I must have been around 4 when my mom told me a story about how a little boy swallowed gum and how it took 7 years for it to pass through his intestine, in the process making it quite sticky and elastic. I was fond of gum and older cousins would often ply me with ‘007 Bubble Gum’ or ‘Wrigley’s’. I’d chew on it for hours. That story, told to me over several afternoons, turned my love for gum sour – ensuring it was years before I ever put gum in my mouth again. Sigh!
Then my dadi arrived to stay with us. Gosh! Some of the really bizarre things she told me in the name of either getting me to eat or not eat certain things may have just scarred me for life. I think you may be able to relate to some of them. I have heard a lot of Indian parents and grandparents use these on the kids.
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#1. “Palak (spinach) khao! Ghee ke saath.”
My dadi promised I’d turn into Supergirl one day if I was good enough to eat to for at least 5 years. If not, then I’d at least be able to punch all the bad kids in your school like Popeye! Religiously, I’d then gulp down absolutely insipid palak every third day. I was around 10 when life told me, “Hey, dadi is messing with you!” when I punched an older girl in school for bullying and ended up hurting my own hand so bad that it took days for it to get better. Not to mention the punishment I had to go through for 5 whole days for having hit another student.
#2. Don’t swallow pips or seeds.
If you do, very soon, they will grow in your tummy and we will have to cut your tummy open to bring it out. Gah! How much I would shake in fear, if even one watermelon seed would go down my throat by mistake. At such time, I’d hear dadi say, “Ek hi gaya na? Koi nai, pani mat peena bus fir koi baat nai.”
#3. “Chai mat piyo!”
Apparently, drinking chai turns a person dark. And this would come just as I’d be about to take a sip of that delicious masala chai that my mom would have made. I’d say, “I don’t care” in return and then she’d go on and on about how dark colour made people invisible at night and therefore prone to more accidents. Not to mention the fact, that if my skin turned dark I would have a tough time finding a good hubby!
#4. “Maggi nai khao…your hair will turn curly.”
Seriously? I mean what kind of crazy do you have to be to believe this? Apparently, not too crazy. Because I believed her wholeheartedly. Until I hit 12 years of age and my friends laughed out loud and one of them took me to her mother who was a doctor in order for me to understand how genetics worked. Golly, I can’t even begin to tell you how embarrassed I was!
#5. “Doodh piyo warna daant gir jayenge.”
Yes, another ridiculous lie I believed. Oh lord! Was I incredibly dense or what?! Hateful glass of milk every day…I’d drink it as if someone was poisoning me only because I didn’t want my precious teeth to fall! And when the milk teeth did fall, she went, “bola than a do baar peena hai doodh? Dekha…gir gaye daant!” This little trick ensured that I never once missed drinking milk till I reached my twenties.
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#6. “Gajar khaogi, to raat ko bhi dikhega.”
Keen to get night vision, I ate carrots like there was no tomorrow. This went on, again, yes you guessed it right, for years!
#7. “Zyada pakode na kha, naak pakode jaisi ho jayegi!”
Sure why not, quite possible no? After all which Indian mom has not convinced her child that eating walnuts will give you better brains – just because they look like them!!!
I don’t think anyone could be as naïve as I was or maybe just my gran was great at convincing. I am really not sure but one thing is certain, most meals with my dadi around centered around: “Khana khaya kya? Yeh bhi khalo thora aur? Wo tho nahi khaya na? Arre phir se wo kha liya?”
What’s surprising is that instead of learning from this, I find myself saying some of the same things to my 3-year-old daughter! Of course, none as far-out as the ones I heard as a child. How much angry I got as a child on my dadi’s lies, as a mother today I do understand now why she would say such ridiculous and outlandish things just to make me eat certain foods and to avoid others.
Children don’t exactly make life easy for parents, do they? And so we find ourselves telling our kids in turn, “Beej mat khana! Paet mein ped ugg jayega!” or “Palak kha ke Popeye jaise powerful ban jao!”. And of course always pestering them to eat to eat one bite more, or calling them to ask Khana Khaya Kya! And god forbid your child skip a meal – the Earth would stop revolving, no?
Do you remember similar white lies you heard at home to get you to finish the food on your plate?
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