“Dear, this is the first Diwali since our daughter, Preethi’s wedding. We should invite her and her husband, Ajeet to our home. It’s the tradition,” Bhaghya, Raghav’s wife said.
She was cooking chhole in the kitchen. The aroma of ginger, garlic, cumin and cilantro spread throughout the house.
“Yes, you go ahead and call.” Raghav was watching a documentary on procrastination.
“Are you listening, dear? It’s not proper for a mother-in-law to call her son-in-law. The head of the house should invite. Don’t be sitting like Buddha on the sofa. Please pick up the phone and call Ajeet.”
“Lucky, Buddha didn’t have a phone so he was at peace,” Raghav murmured, turned the TV off and called.
“What did he say?”
“He and Preethi will make it.”
“O, Bhagwan, I’m excited. Let me think. I have to call Lucy, the cleaning lady to launder the pillowcases and bed sheets, scrub the bathrooms and shower, wipe off the sambar stains on the stove, and vacuum the carpet. Our carpet is horribly dirty. What will our son-in-law think? I’d been asking for a new carpet since last Diwali. You never listened.”
“Bhaghya, calm down, don’t you recall? We looked for one but couldn’t decide on the color. I liked the blue one and you preferred the brown. You said the brown color matches with our furniture and hides the dust. Did you forget?”
“How can I forget? You said the brown one cost $400 more and that was beyond your budget. You should be a finance secretary somewhere, and you could talk about budgets to your heart’s content.”
“Please stop this. We can go now and select a carpet.”
“No carpet dealer will do the job on such a short notice. Diwali is this Saturday.”
“You’re right. Don’t worry, Bhaghya. I’ll get it steam cleaned. The carpet will be as clean and shiny as a brand new one.”
Just then, Anita and Ankit, Bhaghya’s daughter and son came home from school. “Mom, what are you and dad arguing about?” Anita asked.
“Nothing. Your sister and Ajeet are visiting us for Diwali. We have to clean our home and buy gifts for them. This is the first Diwali they’re coming home.”
“You see Mom, you like Preethi more than me. I’ve been asking you to put new wallpaper in my room and you promised to do this for Diwali. I didn’t hear you say anything about it. Instead you’re talking about gifts for sister. It’s not fair.”
“Mom, I need an iPad. It’s on sale. Can you get one for me, a Diwali gift?” Ankit asked.
“Yes, for both of you. I promise. I need your help. Anita, call Lucy and ask her to come tomorrow to clean the house. I have to figure out the dishes I should cook for them. Also, we need to talk about gifts for Ajeet and Preethi now. We may have to go to Bakersfield to get them. There is not much time. Call your dad here.”
All the family members sat around the circular dining table. Dad sipped hot coffee and the children munched potato chips. Food for thought, Anita said.
“Any ideas?” Mother inquired.
“Get sister a pearl purse and a gold coated pen for Ajeet,” Anita said.
“Too costly, Anita. Let them buy a scarf for sister and a tie or shirt for Ajeet. That way we will have money left over for my iPad and your wallpaper.” Ankit suggested.
“Excellent point, brother. Give me five.”
“A sport Apple watch for our son-in-law will be nice.” Raghav announced.
“A salwar kameez for Preethi,” Bhaghya said.
“Mom, wait a minute. Think. If they don’t like these costly gifts, they won’t use them. Instead call them and find out what they like.”
“Good idea but tacky to do. Maybe Daddy can call Ajeet. He is tactful.”
“No way. I’m not that tactful.”
“I agree with that statement.” Mother smiled.
“Don’t worry Dad, I’ll call them,” Anita said. The meeting was adjourned.
The next evening at dinner time the family met again. “Any news for us, Anita? What do Preethi and Ajeet want?” inquired mother.
“Mom, I spoke to sister and Ajeet. ‘I had tasted chhole at your home. Nobody can cook it like your Mom. I loved it and its flavor still lingers in my mouth.’ This is exactly what Ajeet told me. Mom, Preethi and Ajeet crave your roti and chhole. ‘Request Mom to make tons of them and keep it ready for us. This is the gift we like,’ they bot