As a child I loved this book.
As a child I could hardly remember the name.
However, I remember that the name sounded so exotic to me that I couldn’t wait to start reading it to find out who or what Annapurna was.
Annapurna is both one of the eight-thousander mountains in the Himalayas of Nepal and a female Hindu Goddess. She is the Goddess of food and is worshipped primarily in southern India.
We read the book in 4th grade, I think I can’t remember…
In any case, I could already read. I treasured it, drew myself a colourful bookmark so I didn’t have to fold the pages to remember where we last stopped.
I stared at the drawings in fascination and imagined what life would be like in this far away city – Bombay (today, Mumbai), this far away country – India.
As an adult I still have the book in my library and look at it from time to time.
“The story takes place in Bombay in a working-class district and is about the life of an Indian family in which the father is ill and can no longer work, the two sons cannot find work and so the mother has to earn the money on her own. Since she also has to take care of her four daughters and her sick husband, she earns the money by cooking at home and having her eldest daughter Veena bring the food to the workers in the factory.” (1)
Veena is the main character of the story and is accompanied by Kordon in four chapters. The book talks about different events in the life of Veena and her family.
The book begins with the following sentence –
“Veena lives in Bombay. Bombay is a big city in India and it’s right by the sea.”
I love the sea and best of all, I was in Bombay during Diwali.
Diwali is one of the most popular festivals in Hinduism and is similar to Christmas. Translated, Diwali means “rows of lighted lamps”. Streets, shops and private homes are decorated with oil lamps during this period, and fireworks turn night into day. (2)
The book reads – “It is most beautiful in front of the barracks when Diwali is being celebrated. On Diwali day, the barracks are already decorated with colourful fairy lights in the morning and in the evening the lights shine in all colours.”
Don’t you also find it amazing how seemingly from an early age small seeds are planted within us, in our subconscious, just waiting to be watered to bloom.
Now I’m here.
A dream became reality.
I’ve never been so far east of my homeland. (somehow, I’ve always been drawn west over the years)
I’ve never been to Asia.
I’ve never been to India.
I have never been to Bombay (Mumbai).
So colourful, so full of life, so loud, so different, so full of contrasts and yet familiar.
I arrived in India, in Mumbai. My partner and his family live there.
Now I can see the city and the sea with my own eyes, hear the sounds and the languages, immerse myself in this new, unknown world with all my senses. Reality is more magical than I could have ever imagined in my dreams.
When I finished reading, I knew what Annapurna was – they called Veena’s mother that because she prepared lunch for the workers in the factory.
India has so many different tastes, textures, spices and smells that it may take a lifetime to try them all. It was also a culinary journey for me, because food is connection and food is memories. Through food you get access to the local culture, to the people and their traditions.
The women of one house showed me in their kitchen how to roll out rotis, bread which looks like a taco, in a nice round shape. There were several generations in the kitchen and they looked over my shoulder and watched spellbound how my first roti would turn out. For starters, I have to say it wasn’t bad at all. We laughed and talked. A nice feeling. A good connection.
Another time, when I tried pani puri, a small ball filled with sprouts and vegetables, dipped in mint water and chutney, it was like a taste explosion in my mouth. We sat around a table and everybody explained to me how to eat it. A piece of India’s food traditions in my hands and in my mouth. I had never eaten anything like this before. It wasn’t just the unique taste that fascinated me, but the experience of eating these little balls – crack it open, fill it, dip it, eat it!
Like a little submarine that you push under water!
This trip was also all about food and Annapurna, the Goddess of food, accompanied me the entire time.