KAVITA PARIKH, BHUPENDRA AND MAJULA JARIWALA
Kavita Parikh loves to cook, but she’s not allowed in the kitchen.
That’s perhaps an exaggeration, but Kavita, wife of one of our featured ‘Our India Story’ interviews, Kevin Parikh of Lakeshore Engineering, uses it in part to show the respect that Indian Americans display toward their parents, a tradition imported from home along with countless ingredients required in the fully appointed Indian kitchen. “My mother is the cook,” Kavita shares with a broad smile. “And I give her the space she needs. The only time I get into the kitchen is when she and my father are back in India for a visit.”
Kavita’s parents, mother Manjula and father Bhupendra (who goes by ‘B.J.’) Jariwala came to the United States thirty-six years ago in search of their American Dream, and through Bhupendra’s engineering career at Ford, they’ve found it. But material success is only a portion of the dream that Indian Americans like the Jariwalas and now, the Parikhs, had hoped to find. The most important part of their lives revolves around family. “I’m a pharmacist,” Kavita explains by way of example, “but Kevin and I agree that for now, my time is better spent with the children, seeing that they are raised in a loving environment where I devote my energies to them.”
“Family,” she concludes, “is the core of everything.”
And for families like the Parikhs and Jariwalas, the kitchen is often the hub of activities. As demonstrated by Manjula, the day generally begins with a ritual prayer session before the ‘deity’ cabinet, an east-facing cupboard filled with symbolic representations of the many forms of Hindu gods, before which she chants prayers while counting a string of beads similar, to our eyes, to the Catholic rosary. “Cleanliness and purity are very important when praying in this way,” Kavita explains. “This particular ritual is always done after a shower.”
She points out that the Parikh children, Alicia (14) and Shaan (6) benefit greatly from remaining in touch with this sort of cultural imperative.
And even though Alicia may at times prefer American food, they benefit equally from the roster of marvelous recipes prepared regularly by their grandmother, Manjula. On the day we filmed, the former catering-company owner created a spread which included rice chips, raita (a yogurt blend of fruit and vegetables which executive producer Keith Famie pronounced ‘the best he’d ever had), yogurt soup called Kadhi, tilapia in spice, kachori, puri bread, rice pilav, and a selection of scrumptious appetizers. All was topped off with sweets, one of Majula’s specialties, which included rice pudding and balushahi.
Special thanks to B.J. for lending his engineering precision to the spelling of these exotic edibles, which were every bit as good as they look in the accompanying photos.