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Saturday at the Patels’ This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

By , State College, PA
I could sense the Patels were in their kitchen when the smells of spices floated up to greet my nostrils from beneath the red door. A bright smile illuminating her face, Sneha met me at the front step and hopped back inside with me close behind. I peered around her brightly painted foyer; golden trinkets lined the shelves. A television hummed softly from her Aaji's bedroom.

We slipped into the little kitchen, marveling over the end of our exams. Sneha's mother looked up from the stove, beamed, and warmly chatted with us in her gentle accent. Her dark braided hair reached her hips. Dosas sizzled on the stove and peanut chutney bubbled in a pot. Sneha's mother then reminded her daughter to show me the display in the basement. Dutifully, we traipsed downstairs, giggling about her mother's inconspicuous method of removing us from her workspace.

A little shrine commemorating a Hindu holiday had been set up for the women of the community to admire, Sneha explained, fumbling for the light switch. Moments later, tiny fairy lights lined a pyramid of statues ranging from cows to female figurines. Sneha told me the story of the pieces, each a pocket of memories from her childhood adventures and family travels.

Interrupted by the sound of scraping chairs, we scrambled upstairs to eat. I offered to set the table, and Sneha suggested I get the plates. What about the forks and knives? I thought. Her father had read my mind: he turned to me from his paper and told me that in India, most food is eaten with the hands.

It was strange, diving into delicate, vibrantly colored cuisine without the aid of a fork, but after the second helping of dosa, I saw why so many cultures used their fingers to sweep up their food – it's precise and provides an excellent connection with the act of eating.

For an hour, we joked, shared stories of trips, and complimented the scrumptious meal. Stuffed, we later retired to the living room, settling in for a few minutes of the nightly news before we fell asleep from the weight of a good meal and good company.

I felt sorry for the neighbors unable to partake in the festivities of a Saturday night at the Patels', an evening filled with food and laughter. It was a lazy weekend night in Central Pennsylvania, but here I was in bustling, beaming Southern India.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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