Tag Archives: love

Cooking Lessons

26 January 2017

Finding good help (or maids) is hard to find. You need to be extremely lucky, they say. But I believe, what is harder is not just finding a maid, but finding someone who is ‘maid’ to be a part of your family too! (Excuse the pun, I couldn’t resist!) I have been having my share of struggles with a new cook in the house. I am not someone who loves to cook; in fact spending too much time in the kitchen is something I am averse to. Thus, after 2 whole years of ‘learning to cook courtesy the Internet’, I gave in to the suggestion of hiring a cook for the three meals in a day.

It is tough, training a third person to develop your taste and presentation of food. It is tough, to teach someone how to please your palate, every day and with every meal. I don’t know how to do it…but I know someone who knew this so well!

It was a text from my mother a few days ago, which brought bad news and ironically also good memories. We had a wonderful cook in the family, ever since I was a baby. A few years ago, she had to quit work because of a severe illness. And a few days ago, she succumbed to it. The day she quit cooking at our house, was the last time I met her. I must have been a school – going child at that time, which seems a long enough time now. And yet, the taste of her food still lingers in my mind…I don’t think I have ever tasted such delicious food, ever again.

She cooked, not just with the ingredients, but with love. She cooked, keeping everyone’s likes in mind but also taught us to respect each other’s differences. She fed us till our stomachs were fit to burst, but she also taught us how to feed ourselves.

She taught me how to roll my first chapati, and then teased me when it puffed up. “Look, the chapati is angry on you! See how she has puffed herself up with anger.” As a child, I used to panic and say Sorry to the chapati, hoping it would forgive me for putting it on the flame. I also believed it used to soften up with my heartfelt apologies and so wasn’t hard to tear up into smaller morsels. I could never roll them round, but she never scolded me. She just taught me Geography, calling those random shapes I rolled as ‘maps’. There is a wall atlas installed in my house, and I think those were the only times I studied it with interest….trying to find where in the world my latest shape fit!

She was someone on whose cooking all of us cousins grew up. She taught us the meaning of family, as we sat together and shared the food. She insisted the entire family ate together often, and she cooked up a storm in the kitchen on those days. Cooking for two people is a task in itself for me, and I wonder how she did it or at least made it seem so easy, even while cooking for almost 13 people, 5 of which were growing – up bodies. We lapped up her food, and we fought over it. We grew up on her food, and we were spoilt rotten for it too.

There are some people you respect in life, and some who you admire. But there are very few people you hold in reverence, and for me, she was the strongest candidate in that list. I don’t have any photographs with her, but I have her memories to keep me going on. She wasn’t related to us, but she never made us feel like strangers. She was, and so we could be.

She will remain, and so will we….bound by the thoughts of her love and the taste of her food.

Rest in peace, Gangubai 🙂

A ‘grand’ personality…

01 October 2016.

It was a night like no other. Eerie silence pervaded throughout the house. Light sobs broke out occasionally. All the lights in the house were on. Our house was filled with people. Everyone was gathered around, trying to find comfort in each other’s company. It was the first time I had encountered such a situation. And there I was, peeping at it all from the gap between the stairs.

I had been studying for my SSC prelims in my room, when the doorbell suddenly rang. I was startled, and looked up to check the time. It was past 10, on a Sunday night. ‘Why would someone come home right now?’ I couldn’t help but wonder, as I quietly crept downstairs. There was something weird about the whispers that were flitting through the house. The door was ajar, but I couldn’t see anyone around. ‘Where was everyone?’ I shrugged, but thoughts of Geometry occupied my mind and I ran back upstairs. I sat down, got back to struggling with the theorems….tensed about the prelims which were to start in 2 days. Yet again, I heard someone enter the house, the whispers getting louder. I tried to concentrate but curiosity got the better off me. So I was back to creeping downstairs, when suddenly my grandfather’s brother intercepted me. “Shivani…” His voice broke into a sob. A chill ran down my spine as I looked at him with a questioning glance. “Half an hour ago…” He couldn’t go on; instead he just silently lead me down. Into the room where my grandfather had taken residence almost 3 months ago. There he was, sleeping peacefully. Finally at peace. Having left behind all his pains. And us.

It was the first time I encountered Death at such close quarters. I gasped and ran from the room. I looked around for my grandmother and there she was….sitting in a corner, lost to the world. She wasn’t crying, but her eyes had a vacant look. My mother was in another corner, just staring at the floor. My father was near the telephone, informing the rest of the family. My aunts were there with their families; my cousins looking at me. People just kept coming into our house, but I had stopped registering their faces. Someone hugged me; someone else patted me on the back. Someone tried to console me by saying ‘Everything will be alright’, but my mind was in utter shock. How could he leave? How could the most stubborn man I’ve ever known, give up his fight so easily? How could the head of the family walk away, without a Goodbye?

wp-1475316714415.jpgHe was overjoyed the day I was born. My uncle tells me how my grandfather couldn’t wait even a second to see the newly born me. And the moment he saw me, he fell in love. He was a strict man, but always lenient with me. He let me sleep in long hours, he let me get away with my mischief around the house. He laughed at my attempts to speak, and he lovingly nurtured my love for reading. Each birthday and achievement earned a book and my language flourished over the years. The first time I actually tried my hand at expressing my thoughts, ironically, was the night he died.

