My Nani was Made of Coriander by Terveen Gill

My nani always smelled of coriander.

The smell was in her hair, her cheeks, the cream cotton kurta that she always paired with a black salwar. I thought she had only one outfit but later discovered that all her clothes were the same color.

At the time, my young mind had thought that it was a uniform like the one I wore to school. But my grandfather told me that my grandmother was a simple woman. Her family were all the colors she needed.

I understand this now, but back then that reasoning was too heavy for an immature mind.

I’d come home from school and find nani in the kitchen. She’d be wearing her thick glasses and leaning over some pot or pan, stirring, kneading, or crushing fresh spices in a heavy, stone mortar.

The coriander seeds were her favorite. She said the smallest pinch of coriander powder could fix the most tasteless of foods.

And she was right. I loved the dals and fried vegetables that she made. The coriander was never too much but always stood out. It made me lick my bowl and plate clean after every meal.

At night when nani sat at my bedside and stroked my hair, the smell of coriander was always with her. It comforted me like a teddy bear, and I would take deep breaths hoping to fill myself with that reassuring smell.

Nani spoke very little, but her love spilled from the food that she cooked for us. We were a family of three. My mother, nani’s daughter, had died when I was only two. And my father had remarried.

His new wife didn’t want me. I’m grateful for that.

Twenty-five years were too less to love nani. Old age took her from me.

She was cremated. I buried her ashes in a sunny corner of my backyard.

This morning, I found tiny coriander plants pushing through the ground there.

I always knew my nani was made of coriander.

28 comentarios sobre “My Nani was Made of Coriander by Terveen Gill

  1. There’s so much to like about this piece. I don’t know if it’s a personal tribute or not, but it felt like it. It put me right there with the smells and tastes, and the presence of this woman. You have a wonderful, lyrical way of capturing the essence of your subjects with few words.

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    1. I’d say that this is a tribute to grandmothers across the world. There’s that distinct memory or memories each one of us has. I remember my nani would always moisturize her hands and face with cream right before bed while praying softly. The sounds and fragrance are embedded in my head. Can never forget it. Thanks so much, Bob, for feeling the depths of this piece. I appreciate it. 🙂

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    1. You are absolutely right, Cheryl. Cilantro and coriander are the same. Here in India, instead of calling the green plant cilantro, it’s identified as coriander leaves and the seeds are called coriander seeds. It does smell and taste so good. Thank you so much! 🙂

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  2. This is a magical story, Terveen. The ending was perfect, absolutely perfect. I’m reminded of my grampa (my mom’s dad) whom I’ve written about in my poetry and who always smelled like coffee and cigarettes. Not quite as memorable as coriander, but he was the best guy ever and that combination of scents will always remind me of him. Goodness, this is a beautiful tale… 🙂

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    1. I can relate to this, Mike. Probably, many can. Smells evoke the strongest memories and correlations. It’s really strange and also fascinating. I’m glad you have wonderful memories of your grandfather. They are treasures that can never be depleted. Thank you so much for all your support and encouragement. I always enjoy your viewpoints and the personal stories you share. 🙂

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