I grew up with my Aba and Mai. My mom had a difficult second pregnancy, so I spent most of my early life with them. I adored my grandfather, and used to follow him everywhere as a child. Aba was a huge influence in my life. But, looking back, it was my Mai who would shape my life more than I ever realized. She was an incredibly hard-working, patient woman, and looked after all of us with the kind of selfless devotion that is very rare in today’s world.
Mai and I looked alike. We had the same features, the same hair—an unusual-for-India shade of dark reddish brown. We had the same personalities, quick to anger, but equally quick to forgive. She and I are both yellers. My mom said that we had the same palate, we knew when food needed more salt or if the spices were not quite cooked out. We also had similar cooking styles, breezy, effortless and simple. My grandfather was the wedding chef. My grandmother was the home cook. My grandfather was the public face of the family, my grandmother was the private heart of the home.