This is mostly a rant so beware.
Feeding is therapeutic to all Indian women and conversations rarely deviate from menus and appreciation received for food cooked and forced on to guests. Dismissively flushing with pleasure over the “wah, what lovely khana… what a spread! ” comes like blinking to every mother, wife, maid. Their labour of love, and veritable claim to fame is mostly always gastronomic prowess and proficiency in the mother(-in-law)/daughter(-in-law)/sister(-in-law)/aunt department is determined via this. Service rendered through number of sumptuous platters produced gives people fame, power and influence in a most bizarre way. Although most social transactions are benign and mostly warm, others require acute observation and a fast uptake aptitude on innuendos.
The Indian society is a unique contradiction. Known for hospitality and force feeding, it comes to one unaccustomed like halwa laced with malice with a side of claws.
Then comes the politics of sentimentality and attachment to past. There is a lot to be said about the Western detachment within society and families. One’s mind is less cluttered and devoid of possible ill feeling and souring inter-personal relationships if one limits the range of interactions of only those people who can reciprocate your sentiments and relate to you on a social and emotional level. At least, maintain cordial relations and a level of civility that makes for the basic identity of a human being. The great Indian family is increasingly becoming a cesspit of politics and breeding ground of terminal discontent. Competition is ripe and everything is laced with multiple layers of undeterminable subtext known only in the darkest parts of the speaker’s/accuser’s equally murky soul. No matter how hard you try to appease and calm and try to introduce a modicum of balance, certain members of all Indian families are fundamentally un-appeasable. No horde of wild African elephants can alter their thinking much less better it. Double-faced double-standards are rampant and you are only good ‘for’ the immediate need/plan/ requirement. The worst thing about this persistent cycle through generations is that it makes the seemingly normal people also quite paranoid and in time manic in their own right. It’s exhausting and ever-fragmenting. Nuclear families are the only ones that escape and maintain the ties a family should. Other than the immediate preceding and succeeding lines, all others involve a lot of maneuvering and political one upman-ship (mainly lies). A few years ago I had heard on Koffee with Karan that no two actresses can become friends if they are of the same paygrade and calibre. The same holds true for siblings, cousins and families in general.
Stray cats on the other hand don’t pretend to have any allegiance. If you are good for their next meal, they deign to partake of the food (only non-vegetarian morsels) on offer. If there is a wedding nearby, you might as well lick & gnaw the bones on your plate raw and burn the remains after.
This is Mary Antoinette, my mother’s stray pet. Her favourite food like her namesake is cake. She detests bread. Likes her chicken or fish cooked in lots of oil and salt and will never turn down a carton of Amul cream.