“Don’t worry darling,” he patted me on the back one day, “even if you turn raving mad, I will cook up some cure to bring you back to me.”
I snorted. “And what exactly will you cook? A plateful of your much cherished chicken?”
He looked hurt. “Someone would think my sun rises and sets on food, the way you talk of me.” I however, had long come past the stage of being fooled by the innocent expression.
I have never seen a bigger foodie, save my Dad. Both men dream of residing in a utopian world obsessed with culinary art and are the sweethearts of bhaji walas and restaurateurs alike. While Mom and my Granny have trained themselves in churning out in our kitchen exotic delicacies from around the globe, I stand guardedly at the kitchen doors, half expecting the jars and vessels to giggle at my trepidation. Apart from persuading him, if at gunpoint, to incorporate fruits and palak in his diet, I haven’t any other claim to fame. It ruffles me, my incompetence in the world of saucers, pressure cookers and frying pans.
When it rains, I love how the world blossoms into a spring garden. I love the skies of a deep, deep blue and the marshlands tinged with mahogany. As I jump about with the playful raindrops, he brings out my red umbrella from drawers and closets. The thing has been with me for some time now and I love how the red stands out under the misty, overcast monsoonal sky. Fighting for coverage under the red world, we unwittingly bathe in streams of water accumulated at the sides. The nukkadwali shop doles out steaming pakoras by the dozen: potatoes, onions and chillies in makeshift newspaper plates. When my last-saved onion crispy abruptly vanishes from eyesight, I pull out his ugly black umbrella from a rucksack and push him away. It is then that the crispy magically emerges from the confines of a pocket in his jeans. “I have no clue how it got there!” he vehemently claims.
The one area of expertise we both have, in equal amounts, is debate. A half-baked book, an uninteresting film, a ramp model dressed in unrealistic clothes – it doesn’t take much to get us dissecting the ins and outs of things that conspire around us. We are both hugely opinionated and our opinions range from gentle to cynical in violent extremes.
“Anyone would think we are bloodthirsty archrivals.” I said one night over dinner, after we had gathered several eyes and ears listening to our rather animated discussion on commercial and art house cinema.
“They will be sure to put me down as the guy who couldn’t stand the peaceful sight of his partner enjoying her food.” he smirked, pulling at my glass of soft drink.
While we are learning to nip the arguments that are not worth it – no matter who ‘wins’ or ‘loses’ – in the bud, the other, tamer kinds bring colour to life. They give us – social activists in a previous birth – ample scope to compare, contrast, squabble and then give up all the grandiloquence for a good old stick of Chocobar and eight panipuri(s) for ten bucks.
On a sultry summer weekend, he manages to drag me to a bus-stop, alluring me with promises of sugar candies, boat-rides and a chilled glass of thandai. When I make a face at the tumbledown bus that arrives and sneer at the dirty, smoke-stained windows, he stops the next auto-rickshaw. He has a sensitivity that I admire, sensing the row conspiring at home from the sound of my voice. “Did Mom and Granny fight again? Over the colour of the drawing-room curtains?” he guesses correctly. He sings me a favourite song, mimicking the good old singers of yore. And sometimes, he just sits by me, holding on to my hand and letting me fill my brooding silences with the sound of the trees whispering in the wind.
I can now see why a bouquet of flowers brings a smile to the face, even if it consists of a clump of random flowers secretly plucked from the house next door. I can also see why parting with that last bit of dark chocolate can be pleasing if it makes someone into a child again. Being with him has taught me the meaning of laughter, being supremely and absolutely happy – with no anxiety more hard pressing than securing good seats for a tonga-ride in Pune Camp.
Not given to mush as a rule, there are times when I cannot resist splurging on that chocolate cake and that dainty, long-stemmed rose. Bask in the sun while you can darling… for today, as we complete a year of togetherness, I want to thank you for being the best surprise life has ever brought my way.