s_purba on There is no easy way to say… s_purba on There is no easy way to say… Vahishta on There is no easy way to say… Shilpa Chaudhary on There is no easy way to say… Aditya Mehta on There is no easy way to say…
I love animals and I really want a pet someday. People say that before you have a baby, you should try keeping a plant. What? People don’t say that? Well, they very well should. So, since I wanted a pet, I decided to get a plant (if you read slowly, this makes total sense). I moved into an amazing house a few months ago where I have a huge balcony, with lots of sunlight, fresh air, and depending on time of the year, an occasional firecracker. After weeks, no, actually, months of planning to go to the nursery to pick up some plants, I finally did. I should have taken a picture because the nursery was beautiful. Lots of flowering and non flowering plants of various colors and sizes. So I thought that I will start with one plant, see how it goes with it and gradually get more. After a long time of internal debating about what to get and what not to get, I finally picked a sturdy looking tomato plant and a baby chilli plant. Why? I just wanted to make a good salsa!
Very excited, I brought the plants to my balcony, already dreaming about all the amazing chillies and tomatoes I was going to grow. I forgot about them for three whole days. I think that should have been my first hint of things to come. I don’t think those plants ever quite forgot those three dry, waterless days. However, it was a wake up call for me and I was up to the task now and I started watering them (very) regularly, checking on them all the time and even praying for good things to happen. One day, while I was checking for fruits/flowers/new leaves/any sign, I noticed that the tomato plant was wilting and there was dandruff type thing on my chilli plant! I was absolutely shocked and started looking for help immediately. Google told me to talk to plants so I did. Hollywood movies told me to sing to my plants and I did that too. Come to think of it, maybe that was the final straw (ha ha) and soon after, one day, both of them just…died. Now, it is not like plants have a pulse but I could tell.
I waited patiently, still watering them, still singing to my dead plants, and just being pathetic in general, and one day, as if in a movie, a strong wind came and just blew away all the dry leaves sticking to the stems and I had to let them go. Now I know I tend to get dramatic but I felt like a killer, a murderer. I threw them out with the trash the next day and learnt a very important lesson and there is no easy way to say this. Living things are really tough not to kill.
I went on a holiday recently and couldn’t take my car with me. These low cost airlines are stingy with their baggage allowance and I had already made a very difficult choice between a pair of golden slippers and my MCP (most comfortable pair) of shoes which might look like an animal but is comfortable enough to sleep in.
So I left my car at home, inwardly thankful that I would not have to drive twenty kilometers each day for the next ten days. Even more thankful that I would not have to watch my life flash in front of my eyes every time a bus would locomote to my left side. In my head, the bus driver is a very, very angry man and he has no time for little girls in red cars and he would just love to quash me and Adam (named after the apple) with one sweeping move to the right. The whole life in a flashback routine gets really boring after the first few times. I would definitely not miss the suicidal pedestrians, who just love crossing streets and don’t even get me started about the car behind mine, honking like its dickie was on fire. So off I went for ten days, ten really long days which got over too soon.
The first thing I did once I got back was check if Adam had been stolen while I was away. Actually, that’s not true. Once I got back home, I showered, changed clothes, went to work in an auto, came back home in another auto, watched the first half of the third part of the LOTR and then realized that I had not checked if my car had been stolen while I had been away. I went to the basement parking to ensure that Adam was still there and there he was, in all his broken tail light glory (one fine day, I accidentally backed Adam into a wall and have been wanting to get it fixed but Adam insists that it is a war wound that makes him feel manly and hardcore.)
I woke up the next day and sleepily went through my morning routine. The holiday was definitely over. My car key hides itself every morning and hunting for it is not a lot of fun if you are not a morning person. I am not. I found it though and left for work. I unlocked Adam and slid inside. Wait, that’s not true either. I haven’t slid anywhere in a really long time. So I sucked my stomach in, wrestled with the steering wheel and inserted myself into the driver’s seat, leaving out grace for another time. I pulled the seat forward so my feet could reach the brakes and all those other controls down there. Unfortunately, my stomach reached the steering wheel first but at least I had my big shoes on. I cleverly maneuvered out of the empty parking lot and drove out of the lane I live on, and up The Mountain. The Mountain is a very, very steep stretch of road that I would usually have to walk up if I didn’t have Adam. However, I did have Adam and in a matter of few minutes, I had conquered The Mountain. I was not out of breath and there was no burning sensation in my shins. I said,” Thank you, Adam.” I turned left and I was out on the main road. And then the weirdest thing happened. All the pedestrians stopped moving. No, seriously, everybody was just standing still. I really don’t think keeping my hand on the horn had anything to do with it.
