The Daané and the Tiger Prawn Curry
Sharm was visiting as usual on her annual sojourn to this isle of paradise. Though she left its shores as a young woman to pursue the enterprise known as marriage, Sharm returned to the home of her forefathers to stir the proverbial pot and assert her place as the eldest of her family.
Sharm’s charm as a young woman had been her face and her 17 inch waist. Considered a beauty of her time, her mother propped her on a pedestal that was built of her own pride, vanity and arrogance. These Sharm imbibed over the years and so maintained a level of proud condescension which she gladly bestowed on those around her.
Her siblings for their part, believed what their mother said and so all were in awe of this beautiful creature who had become all her mother desired in looks but lacked in humanity and compassion.
Sharm’s dearly beloved husband passed away suddenly one Spring day when she least expected it. It shocked many as he was not of an age to die. Sadly like most of his profession, he spent time advising others on things he himself should have practiced and so his heart gave way and left this earth to attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana.
Sharm and Narendra were an odd pair. Not socially of course. Wealth, status etc. were matched. Religions were not though, much to the dismay of Sharm’s dear mother (now departed) as she was a staunch Catholic and felt her eldest daughter should not be “carrying on” with a Buddhist. Of course after much beatings, tantrums and general stubbornness, the marriage did take place and Sharm moved overseas with Narendra.
And so after many years of living the happy life and three kids later, Narendra sadly passed on to the other side. And so Sharm brought it upon herself to have an annual daané or alms giving for Narendra in his village somewhere along the Southern coastal belt of Sri Lanka. Not that Narendra ever lived in that village but his family roots he claimed were there and in true Sri Lankan fashion, though born and bred in the city, they preferred to exalt their village roots for the purpose of identifying themselves with the majority race and religion of the country.
Never mind that Narendra shortened his surname to an abomination that could be easily pronounced by his white counterparts. Never mind that their children were not taught the native tongue that they claimed to adhere as their mother’s own. But cling they must to these age old traditions and roots as it were in their bid to find themselves or establish a somewhat watery Sri Lankan identity while residing in a country that was a melting pot for immigrants.
And so Sharm came down this year as well for this annual daané which she gave to his village temple. She never really spoke much about her plans with anyone in the family and so no one even went for these daanés. Only Narendra’s brother and family would attend and Sharm liked to keep the two families separate.
So one fine day Sharm set off to this village of yore and had the daané and whatever rituals that were required. Upon her return she came to her mother’s house as she was going to be staying there for this part of her visit.
Sharm ever since she lost her mother and husband, both who were the main base of her pedestal of vain glory, was a bit lost afterwards. Yet in her usual fashion, she latched on to her youngest sibling Rajiv. Rajiv with his maturity still caught in limbo between a little boy and an adult man dutifully followed everything his big sister told him. In his eyes she could do no wrong and Sharm used Rajiv to do her bidding.
In her mother’s house there lived her two youngest siblings (Rajiv and Manisha) and her other sister with her two children. Sharm could not really be bothered with the children coz she felt they were a nuisance and not her responsibility. But they were in the house nevertheless and she would just talk to them briefly while advising her mother to get their mother (her other sister) to pay for staying in her mother’s house. Sharm was not a woman who splurged on anyone. Money for her was precious and to be guarded closely. Hence she felt her other sister was an unnecessary burden on the family and had to pay for her stay.
And so Sharm had returned from the daané with a leftover prawn curry. She had informed Rajiv about this magnanimous gesture and that those in the household – 5 counting the adults and children – could share it. Prawn was expensive. It was a rare commodity in the household and Tiger Prawns were even more expensive and rare. And so a prawn curry was always a thing to look forward to.
With great ceremony Rajiv brought the dish with the leftover prawn curry into their old kitchen. He was saying, “Oh Akka said we can all share this. She brought it back from the daané for us”. The veiled message was very clear. And so everyone stood in eager anticipation around as he opened up the dish to view this curry.
And lo and behold, nestled in the thick brick red gravy, almost semi submerged and drowning, was a large, single, tiger prawn. One tiger prawn. One to be shared by 5 people. Bestowed on the inhabitants of the house by Sharm, who fed tiger prawns to the priests of her late husband’s village and brought back a single prawn for her family. Sharm who could afford to feed the entire village and her household with tiger prawns for a month if she so wished.
But no. Sharm was too busy giving daanés in Narendra’s name. Was too busy gathering ‘pin’ (merit) from strangers to know that charity begins at home. And who brought back a single tiger prawn with no shame whatsoever.
No one wanted to eat the prawn except Rajiv. Who did so with great zest and gratitude expressed to Sharm, and hence cemented her belief that she was the generous one of the family.