I thought back to all the memories with him, and the words flowed that night. I kept writing at a furious pace, hoping that the void filled itself up. Ten years later, I am still writing at a furious pace, knowing well that the void will always remain so.

A void that I call ‘Nana’. A man who built some famous bridges across the city; and also built relationships who outlived him. I was often asked by complete strangers if I was Narayan kaka’s granddaughter, and my heart always filled with pride as I nodded my head. There was a news article about him a few days after he passed away. I had read it hungrily, and was shocked to realise I knew so little about him. And perhaps, that was his biggest achievement.

That he never flaunted, never bragged. He was a family person, who cared and looked after his loved ones. He helped me with my homework, played cards with me, sat himself in a discreet corner of the audience when I faced the stage for the first time. He was proud, and yet he never let on. He encouraged us to be better, he made sure we never backed down. He was his own man, never dependent on anyone.

So perhaps it was no surprise that when an illness left him bedridden and dependent on others for every little thing, he preferred to die. We saw him sink and heard the doctors tell us ‘It is only a matter of time.

wp-1475316726327.jpgHe used to always sit across me, at the dinner table, looking over at me slowly eat my food. He was always the first to finish, I was always the last. He always asked for my help while changing the bed sheets, and till date I feel him tugging them from the other end. Looking back, I don’t remember ever directly joking around with him. I was in awe of him and even today, I wonder if he approves of my life decisions ever since. He wasn’t there when I passed my SSC and HSC exams; he wasn’t there when I chose English as my major subject for graduation. He wasn’t there when I flew to the UK for my Masters and he was missing from my wedding. So many milestones in these ten years, and each witnessed only by the photograph hanging on the wall. What would he say, had he been there?

I think I know. Because although that night, he physically left us, he still lives on in various ways. My father has his eyes, my cousin has his hair. His grand children have his stubbornness. And the entire family has memories, some exclusive and some shared.

With this ‘grand’ personality who once lived.

My grandfather.

 

True Love… is just You.

14 February, 2016.
The memories force me to look back. I remember that bandana on your head, the t-shirt you were flaunting, the shorts you were wearing. I remember hearing your name; I remember seeing your face. But there is one thing I have long since forgotten…the way we met.That first look we shared.

Awkward, shy and almost non-existent was I. But you walked in and threw colour into a bleak life. Sometimes, late at night, I sit and wonder…were you sent in my Life for a reason? May be to make me smile, may be to teach me to love. Love myself and embrace the world. Looking up to you (and literally!) I stood up on my own feet and actually bore my own weight. It was a young age, the age of infatuations.

And I was deeply infatuated.

I was convinced my heart was lost forever. Never would I find it back, although I knew who it had crossed over to. You spent ages convincing me to take it back, but stubbornness is a trait synonymous to me. I was determined to make this crush last as long as I could, try your advice on yourself. ‘Love yourself and the world will love you too…!”

For me, the world was You.

….I still remember that day you invited me home. After a million ‘Oops I forgot to introduce you to my mom’ meetings, there arose a day when your mom opened the door for me. A door into your house, and into her heart. A random opportunity of entering your house, and I seized at it shamelessly.

Never have I stopped ever since.

….I still remember that moment when you drew me close and told me you loved me. If there is a Heaven we can experience while on Earth, for me it was that very moment. It was my moment of success, of having proved you wrong. It wasn’t an infatuation. It was Love. But above all, that moment was our moment of happiness.

The first of so many more to come.

In the days that followed, there began a mad rush to know each other. As friends, there are some boundaries you never cross but as lovers, there hardly remain any. You drew lines, I walked over them. I insisted, you gave in. There was every possible way of communication used, because any amount of time spent together was too less. I wish there was some way of ‘saving’ your touch because every other interaction between us could be archived.

You left me hungry, desperate for you any time of the day.

…I still remember looking at you across the hall and feeling your eyes find me amidst that crowd. The smile we shared then and so many more times later. A world of our own amidst the bustling crowd. Your searching eyes when I walked out of sight, my lost gaze when I didn’t see you around and the almost instant ‘Where are you?’ messages that followed. The walk you led me on through a million lanes, watching from a distance and enjoying my desperateness. And then that moment of relief when I finally saw you…!

When Joy knew no bounds.

