Providing context for the discussion – this was during the middle school era, which now seems like the Middle Ages leading up to my current condition of just having passed the mid-life stage, and eating seemed like something I was born to do. I could eat on a budget, like a king, an African refugee or someone who needs to stuff just to get through the day. The extent of my bhukkadpann notwithstanding, it was evident that I had some room for the overall quality of fare served to me, the ambience and the dining schedule [the lack of it actually]. Invariably, this meant that on some days, I could be as fussy as a post-menopausal cat, not listening to endless calls from my folks to try something they believed was good food.
During this phase, I had one big weakness – not the taste buds but the setting of it all – this happened to be the open kitchen that my Naani had. The landscape was rather humble. My Mummy Ji was not financially benefited, not by the farthest stretch of your imagination. Yet, her food was so warm, placating anyone in bad mood, helping us overcome the worst days.
During the winters and sometimes during the summers too, I would sit near her gas stove, carefully watching how she would spend dedicated minutes on each fold of the parantha, how her eyes that often had a veil of her limited means, could figure out which masala was missing at a single glance and how, eating, seated next to her would be the highlight of my summer vacations.
Mummy Ji No More – calling it an end or an era would be insulting someone as saintly and aged like my Naani. She was what some magical therapy sounds like to someone who is fighting the last stage of his definitely-fatal condition. Her voice was kind, her mannerisms subtle yet impactful and eating in her gloomy kitchen, seated on the hard, cemented floor created memories for a lifetime. This can never be replaced. Life has changed everything. The anonymity of what lies ahead for lunch has been supplanted with creating well-planned menus for the day. Her hunchback stance over the stove has given way to Italian styled chimneys [or at least branded]. Her patience with roasting a brinjal on slow flame has been replaced by the noisy microwave. Yet, none of these machinery-wise kitchen technologies can recreate her enchanted aura. With her death, it was more than a decade of never revisiting the semi-warm, somewhat creaky kitchen-wise decadence with curious eyes. The plot had been lost. I spoke to myself, this was a memory that Life gave me to value and cherish forever and I did the same and I continue to do it every year but then, after marriage, I realized there was something that could vanquish this eternally parched memory…
Change of Landscape, Life Asks Me to Try Again – it was the first Winters after having moved to Dwarka and as a couple, we were still finding our feet. We hadn’t realized that the vantage point of our parents in the next room was so huge. My anxiety levels were high…nearly all the time. Moha was more composed. Her composure from her strength in knowing that whatever Life had thrown at us could do only so many things, i.e. dent us, create ripples or rip through the tissue. In either scenarios, it was up to us, as a Husband & Wife, to bounce back, bandage, recuperate and rise from the damages. While this change was underway, in a very unplanned manner, we chanced upon the idea of eating in the kitchen. This was not by design or destiny. This was rather functional – with a chair pulled-up near the kitchen slab, I could eat hot, crispy rotis right off the flame. I have already blogged about Moha’s culinary skills, the supremacy of it I should say, and the entire setting did not give any hints that after so many years, I would be pulled back into the maze of my childhood memories. This affection was different but it was equally warm. The thickness of gravies varied but I loved both. The conversations had nothing in common but the interaction still said “I care without a reason…”. I say now, like a once-great philosopher in the wilderness, Life continues to shake you up. You can either accept this, look the other way or obsess about the regularity of it. The mechanism won’t change because it isn’t supposed to. Just try to keep your chin up and equally unannounced, the best things will come, and come back, to you…WILL YOU BE THERE TO GRAB THEM?
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