someone who calls me Mom.
It was difficult day to wake up to and yet it had to be lived through. With a deep breath and a silent resolve to not break down, I braced up for what was going to be a physically challenging day in addition to being an emotionally difficult one. My daughter was swimming at a competition and I had a day full of volunteering, cheering, meeting other Moms and a mind in a labyrinth of questions.
How do you celebrate being a Mom when missing your own Mother is tearing you up from within? How do you smile and say “thank you” when someone wishes you a “happy Mother’s day”? How do you reassure your daughter who is counting on your cheering her on when you feel that all cheer from the world has drained out? How do you find strength to take one more breath, one more step; to do one more chore? How do you live in a moment divided between deep sorrow and sharing pure joy?How do you cry inside for your Mom and smile for you child because you are a Mom?
On I went about the day, because there were things to be done. I was simply going through the motions until my daughter came up to me with a handmade card. She had written poems, drawn pictures and she had written this in her note:-
The power in those words is something I can’t explain. It moved me to have so much love from my daughter and made me remember this poem that I had read somewhere
She is Gone
You can shed tears that she is gone
Or you can smile because she has lived
You can close your eyes and pray that she will come back
Or you can open your eyes and see all that she has left
Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her
Or you can be full of the love that you shared
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday
You can remember her and only that she is gone
Or you can cherish her memory and let it live on
You can cry and close your mind,
be empty and turn your back
Or you can do what she would want:
smile, open your eyes, love and go on.
Weeks before my Mom passed on, she agreed to do a complete “saal” course for me to document in my blog. Saal is the Kashmiri Pandit version of the Wazwaan. She was a fabulous cook and she cooked from her heart. I don’t say she was a great cook because she was my Mom. She just was unparalled in her execution of Kashmiri dishes. A fact accepted by many foodies and seasoned kashmiri wazwaan chefs and the entire Dhar clan of Srinagar, Kashmir.
She never did it for fame or appreiation. She just did it. It was her way of expressing love. And this love was extended to everyone who came over to our house. Cousins, aunts, friends & neighbors dropped in whenever they felt like and she would feel glad that they chose to come visit. Tea and snacks would be served or she would run out to the store to buy juice or soda if that is what they fancied to drink. And she would immediately start prepping for extra lunch or dinner while keeping them entertained. Before you knew it, everyone had gathered to eat amidst a happy clamor. I don’t know how she did it, and where she got her strength and inspiration from. I only know she worked hard all her life and played harder. She was compassionate, strong, inspiring, courageous and loving.
In the moment I read my daughter’s note I felt grateful – For the love with which my mom guided me, for the love my daughter has for me. It was a moment to honour my Mom’s courage and love, her strength and compassion, her zest for life, compassion for people and love for cooking.
The recipe I am sharing today is one my Mom made often for me. She often made food for us that we liked and how we liked it. Not an easy chore with 4 kids. My little brother loved Roti and Rajma and had a preference for certain cuts of meat. One of my sister liked eating paneer without any spices so she would just let her eat a block or two. The other fancied spicy and tangy stuff and buttery goodness.And I usually ate everything and then some more, but fish was my thing.
On my last trip home in June last year, I managed to capture a few pictures of the dishes she cooked which I am sharing below. I would have clicked more & better pictures but I was thinking of the near future when she was planning to visit me here in the US during fall and work on the entire family recipe series. She went on her final journey on July 23rd, 2011.
Above – Sotschal – common mallow with eggplant- a Kashmiri favorite and below – Monji Nadur – kohlrabi with lotus roots. If you know Kashmiri food, you can simply tell by the color of monji – That that is one incredible looking monji nadur.
Sharing this trout fish recipe from my memory of Mom’s recipes is like moving a step close to documenting our family recipes. This is in your loving memory, Ma!