I was getting into this whole driving thing now, changing gears, flying over speed breakers at 100km/hr, braking suddenly, honking like my dickie was on fire, when suddenly it started raining. I said,” Oh no, rain!” and then Adam said,” Relax, honey!” and the wipers were turned on. I was feeling quite happy because my feet were dry and my hair was not going to be ruined because I was in the warm and dry shelter of Adam. Then I saw a woman on the street, struggling with an umbrella, carrying on lengthy negotiations with an auto-wallah and she reminded me of me. The moment was bittersweet. I slowed down so I would not splash her and I said,” Thank you, Adam.”
I love cooking and am never shy of letting people know exactly how much. So, when it was time for me to move into a new city, away from home, I insisted that I was extremely excited at the prospect of having a kitchen to myself. No mother to “advise” me, no grandmother to tell me not to waste the skins. Food was always ready and delicious, and thus, by principle, I had refused to cook for many years (three).
Now, hunger is a constant companion, but today, it was just more demanding than usual. Post lunch, I ignored work and tried coming up with dinner ideas but with no result. Soon it was late evening, and I was walking down my street, into my apartment building, weak with hunger and irritated because I still had no idea what I was going to do for food. I opened the front door and threw my slippers to the left and my rather large bag to the right. Both my flat-mates were still at work, thank God. I entered the kitchen with very strong focused determination. The fridge was well stocked with lots of (a few) vegetables, and there was chicken and eggs and bread and rice and pasta. What could I do? I decided to make pasta.
The first thing I did was to take the chicken out of the freezer so it could thaw. I didn’t want to be in that situation again where the masala is hot and ready on the gas and I am trying to melt pieces of frozen chicken by vigorously massaging them between my palms. (I don’t have a microwave). It’s really quite painful. I also put on some water to boil because boiling water is always an auspicious start. As I stood in front of the fridge, enjoying the cold waves wafting out, I wondered what to add to my sauce. I picked some tomatoes, a big fat carrot, a couple of sticks of spring onion, mint leaves, mushrooms and onions. I know that onions are not meant to be put in the fridge but I had not put them there. I should also mention the fit of rage I experience at the sight of the carrot, not because it was fat, but because a few days earlier, I had tried to cook a carrot by stir frying it and apparently you can’t actually stir fry carrots. Who would have known? I had spent an hour slaving over the hot pan with no result. ”Not this time, carrot”, I thought to myself and gripped the carrot hard in my left hand. With a vengeance, I washed the carrot and with more vengeance, I washed the peeler and then with the remaining leftover vengeance, I peeled the carrot, making sure it knew who the boss was (me). I took a few deep breaths and decided that it was time to move on. Moving on, I added three fine looking tomatoes to the boiling water so I could blanch them for the sauce. Once the carrot was cut, I started chopping the other vegetables. Because the onion was cold, my eyes did not tear up, so you should try freezing your onions too. I was still without a plan, but I figured that I could stop cooking and start eating at almost any point now. Once the skin on the tomatoes started splitting, I tried to get the tomatoes out of the hot water without being in hot water myself. It was not easy but I got the job done with the help of a very helpful fork. As I let the tomatoes cool, I decided to boil the chicken in the same water. Boiling chicken is always fun because it means I can start eating. As the chicken boiled, I was almost done with the fun job of washing vegetables and chopping them and I thanked God that it was over. But I said my thanks too soon as a friend I was talking to reminded me of the existence of the stinky but very wonderful thing called garlic. I sighed and grabbed a few cloves, and peeled them and chopped them and crushed them. It was time to puree the cooled tomatoes, but of course, I didn’t have a grinder. I used a knife, a fork, two bowls and a grater almost everything in the kitchen to achieve the goal, and I eventually had a pulpy tomato mass which would just have to do for this time.
