Why Every Indian Mom Suffers From the “Yeh Toh Ghar Pe Bana Sakte Hai” Syndrome
Illustration: Akshita Monga
When one of the first McDonald’s outlets opened in Mumbai in the ’90s, there was a lot of excitement in our middle-class home. And though today we feel stupid like those guys who were excited about Google Plus, back in the day, all my sister and I wanted was to get hold of the toys – Toy Story was a rage then – and have a burger. We had no idea what it tasted like, we’d just seen Americans eating a lot of it in the movies. Fast food was a concept alien to my roti and daal-chawal-eating family and we have never set foot inside a eatery that did not have pure veg plastered outside its entrance in a tacky font.
Taking a leap of voluntary faith into the world of cancer-causing food, we set aside an evening to have dinner at McDonald’s – the place where teenagers now go when they run out of pocket money. While I was enjoying the novelty of the Pizza McPuff (it looked more appetitising than a McAloo Tikki), all it took my mom was a bite of one fry, to call out Ronald McDonald’s people for lack of originality.
“Yeh toh hum ghar pe banate hai, wahi potato chip!”
My mom, like many desi mothers, suffers from “Yeh toh main ghar pe bana sakti hoon” syndrome. It is an attitude of outright rejection and dismissiveness rooted in desi pride, which acts as a hindrance when enjoying new experiences. If you tell mom you want to have tacos, she will compare it to papad and risotto according to her is just bland rice. Of course, this syndrome extends beyond the platter.
Whenever we go on a family vacation, there are only two things we do: sightseeing and fight over shopping. Every suggestion turns into an argument. No matter what I pick, mom has a standard response. “Yeh toh Mumbai mein bhi milta hai. Yahan sab duplicate maal hota hai.” Whether it is chappals in Kolhapur, shawls in Kashmir, or traditional pots in Rajasthan. Eventually, we don’t buy anything because you get everything in Mumbai.
At first I thought she only said that to avoid spending the money, but when you ask her, “Kahan milta hai”, she’d be ready with an answer. “Mira Road ke Monday market mein ₹50 mein,” she confidently proclaimed looking at a hat I wanted to buy at a flea market in Goa.
When we go sightseeing, my sister and I place bets about when mom’s “Yeh to hamare yahan bhi hota hai” syndrome will strike. During a family vacation to Scotland, while everyone was in awe of a castle, she told the tour guide, “We have a similar one in Maharashtra, the state we come from.” When we looked at her quizzically, she said it was just like one of Shivaji Maharaj’s many forts. No matter what part of the world we travel to, the minute she sees snow, there is a mandatory mention of Shimla.
When I was obsessing over the Potter movies, she told me about how Chota Chetan was magical. When I told her I wanted to visit Disneyland she turned around and asked, “Hamare Essel World mein kya kharabi hai?” The only thing left for mom to do is compare the Eurorail to the Mumbai local.
This ailment is especially pronounced when mothers see their children relishing street/restaurant food.
“Burger? Yeh to vada pav jaisa hi hai.”
“Turmeric latte? Bas fancy naam de do, hai to haldi doodh.”
“Franky mein hota kya hai? It is just roti sabzi.”
“Sprite aur pudina mix karo, ho gaya tumhara Virgin Mojito.”
Jokes apart, a lot of this has to do with the time our parents grew up in. My mother like most other moms had a modest upbringing. She did not travel much, she wasn’t exposed to the outside world the way my sister and I are. But this changed after our economy opened up in the ’90s. Like my father, people’s spending power increased. We started eating out, travelling. When this happened, our mothers felt like the familiar world that was so dear to them, was under attack by this alien way of life. So protecting this world became a defence mechanism of sorts. My mother’s reactions to most things foreign is an outcome of this.
And much as the BJP and I love her version of the Swadeshi movement, it often comes in the way of her enjoying fully, the beauty of new and different experiences. Now I’ve taken it upon myself to expose mom to new things, hoping that she’ll run out of comparisons.
With this in mind, I was really looking forward to a trip to New York with my family. But now I know how that’s going to turn out. Mum’s going to look at Lady Liberty and say, “Humare pass Statue of Unity hai!”