Wednesday, May 26, 2010

My most cherished food-related memory

My most cherished food-related memory dates back to when I was newly married... In 2001, two days after we got married (much to our relief and after much drama!!), there was a terror attack at the Parliament. My husband having made the career choice he had was recalled...his leave truncated. The letter of intimation reached home, his native place, but the entire family was at my hometown for the wedding. So we remained (blissfully!) unaware of the recall. We were to proceed for our honeymoon to Dalhousie via Delhi and Jammu (to offload all the excess luggage) on the 25th of December. It was when he called up his regiment about his arrival in Jammu and further about his plans for Dalhousie, that the news was broken to him about reporting immediately.

All my dreams of setting up home, cooking scrumptious food and serving tea to my love of long were shattered. In response to my mom's request at taking kitchen items, my husband had said, "kya Mummy, Mess main khayenge ek-do mahine and then we will see about setting up the kitchen!!" And he was gone and I did not know on which of my very kind neighbours, my next meal depended. The Mess had obviously moved with the regiment to the forward location as part of the mobilisation.

Cope as one has to, I set about the arduous task of starting to set up my kitchen, in a totally alien city with strangers all around!!

Our forward location was not very far, so on a chilly January night, I heard violent knocking at the door of my single room accommodation...I opened the door and much to my surprise...I saw before my eyes, the one man I loved the most!!

He had been unaware of my attempts at setting up the home (read the kitchen!!) and was pleasantly surprised when I offered him a cup of coffee. (He was zapped to see the saucepan, the cups and the coffee!!) Having enjoyed the coffee we cuddled up and just as I was about to fall asleep securely in his arms, he told me he had to leave at 6.45 the following morning. My eyes welled up with tears, but I put up a brave front and asked him in 'yours' truly' manner, what he would like for breakfast...He said he would be fine with anything.

Now, sleep eluded me and all night I kept thinking what would be a befitting first meal that I should offer to him from 'our' kitchen.

Cut to 6 am.

While the man was busy putting on all his gear...(the uniform and the accessories he wore with it seemed almost like an astronaut getting ready for flight) I was furiously waiting for the cooker to let up steam to indicate that my first meal for him (his favourite dish!!) was cooked and ready.

At 6.30 I announced in a typically filmy style that breakfast was ready...and promptly served him the plate!! He ate quietly and I mistook his quietude to be the pangs of the impending separation and wept too!!

Years later, when he recounted this incidence to one of our common college friend that I realised my folly!!

In a bid to please him with his favourite dish as the first meal from 'our' kitchen, I had made khichdi for him without even thinking of the time of the day I was serving it at!!

Till date he teases me that I have never made a khichdi in all my 8 and a half years of marriage to parallel the taste of the first time I cooked and served it!!

So, a dish as simple and humble as khichdi makes for my most cherished food-related memory!!

Monday, March 29, 2010

IN PRAYER…


In the roller coaster called life, I have been through a number of highs and lows. My life has been complete with its trials and tribulations and tragedies, as also its ecstasies and achievements. Through this journey, I have taken much for granted, valued much and raised my hand in sheer gratitude as I have counted my blessings. Though it wouldn’t be correct to say that I have been in the pink of health all through the years, but the truth is I haven’t perhaps spared a thought about some of my rather generous endowments.

Last night, as I sat on my work desk racing against time to meet a rather important deadline, the phone rang a little ominously. With hubby dear’s (read hubby dear’s) foot in a cast due to a chip fracture in the ankle, I picked up the cordless to see who was calling at an hour, which would be dinner time for most folks.

At the other end was someone I wouldn't exactly call a friend, but someone who I have been fond of by virtue of her virtues. My husband’s former senior’s wife. We had been a little out of touch thanks to the fast lives we are all enwrapped in, so I was a little taken aback to hear her voice out of the blue. After the regular pleasantries were exchanged, to make conversation, I asked her why she sounded a little dull and then went into enquiring about her health.

It was in response to this query that I heard a mild shiver in her voice, eventhough her words didn't belie much. She said, “I am fine in a way and not so fine really.” My pulse went up and I couldn't resist asking her what she meant. She said she was fine in a way because she had just been operated upon to remove a malignant breast cancer and she wasn’t really fine, as the diagnosis and the surgery had left her shaken up and traumatized. What she revealed then, left me fumbling for not just words but I had trouble finding my voice, which seemed to have begun to sink, like my heart. She said she was calling from the hospital and that she had called to implore for the strength to wade through these testing times. I was then reminded that in the days of our direct and close association as wives of co-officers in the same regiment, I with my strong will power and faith-laden nature had once too often prayed to God for the mild her to surface out of, what were small troubles. And she always said that God always answered the prayers that I made for her. The joke was, she said she needed my recommendations to be heard!! But this was everything but funny!! I just didn't know what to say such, that would make her feel better.

I managed to give her one of my famous talks on ‘keeping the faith and being in surrender to His will’ and I could sense that I had met my objective. My telephonic monologue was interrupted midway by a nurse who came to dispense her medicines…so the lady began to feel groggy as her sleeping pills took control…which was when I politely edged her to go to sleep. She must have slept well or so I prayed…but here sleep eluded me…I just couldn’t bring my mind to focus on the task at hand…There was a sense of bereavement in a way, but the silver lining to this dark cloud was the fact that she had been very prompt about reporting her lump to the Surgical speacialist, which is perhaps why she could be operated upon in good time.

The last thing she said before we hung up was that I must pray and recommend her speedy recovery so that her post-surgery reports come clean and show that the malignancy has not spread…else chemotherapy and radiation was what lay in store for her. I would have prayed either ways…but it was the fact that she held on to hope so tightly that made me suddenly feel guilty for not valuing what I have and hankering after what I don’t…

This episode taught me two very important lessons:

One, that I must value my endowments and care about them and two, that there are people who still believe in God and think that in whatever way my prayer would reach Him faster, as I was a loved child! And being the ‘loved child of God’ was a reminder that made me feel reassured of His love to me which seemed to be shared or lost at worst, but was indeed the result of the tests of faith that He put me through…so that I may pass them with flying colours!

I am humbled and praying hard that ‘All Goes Well’ with her now and forever!!

Amen

Monday, February 1, 2010

Changed Equations with the one above

I've been meaning to do this for a long long time...mostly when I've been stirred out of my intellectual slumber by something big or trivial...but like other things that one keeps on procrastinating...this too went into the pending list for long...
And ironical as it is, today as I set to write...life has changed...and I have no words to express because I don't have feelings I feel... It's some sort of a numb stupor...painfree...
I feel as if I am liberated of the entire cycle of feeling hurt then healing and then hurting again...
Loss, joy, excitement, attachment...I seem to be ignorant of it all.
Fear seems to be the only sentiment I perceive...fear of losing what I have or rather what I am left with...
Strangely my faith seems unshaken in that power above but then all the same I am unable to seek from Him...I, who have always mumbled a prayer whether it is for an exam or for the level crossing to be open...have no prayers seeking favours...only a small wish (if He choses to hear and grant) that He leave me with what I have...I want no more...I don't know how the association I shared with Him above has changed and whether the changed equation is temporary or otherwise...I shall wait for that and lots else to be revealed!!

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