LIFE IN INDIA
Mr. Patel and his family led a simple lifestyle. As a child, in addition to his schoolwork, he learnt to work in farms. He also helped around the house and mentions his ability to cook since he was a boy. He fondly remembers "Khichdi" [A boiled rice and lentil dish] and vegetable curries as being the staple dishes of his home. He got married as per the "Paanch gaanv" [5 villages] system, which was devised and practiced by his clan for ages. According to this system he as well as his brother was supposed to marry from a selected group of 5 villages. Both his and his brother's spouse had to be siblings. Moreover, they had to marry in the family where their own sisters were given in marriage. Mafatbhai fondly remembers his wife as an exceptionally hard worker, who had a range of diverse abilities, from rearing domestic animals, to working in the farms, to managing her home.
LIFE IN AMERICA AND MEMORIES OF DEVON AVE.
Mr. Patel and his family continued to lead a simple lifestyle in America. He along with his brother, Tulasibhai, and his sister-in-law managed "Patel Brothers", while his wife managed home and took care of the children's upbringing.
"Patel Brothers" was established on Devon Avenue, says Mr. Patel, because of Devon's easy accessibility to the public transport system. At the time, a few other Indian grocery stores existed in Chicago. Mr. Patel worked as an engineer in the day and then in his grocery store during evenings and on weekends. Tulasibhai did the laborious work while his wife served as a cashier. Tulsi aiso did home-deliveries, and on a typical day delivered up to 100 pounds of groceries to their clients in the Chicago area.
Mr. Patel vividly recalls that the parking lot at Rockwell and Devon. was filled with cars from Wisconsin, Minneapolis, Indiana, Michigan, Iowa, Kansas and other neighboring states. This was in the 1990s when Indian immigrants visited Devon in search of Indian products. His sons Rakesh and Swetal, as teenage boys, helped on weekends with all the menial work from transport to packaging.
Mr. Patel shared his observations on how new coming generations bring fresh perspectives and change. It was his son Rakesh's idea of giving a make-over to their store and to profitably add to their line of products non-vegetarian food products which had not hitherto been good sellers.
Text by Holland Dvorak and Niyati Naik
Kutchi Khichadi recipe
Mix chalti and rice in a vessel and wash it thoroughly. Boil water in a big pan. Once the water comes to boil, add the mixture to it. Add hing, haldi and salt to the mixture. Cover the pan with a lid and let the mixture cook for a while. Make sure you add water on top of the lid as well. Keep checking the khichdi at regular intervals. It should take approximately 30 minutes for the khichdi to get cooked. Serve the khichdi with ghee, kadhi and green chilli pickle.