I turned on the stove, placed the pan on the flame and poured oil into the pan. My hand slipped and I poured even more oil into the pan. Once the oil was hot, I added the chopped onions to it. Then some salt, and then kept stirring for what seemed like an eternity. The heavenly smell of frying onions made up for the mundane nature of the task. As the onions finally showed signs of turning golden brown, I added the crushed garlic and there was some seriously sexy sizzling. I added the mushrooms, the spring onions and the chopped mint. I stirred some more and added the chicken. Almost everything was in the pan now and I thought that I could have easily made scrambled eggs and toast or popcorn or just about anything that did not take so bloody long. I stirred some more and hoped that the stirring was toning my arms. I was really hot and there was sweat crawling down my back. There was certainly no joy in my cooking. I poked at the vegetables again and added the poor excuse for tomato puree into the pan. I breathed a sigh of relief and thought that maybe now I could wrap this show and get something to eat. I put on water to boil (again), and added a lot of pasta and a lot of salt to it. I kept checking on it to make sure it did not overcook because no one likes boiled mush. I kept sampling it till the pasta was finally boiled to a perfect softness. I did not have a strainer so I drained off the water as cavemen drained their pastas.
I was exhausted and smelling of garlic but there was finally food to be had. Even if it was of doubtful taste, at least it was hot and fresh. I heaped pasta on my plate and added my “sauce” to it. Just as I was carrying my dinner out to the dining table, I saw a flash of red out of the corner of my eye. It was the carrot and I had forgotten to put in my sauce. I hate carrots (it’s nothing personal) but decided to eat this one by dipping it in my sauce. My sauce was good. The mint and garlic gave it a very unique flavor and I decided I liked it.
After cooking for an hour and a half, I sat down to eat. I cleaned the the plate within ten minutes. The joy of eating.
Since my walk to and from the cafeteria is pretty much the only exercise I get, today I decided to take the stairs for my first visit of the day. Even as I was slightly out of breath from the exertion of crawling down two flights of stairs, I made a beeline for the filter
coffee counter. I was thinking to myself, NO SUGAR TODAY.
Now, this filter coffee guy knows me. Of course he knows me. I have turned up at his counter everyday, twice a day, for the past month, begging for coffee and chanting, “More strong, more strong” while he makes it. Of late, he has started to make my coffee the moment he spies me from afar, even as I enter the cafeteria. I don’t even get
the opportunity to complain about how sleepy I am, how much work I have to get done and how terrible it is to try to catch an autorikshaw around this place. My coffee is ready and waiting before I can even utter a single word. I am quite suspicious of this and even a little
hurt. Doesn’t he want to talk to me? Does he think I am… boring? Hmm.
So today, once again after finding myself at my work desk after waking up from a deep relaxing sleep, I knew what I needed. As I made my way across the cafeteria, bumping into chairs and jumping across tables, my hand already outstretched and ready for the small steel glass of Filter Coffee, I found it piping hot and awaiting consumption. “Extra
strong, no sugar”, he said but I ignored it and took a really big sip. Immediately, my head exploded. Blood squirted all over other people’s food. Jesus Christ, that was some lethal coffee that I had just been served. As the dots, circles and birds in front of my eyes faded away and my body successfully adjusted to the dangerously high caffeine level in my blood, I smiled my thanks at the filter coffee guy. He was staring at me with his jaw still hanging. I could read the disbelief in his face. He was flabbergasted that I was still standing, apparently unaffected by his poison. How can she still be standing here? What is she? WHY IS SHE SMILING AT ME CREEPILY?
With my eyes, I dared him to try harder next time. I paid him, my hands steady and coolly sauntered away, praying to God that he was not in cahoots with the Sambhar Vada guy. I don’t really remember what happened next.
I was having a bit of a headache and it was 6 PM so I thought I should go out and stand on my balcony and get some fresh air and hear the birds chirping and watch the old people walking. Because I am such a bad person, what I got instead was a bunch of five year old girls playing with a fluorescent green plastic ball who had managed to shut the fuck out of every bird within at least a kilometer’s radius. And a really patient Uncle who looked like he was trying to teach them something.
I couldn’t stop watching them screaming and throwing the ball ineffectually at each other even though it was doing nothing to alleviate my headache. And then, as a little chubby boy rode in with his bicycle, I knew that this was what I had been waiting for. As he expressed his humble desire to play with the girls, they started screaming, “UNCLE! NO! NO! UNCLENO! NOUNCLENONONONONO!” appealing to the Uncle who was now a referee. And then I thought something mean about the little girls but I am not going to say what it was because this is my first time here. Uncle turned out to be less of a sexist and let the little boy play. The game resumed with all its fervor.
I realized that I still had a headache so I came back in and got something to eat.