A Conversation with Amulya Malladi
Devi Veturi, the protagonist of Serving Crazy with Curry, and Amulya
Malladi met at an indiscriminate time and place to have this conversation.
In the middle of the conversation things went a little crazy as Shobha,
Saroj, and even Vasu showed up to chat (accuse?).
Devi: In the first version of this book, which you titled Thicker than
Blood, I die and then my sister, Shobha, becomes the protagonist.
What happened? How did I live?
Amulya: Well, you did die in the first version. I wrote about two hundred
pages of that book and then realized that it wouldn’t work. I
couldn’t sleep at night and feel content about how the book was
falling into place, so I knew that it needed to be scrapped. I scrapped
it and went back and wrote it again and again and again. That suicide
scene where you slit your wrists has been written innumerable times.
But then, one day, it struck me that you’d live, you’d stop speaking and
you’d start cooking weird food. And the title of the book would be
Serving Crazy with Curry. It all just fell into place . . . like magic.
I have a question for you. Why did you try to commit suicide?
Someone who read the book said to me that this kind of bad stuff happens
to lots of people and lots of people don’t kill themselves.
Devi: Lots of people are not me. I think it’s important to remember
that my emotions and my feelings are different from everyone else’s.
You are probably strong enough to deal with a loss of career, loss of a
baby, loss of a man in your life, and loss of self-respect, but I wasn’t.
And like I said, it was not just a careless thought, it was planned. I really
wanted to die. I couldn’t see any reason to live. Imagine this: You
hate going to sleep every night because tomorrow is going to be the
same empty day and when you finally go to sleep you hate waking up
because it’s going to be the same crappy day. I think after a while you
reach a point where you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel and
it all becomes pointless.
Amulya: But now you’re smart enough to know that killing yourself
was not such a bright idea.
Devi: It’s not fair to call it a stupid idea. It was what it was and it
seemed like a good idea then. I can’t go back and live my life. I can
only live forward. If I had to do it again, I hope I wouldn’t try to kill
myself but I can’t be sure of that.
Amulya: Now, the whole Girish business; were you really in love with
him? Or did you sleep with him because he was Shobha’s and that
would be a nice “F*** you” to your sister?
Devi: I would never use language like that. That’s Shobha’s style.
But yeah, I think it was a little of both. I was in love with Girish
and even though I knew I could never let Shobha find out about us,
there was a small perverse pleasure in sleeping with her husband.
But when I told her the truth there was no pleasure, perverse or otherwise.
I was terrified of losing Shobha and I realized that I didn’t love
Girish enough to lose my family. They were more important.
Amulya: I have to know, why the cooking?
Devi: I’d like to know as well. Since you wrote it in, why don’t you tell
Amulya: Hmm . . . well, I think you started cooking all that fusion
cuisine because you wanted to do something that was different, yet
you wanted to hold on to what was. You wouldn’t speak, so you used
food as a communicating medium. You expressed your feelings
through it, joy, fear, boredom, anger . . . all of that.
Devi: You mean, since I stopped speaking as a result of my traumatic
experience, I had to do something, and cooking was it?
Amulya: Absolutely! A budding hobby that I think will make a fabulous
profession for you.
Devi: I love to cook. The smell, the texture, the taste . . . everything.
Do you cook?
Amulya: I think you like to cook because I like to cook. Also, another
reason why you were cooking like a veteran chef was because the
kitchen had always been Saroj’s domain and your trying to take that
domain away from her was a subconscious effort on your part to tell
her that you can control your life since you can control her kitchen.
You were asking her to back off. She saved your life but you didn’t
want her to take control of it now that you were alive. And speaking of
Saroj . . . I’d like to talk to you about your mother.
Devi (sighs): Do we have to?
Amulya: Well, I thought you all made up, nice and neat in the end.
Devi: Your end is not my end and we didn’t make up nice and neat.
Well, we’re on better terms than we used to be . . . but she’s still a
pain in the ass.
Saroj: Mind your language, Devi. Talking about your mother like this,
you should be ashamed.
Devi: This is a private conversation, Mama, you can’t just barge in.
Saroj: There are no private conversations for you. After pulling a stunt
like that in your bathtub, do you really think we’re going to let you talk
to anyone you feel like without knowing what you’re talking about?
Devi: Oh, Lord! Here she goes again.
