What remained of the family home was an abandoned house and a mango orchard. Life in an Indian village has always been hard, though my father remains nostalgic. Over the past decade he wrote and published short stories about his childhood. He scoured his memory -- and his fantasies -- for details. In a story dedicated to the family mango trees I found myself sleeping under, he described his dinners:
"The stories would continue till mother was ready with thick chapatis of bajra (millet) and a curry of new potatoes and urad dal (dark lentils) with a lot of ghee (clarified butter) and saag of either mustard or bathua (a leafy vegetable), and of course two or three types of mango pickles," he wrote in a "A Slice of Mango."
That description of a rich and varied diet always felt at odds to me with the reality of what Indians in his era ate. When I finally asked if that was really a true picture, his answer was the saddest thing he ever told me.