Monday, 26 September 2011

Being the Homemaker


One of the oft repeated questions that I have been faced with is what vegetables and fruits do you get in Nairobi - and the answer is practically all. It takes a while for the fact to sink in when I repeat that we get all kinds of Indian vegetables and fruits here – in fact many of those which I have never seen in Pune. Bengalis would jump with joy to find the “Batabi Lebu”, along with the regular plain yellow lemon (need less to say the green lemon is not found in Pune). After two attempts at going to the Mboga (vegetable) Market with my son, I had enough. Everybody was trying to gain my attention through mtoto (baby) and mtoto was responding in totally uncertain ways. But the market left my eyes open – every vegetable or fruit that I know is here and is juicy fresh. This IS a very fertile land (of course the blooming flowers and lush green leaves are indicating the same all around). And those vegetables are not just the Indian ones, of course the ones eaten by locals (my knowledge bank so far tells me cabbage, spinach and cousins, Kale or Sukuma wiki), and those catering to Wazungu or western people (like broccoli). I assume with my limited knowledge that Waarabu and Wachinas’ vegetable/fruit requirements are mostly covered in the earlier brackets (I have seen lemon grass here). I tasted new fruits here – passion fruit (which I liked) and avocado (had a tough time swallowing even the first bite – too oily for my desi taste buds I guess).

So I checked from my Mhindi network (on how others manage) and my plan for mboga was to send my house keeper to get them. One very visible benefit – it would come a lot cheaper just by her replacing me. So the first task was to teach her about Indian vegetables. This resulted into some issues initially which some what continue to this day, but over all it is a happy state of affairs - I mostly get what I had asked for. When I asked her to bring Torai (ridged gourd) for the first time she got a leafy vegetable. But now she knows – so we could have our Chingri Jhinge Posto. Two times Parwal or Tinda request got me Tondli (I have seen it only in Maharashtra before Nairobi) – I guess Parwal and Tinda are two vegetables which are ruled out for now.

One of the outcomes of Mhindi being the elite is that there is no Indian cooking help here. One would have to be very lucky to have a cook or house keeper who would have worked in a Mhindi household before. I tried some cooking by my house keeper. Conclusion: we can have that for a change, but not daily. For desi taste buds, the chappati was too big, too thick; Ugali or maize passable but cannot be had alone; vegetable less cooked, bland. So I gear myself up for chapatti making and rounds of You Tube recipe videos – pause, rewind and play. By now, my chapattis are near round – but miles to go before I show off. All my appreciation comes from Adi, his compliments of “Yummy”, “Tasty” keeps my cooking ticking.

The day starts early in Nairobi (unlike Pune!). So now waking up at seven or seven thirty is no big deal – I guess we are late by Nairobi standards. I am the perfect grihini rising early and packing lunch boxes for husband and son (thankfully Aamir manages with sandwiches for lunch and Adi loves bread – in fact can not really manage any thing apart from bread or biscuits for his lunch). The day ends early for most people - factors inflencing it being the drivers would have to be let go, there is a possibility of mugging and generally prevalent early to rise early to pack up schedule. But Aamir is stuck with desis, so our days end late by Nairobi standards, but very early compared to the life we had at Pune. Usually I sleep by eleven, Adi following me, in turn followed by Aamir (once he has finished all his Facebook surfing).

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