…I still remember those moments of pure jealousy I went through on various occasions, because I was so sure you had lost all interest in me. All throughout, my failure to notice that your eyes were still on me, your thoughts still revolving around me. But the arrow that pierced through me each time a girl walked too close to you. It killed me and it healed me at the same time. I knew your worth better than before and I held you closer. You reacted, you walked off and then came laughing back on my possessiveness. I relished those moments but until then, my mind went through gruesome turmoil. Each time I made a new mistake and each time you forgave me, with varying bouts of silence.

That silence kills.

…Your eyes flashing with anger and your voice struggling to stay calm, it is one of the serious fights we have occasionally. These moments are far and few but they are always true. When two strong characters collide, there is bound to be noise and chaos. Emotions flying in the air and words hiding behind silences, we have always preferred to keep quiet rather than give vent to that rage. Thinking of each other even in those times though the arguments would never support this claim! Complaining about each other yet holding fast. Threats of ending the relation but never really gathering the courage to walk away.

Maybe because there isn’t any other place we’d rather be.

We fall, we hurt and we cry. Sometimes we ignore each other’s pleas for help and sometimes we are the first ones to wipe the tears. People worry about us, people warn us but we have never listened to people. For in our world, there is no space for people. Admirers walk in and out, jealousies soar and subside; the love still holds strong.

Maybe it is Destiny; that you walked up to say Hello…

I take a moment here and break the spell. So many memories later, it seems a lifetime with you already. The rush of memories has not lessened its intensity but the mind needs to take a break. The heart forces it too. The love that has surfaced, the sudden urge we have always joked about…it is threatening to spill over. And I am trying to fill a glass that is already full. All around, I see and hear so many bad things…upheaval in the world, resulting in frustrations abound; and for a minute I steal myself a prayer. I am thankful for my piece of Heaven amidst this chaos.

I am glad every once a while you slip on the garb of Prince Charming and make me live a Fairytale…

…I still don’t remember when I realized You were the one, or when you figured me out to be your lifetime choice. But I do remember every single time I looked at you and my heart did a somersault. I do remember wondering every single time what was it that made me drool over you so much. And I also remember every single time you questioned me over the same. I don’t think I have found the answer yet.

In fact, I have stopped looking for the answer.

All I know is that for me, True Love lies in your smile. I find it every single time you yell at me or ignore me. I see it when you look at me and talk to me. I hear it when you answer the phone and crib about being woken up. For me, True Love is in all the moments spent with you and in your absence, thinking of you…

For me, True Love is just You.

Dog-gone Days!

09 February 2016.

Late at night, my phone beeped. Late night messages and late night phone calls; both scare me. As far as I’ve known, neither have ever brought good news. I twisted and turned in my bed, a restless night lying ahead of me. A sudden thump woke me up completely at dawn. Eerie howls echoed through our street. About 8 – 10 dogs were gathered around someone, or something slumped. Fear gripped me. Had there been an accident? Cold air came swooping in as I pushed open the window, pushing sleep completely out of my eyes.

As the sun rose and a beautiful morning greeted me, I saw the slumped something. It was a dog, perhaps the victim of a road kill. The animal lay there, still and cold. Life had ebbed away as a new day began for everyone else…

I have never really been a dog lover. In fact, as a child, I held a fear or perhaps some sort of dread for this species. For years, I screamed, hid behind doors or relatives, and at times possible even ran away at the sight of a dog. But then, people around me started to have dogs as pets. Both my aunts, a best friend…all these families opened their doors and hearts to this creature. I adjusted to the idea of sharing space with dogs, but never really petted them willingly.

Today, as I watched the carcass of this animal, I didn’t realise that another dog, miles away from me, had already lost its life. Absentmindedly, I checked that late night message and I suddenly felt like someone had punched me in the stomach. The message began…’A sad news…’ The rest remains a hazy nightmare.

A fluffly hairball, a crazy grey and white dog came rushing towards me, the first day I stepped in Hagen. It was the summer of 2007 and I was in Germany for a cultural exchange programme. My host family had come to receive me at the airport but the first one to welcome me into the house hadn’t been a person, but this dog. Fenya.

She was a baby, a lovely dog with her whims and fancies. My first instinct had been to back off; a dog leaping on me was one of my nightmares. But this dog did not know how to take No for an answer. She welcomed me not only into her house, but also her life. My 5-weeks long stay in this house would have been incomplete had it not been for dear Fenya.

7 years later, while in the UK for my post-graduation, the proximity to Germany tempted me for a visit. I was back in Hagen, back to the same house, back to my family. And once again, Fenya was running out….her ready wag telling me that I had been missed in this house, by everyone. She still guarded my door, she still caught me by surprise by sleeping on the stairs, she still growled if I crept up for a glass of water in the middle of the night. We went for walks in the lovely woods, we played ball in parks, we even had crazy fits for no reasons whatsoever.

