It was a very weird, unsettling milestone: we ate a salad at home.
This might seem bizarre as a momentous occasion, but as India newbies amidst a monsoon we had steered clear of the most likely route to sickness – raw vegetables. Every vegetable was meticulously cleaned and then cooked. Every fruit was peeled. Hands were washed before eating anything we were about to touch.
Yet in the past few weeks a drastic change has settled into the Mumbai we’ve come to know and love. The rain has steadily stopped. It started with a few days of clouds peeking through the storms. Then longer periods without precipitation. Then full days of the sun declaring its presence. And now, just like that, there’s no more rain. The monsoon has taken its bow and retreated until June rolls around again.
For most who live here its a blessing and a curse. The rains are over but now they settle in for a hot month before it cools down again in November. However for us, its just unfamiliar territory. I am so used to carrying around my small umbrella and stepping out in my waterproof shoes. I am so accustomed to knowing that no matter what the sky looks like, it will absolutely rain today. I am in the habit of not solidifying plans until I can tell whether or not we’ll get a full dose of monsoon or whether there will just be a drizzle.
I had never lived in a world where it rained every single day. And now I must oddly accustom myself to a world where I will not see a drop of rain again for nine months (unless we have one or two surprise rains left to break this spell).
Which brings me back to salad: I (knock on wood) have not had any food-related illness since I have been in India. This is obviously a trend I hope to continue (although now that I’ve put it in writing I’m sure I’m doomed). I think part of it is luck, but part of it has been having a very conditioned approach to food – I avoid anything suspicious, even if I really really want to eat it.
But the rains (and the dirt and disease that comes with the rains) are over and so vegetables are less of a danger. Nisha suggested to me the other day that it was safe to eat a salad.
“I know you are missing salad, so I will clean it really well and make one.”
“Are you sure that I won’t get sick?”
“Ha,” (yes) she said, “I promise you will not get sick. Monsoon is over, lettuce is not bad anymore”
I wanted a salad, so I decided to go for it. That night, I sat down at the table and stared at the freshness in front of me. Cherry tomatoes. Lettuce. Onions. All former enemies now claiming to come in peace. I stuck my fork in. It was so delicious – it felt like the antithesis to every heavy curry spicy meal I’d eaten over the last three months. And I didn’t get sick.
It may be unsettling. But rains, I’m glad you are gone.