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How to Piss Off an Indian Mother

Student Work
by Samantha Bilkey Aug 6, 2014
Talk about the uncertainty of marriage and children.

Indian parents put a lot of importance on their children finding love matches and creating a family. My mom always gets a pained look on her face when I talk about how I’m not sure if I want to marry my boyfriend of six years, or that I’d be fine never having children.

When other family members tell her she might be next in the family to have grandchildren, she gives me a longing look that I can only return with a dull gaze.

Don’t eat spicy foods.

Indian food is notoriously spicy. I don’t like it. Is it so wrong that I don’t want to be in pain when I eat? As punishment, I have to endure my mother’s signature looks as I smother her chicken curry with plain yogurt in order to achieve my desired cool creaminess.

Attempt to avoid a family function.

My mom has 45 first cousins (yes, you read that correctly). When they get together, they need to rent a hall just to fit everyone. Christmas alone consists of at least 20 people lying all over our house for a week. Why get a hotel when we have perfectly comfortable floors?

Make fun of her accent.

Nothing is more hilarious than when my mom is in full-on Indian mode with her sisters and cousins. It’s like a light switch between AMERICAN MOM and INDIAN MOM. She instantly becomes more dramatic and fussy and reverts to her old mannerisms.

My sister and I love nothing more than sitting around with them and making fun of their accents. We like to say “bah” at the end of every sentence along with a slight head bob until she catches on and retorts, “Arre, as if we talk like that, men!”

Hate the smell of coconut.

Coconut is a prime ingredient in Indian cooking. I love it, but my sister has an aversion to the smell. One Christmas when my mother made dozens of sweet, coconuty sooji laddus (semolina balls), my sister couldn’t even open the box without gagging.

Call elders by their first names.

In India, it’s socially necessary to refer to an elder as Aunty or Uncle. However, growing up in the US, this often confused me and I called Uncle Ranjit by his first name (gasp!).

Years later, I still haven’t figured out how much older people have to be in order to qualify as an Aunty or Uncle. 20 years? 30 years? Are grey hair and liver spots a necessity? Plus, calling everybody Aunty and Uncle — related or not — greatly confuses my American boyfriend. We still haven’t figured out if he’s required to do it too.

Waste your dinner.

My mom grew up with poverty-stricken adults and children shoving their hands in her face for food money. This resulted in no food going to waste in our house. We freeze and keep leftover mincemeat and curries for months at a time. A refusal to consume leftovers will result in a long lecture from my mom on how many thousands of children in India go without food every day. And, unfortunately, she’s right.

Don’t eat seconds at dinner.

Possibly even worse than wasting the food on your plate is to eat all of it but not take seconds. Just like the rest of her family, my mom smothers any guest in our house with seconds and thirds of the meal.

Once, my boyfriend was having dinner at our house. He served himself a full plate and before he could even put his buns on the chair, my mom was at his side saying, “Take more!”

Be an introvert.

Indians are a loud culture, and my mom’s family is no exception. Family reunions are a great opportunity for all my aunties and uncles to give me all the cheek-and-bum pinches they want. You know how in My Big Fat Greek Wedding everyone wants to know Tula’s business? That is my reality. If I try to escape, my mom will find me. And she will drag me out by my ears.

Move faaaar away.

I studied abroad in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, for nine months. My mom called pretty often. Okay, she called every day. Indian families try to live as close to each other as possible, and there’s nothing my mom loves more than when we’re living at home. In all honesty, though, this is probably the best thing about having an Indian mom — I get smothered by love!

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