A simple grocery list …

This article was published in The Hindu dated 6th May 2017. (The illustration for the published article was done by a cartoonist whose work I have admired for decades, Mr Keshav)

I doubt my mother-in-law would accept the job of creating logical puzzles for the toughest segment of the GMAT. She’d scoff and probably laugh. I’d say she doesn’t know her talents enough. The trick is to get her to talk and just stand by and listen. Then, off you go and replay the conversation and Voila! Riddles galore for all.

Take a task of making grocery lists:

“I am going to the store, what do you want?” The husband says as he sets out to get some milk.
“Right…there is no milk. Curd? … but we have curd. So, no need for curd okay?” she says.
“Okay….milk:yes, curd: no. Got it.” And he tries to grab the keys while the going is simple, but no luck there. She hollers from the kitchen again.

“Vegetables….get some radish pa. No raddishes at all at home, buy tomatoes also. No need for onions – I think there are 6 or 7 left.”
Another step grocery-store bound and she pipes, “Also, get pumpkins. Long since I made avial.”
“Okay…” Now, he really wants to dash out the door to sort out this list in his head, but she isn’t done yet. She has gone to peek into the refrigerator. An act that never bodes well for grocery lists’ health or refrigerators for that matter. Ever.

She exclaims loudly from the geographical location of the refrigerator.
“Ayyo….definitely, need spinach too. Poor child has not had spinach in a long time. Appppaaa….definitely no chillies. There is no much here.”

The mind in the meanwhile, is buzzing: Milk:yes, curd : no, radish: yes, onion: no, tomato: yes

“Get some coriander also….rasam just doesn’t taste the same without some fresh coriander.”
“Oh….I said to buy pumpkins for avial right? Hmm…” and she switches off mid-way through the sentence. Almost like somebody hit the snooze button on her.
“Hellloooo….some one is trying to leave the door to buy groceries. Anything else?”
To which, she gets irritated. “Oh…..stop hurrying me so. I am trying to think whether I should buy a fresh pack of curry leaves or just use the dried ones.”
“Does it matter…just ask him to get it.” pipes in the father-in-law who has been pottering about acting as though he couldn’t hear a thing.

Now…remember how one talks about hitting the raw vein? Apparently, this statement hit one of hers. “Look at him talking as though he doesn’t care whether the curry leaves are dried or not? When I do make the avial with dried leaves…he will say, his sister uses fresh curry leaves when she makes avial.”
“So what? I only say that my sister uses fresh curry leaves in avial!”
“And…what does that mean? That her avial is good.”
“Of course, her avial is good!”
“And what about mine? When I do use fresh curry leaves…not a thing! When I use the dried ones, you have to talk about your sister! So now, I have to remember all the previous avial attempts and collect all his previous comments and sort out the ones he likes and the types he doesn’t and figure out on my own what he likes. Why can’t he say something simple?”

The human mind I tell you. It just doesn’t reflect on its own grocery lists.

The husband, in the meanwhile, just closed the door and settled down on the couch. Long association has told us that the avial topic is a lengthy one. He has turned on his laptop and is cackling at some you-tube video now. A trifle tactless if you ask me. When the avial topic reaches the consistency factor, it is time for all birds flying above our homes to evacuate and change flight direction immediately; not sit down on neighbouring trees and laugh like hyenas at you-tube videos.

If anything irks her more than the sisters-avial-loving-husband topic, it is the sight of the son evidently enjoying something when the grocery needs to be done.

She gathers her wits about her and says, “Oh fine….just get any vegetable. I will sort out what I want to make later.”

A loud sigh later, he leaves. She hears the ignition and charges to the door. “Kondhai! (Child!) I also need toor dal. Don’t get 4 lbs – 2 lbs will do ”
“And moong yellow 1 pound.”

The husband leaves as fast as his accelerator allows him to; before something else is thrown at him. He stands there at the grocers looking confused like a puppy that just lost its way.
Milk:yes, curd: no, radish: yes, onions: yes or no? whatever. Better get some. tomatoes: definitely no, chillies: definitely yes ….coriander?
What about fruits?
And the dhals?

The man has always been credited with thinking on his feet and he places an emergency call from the store. A joke is made about how he has to call from the store every time and the instructions are repeated in pretty much the same order without the avial-curryleaf detour finishing up with the loving note, “Just get any vegetable! It is fine!”

The man comes back looking like he physically hauled a dump-truck across the continent and dumps the produce on the counter. His mother hands him a cup of coffee – you know brace his soul for what is coming.

The man sips contentedly when she asks, “Did you not get beans?”
“NO…you didn’t ask for any!”
“Yes…but I said ‘Get anything!’ I’d have thought that includes beans..”

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