I recently saw these adorable little fruits hanging in a bunch from their mother plant, their colour a brighter red than my new winter cap. From a distance – chillies or berries or cranberries. They fluttered a bit in the wind and felt soft to touch. I stood and stared at the plant for several minutes, my thoughts going back to a restaurant called ‘Cheetal’ on the Delhi-Haridwar highway.
My family of five would go along that highway every other summer vacation. We then went on to Dehradun and Mussoorie. Cheetal was a neat highway restaurant, arranged like a food court back when food courts were still new to India, and had a lovely garden with flowering plants of all kinds.
Mom and I – perhaps the two most, um, voracious eaters of the family, would be done much earlier than the others. We left them munching, and walked to the garden, dispelling comments like “where you going, girls with bird-like appetites?” The two of us observed every plant there was – the roses and chrysanthemums, the brinjals, the lilies, and yes, the chillies. It thrilled me each time to see chillies on a plant, the very chillies I had just had with my rajma chawal.
R and I went to Mussoorie some time ago, and we couldn’t find Cheetal. Yes, there was a restaurant around where it used to be, but I didn’t see a garden or any chillies.
“What are you thinking about?” R broke into my thoughts.
I told him. “I was just wondering if these chillies will disappear too, if I come back to see in a couple of years.”
And this is why I clicked a lot of chilly-pictures that day, giggled and matched colour palettes with my cap, and decided to record this fleeting moment here. This way, even if the plants are gone, or if I don’t get to return to them, I can always flip through these memoirs and relive exactly how happy they made me feel.
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