Saroj: One thing I want to make clear. I am not a terrible mother or a
terrible cook. You kept saying that all the time, Amulya, and it hurt
Amulya: I . . . I . . . am sorry . . . ah, well, so, how are you doing since
your mother passed away?
Saroj (shrugs): It is very hard to lose a mother . . . a parent. Now I remember
her with great joy, but I also know that if she was alive I
would still be despising her.
Amulya: Do you think Shobha and Devi will always have mixed feelings
Saroj: Why should they? I have been a good mother. My mother was
never around, I have always been around. They have no reason to dislike
me or have mixed feelings about me.
Amulya: And how are things with Avi?
Saroj (smiles): Wonderful. I didn’t know about the letters, you know.
I wish I had known what he was going through, I wish . . . maybe if I
had known, I would have been different. I don’t know. But I am happy
my marriage survived. I look at Shobha . . . so many boyfriends since
the divorce . . .
Shobha (comes in and interrupts): Don’t exaggerate, Mama. Just one.
I have just one boyfriend and have had only one, this one, since
Shobha (laughs and shakes her head): Hell no! A guy who hits on a
married woman is not a very nice guy. Actually, this is someone I met
through my new job. I got hired as a director at Microsoft, did I tell
you? It’s wonderful working there and I met him at this breakfast
meeting. He works for MSNBC and . . . we clicked.
Saroj: Clicked? My foot. He is some foreigner, from Scotland or Ireland
Shobha: He’s Italian. He has the accent, you know, gives me the
goose bumps. Mama just doesn’t get it.
Saroj: I do get it. You leave your good husband and sleep around like
a loose woman. No shame, Shobha, you have no shame.
Amulya: Well, looks like things are pretty much back to normal.
Shobha: Of course. Did you really think things would change?
Devi: I’ve got to go, a seminar at school. Jamie Oliver is coming. I’m
so excited about seeing him.
Amulya: So, things are going well at the culinary school?
Devi: Fabulous! I already have three job offers for when I graduate
next summer, one right here, one in Atlanta, and one . . . in Europe.
Shobha: Ask her where in Europe.
Devi: I’m not leaving the U.S.
Amulya: No plans to go to Oxford?
Saroj: Why should she go to Oxford? She has a job in San Francisco.
She will take that.
Devi: I’ll probably go to Atlanta. I don’t know. I haven’t made any decisions.
Look, I really have to go now.
Amulya: It was nice talking to all of you.
Saroj: You make sure you clear it up that I am a good cook and a good
Shobha: She will, Mama, she will.
Amulya: Whew! Odd to have a conversation with people I created.
Very odd! Maybe I need to get some help.
Vasu: Before you do that, maybe you and I should talk.
Amulya: You’re dead.
Vasu: Sure. But then none of us really exist and you’re still chatting
away with us. So does it really matter that I am dead?
Amulya: Okay. What do you want to talk about?
Vasu: I think you misunderstood me. I loved Shekhar, yes, but I also
loved Saroj, very much.
Amulya: Not just as much.
Vasu: But I loved Devi more than anyone else. I thought about it and
realized that you made a mistake. You show me as this selfish
woman . . .
Amulya: Never selfish. You were a woman with screwed up priorities,
but you were never selfish.
Vasu (smiles): That is something then. I don’t want people to think
that I don’t have the capacity to love. I loved my daughter, my granddaughters,
Avi, even Girish. I loved them all. But I also loved Shekhar.
Amulya: I understand. You held the family together in many ways. I
think Saroj wouldn’t have fought to make things work with Avi if you
hadn’t been her mother. Devi would’ve broken Shobha’s heart and her
parents’ if she hadn’t known what it meant to love a married man
Vasu: I guess I gave them the good with the bad. So, does Devi have
a new man in her life?
Amulya (grins): I think she’s still mooning over her sister’s exhusband.
Vasu (smiles back): They will make a lovely couple. She will love him
madly and he will adore her . . . maybe they will get together; have
children, the nice house . . . everything.
Amulya: I’d like that. It would be scandalous enough and it would
burn Saroj’s ass.
Vasu (laughs): Well, thanks for the chat. I better get going. And as a
doctor, my recommendation would be for you to get some help. It
isn’t healthy, Amulya, to talk with characters in your books, dead or