All my life, I have seen a lot of pets. I sat next to few, even allowed them to occasionally sniff me. But Fenya was the first and the only dog I shared house with. She was someone who taught me that dogs are a part of the family too. The first animal to show me unconditional love.

Today as I read the news of her death with a lump in my throat, I realise I can never truly explain what Fenya means to me. I can just know, I can just feel, I can just remember and I will, always miss…

Cake Crumble

2 Jan 2016.
In almost all the houses I know of, people are still bringing themselves out of the New Year’s Eve stupor. The new year has kicked in…and everyone is just about getting used to writing and saying 2016.
In almost all houses but one that I know of, this stupor persists. There’s one house where birthday celebrations are being planned out. A birthday that lands right on the 2nd day of the new year. Thus ensuring there’s always enough time to plan a birthday surprise.
That house is ours’. Here I am, putting the final touches to a birthday cake. Years have passed since the first gift I made him. He was a friend back then. Someone who rarely received gifts. The struggling artist in me was touched. And year after year, I churned handmade gifts. Greeting cards, an annual calendar, a hand-painted pillow cover, letters when I could think of nothing else.
Years have passed but not much has changed. The struggling artist in me still feels the need to create. To satisfy the creativity in me rather than materialistic him.
As I put the last bit of icing on the cake (and unfortunately just literally), the cake begins to fall apart. The upper layer begins to crumble in front of my eyes. My sleepy eyes open wide. I am aghast. So I quickly cover it up with spare sprinkles. I go all out and be as creative as I can before the clock strikes midnight. But the cracks are still visible…
And just as my efforts throughout the years have been crushed to the ground, this one would possibly be no different. After all, the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. And here I am, serving him a cracked cake.
Yes, the cracks are still visible as are the ups and downs we’ve been through in all the years we have known each other. But yes, we covered up those cracks with generous layers of sprinkles too. Sprinkled moments of happiness and shared ignorance.
Ideally, this should have been a lovestruck post of what I feel about him. Wouldn’t that have made a wonderful birthday gift? But he reads between the cracks and understands. He eats the cake and grins.
And just as with life…
That’s the way the cake crumbles 😉

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The ignited spark.

31 July 2013.

I met him today, while I was out for my evening walk. Sweating and panting, I climbed the hill…my eyes focused on finding my path through the overgrown grass rather than look up ahead. Usually this part of the woods doesn’t have much traffic so I didn’t really bother. Until my eyes suddenly stopped at a pair of boots. I looked up with a start, straight into his eyes. My sudden surprise found reflection in his smile.

And in that spontaneous smile, I lost myself…

The first time I saw him was a few weeks ago. I got distracted from my game of badminton as he walked past. He walked away and without realizing it, took my heart with him as well. From the corner of my eye, I kept sneaking glances at him and I got my reward a few moments later when he raised his hand in a wave.

Then on, we crossed paths each evening.

Once or twice, I saw him walk over to where I played. His awkward walk, his eyes focused straight ahead…it was as though he had a resolve in mind. But courage failed him and just as he got close enough, I saw him turn around and walk back with just the parting smile. A few times he stood by, watching us play; following the shuttlecock with his gaze and smiling to himself.

And I was left wondering what went on in that mind then…

True to England’s nature, the rain poured down after a wonderful spell of sunshine. Evenings were now spent inside, playing cards or watching the rain cool the parched ground. His face eventually crossed my mind but I had no way of getting in touch. I know neither his name nor his language. Days passed, eventually a week went by without seeing him around. I convinced myself he must have forgotten me by now; it was after all, a matter of habit than acquaintance.

And then today, all of a sudden, we came face-to-face. He stopped, he smiled, he waved and he spoke.

“Di di…”

‘He’ is 2 years old and I know neither his name nor his language.

But the smile connects us, the spark of recognition unites us 🙂

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Not a love story.

5 May 2013.

This is not a love story.

It is about two individuals at different phases of their lives; whose paths keep crossing and yet who keep walking away.

It is about two gazes that meet, two minds that are attuned to the same wavelength and two hearts that beat in time.

And yet this is not a love story.

It is about two clashing personalities that always agree to disagree; who abide by the motto ‘Live and let live’.

It is about pangs of loneliness felt when without each other and yet an innate stubbornness to keep this feeling within; of leaving each other in constant doubt.

And yet it is not a love story.

It traces the lives of two friends who have never seen eye to eye, their height difference responsible for it; who have never understood each other completely, their age difference the only answer.

But it is also about the will to try, the readiness to go the extra mile and the heartfelt happiness gifted to each other.

And yet it cannot be a love story.

It is about the obstacle called Society; the hurdle named Distance; the constant thorns in the form of individual life choices.

And through it all…the comfort found with each other, the tenderness exchanged even through text messages, the lingering smiles thereon…..the feeling of having finally come home.

I wonder why I still insist, this is not a love story…?

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