A Midday Spell

–Prize Winning Entry in Snapdeal’s #DilKiDealOnSnapdeal activity–

Tiffin Box

I was absolutely uninterested in the day ahead. Outside the window, the world was silent as the grave, still as the mountains you could see from some localities in Pune. All I wanted to do was snuggle up in bed and stare into the distance, except that this can be particularly hard when you have a growling stomach. More so, when the stomach refuses to welcome instant noodles.

Mom and Dad had come over to visit a fortnight ago and we had spent a delightful weekend shopping, hogging and talking into the night. Mom had also packed in a vigorous round of spring-cleaning everything she could lay her hands on: clothes, the windows, my hair. “Is this your idea of spending a Sunday?” “I think it’s brilliant exercise.” The empty flat still resounded with our chatter, the words and songs echoing as they collided with the rather bare walls.

Presently, I dialled the landline in Delhi. I could hear the phone ringing – with intermittent static – itself to silence. While my grandparents could be snoozing, it was uncharacteristic of Mom to not pick up the phone. Ever since I had moved to Pune, she made it a point to keep me posted each time she stepped out of the house. “This way, you can tell me if you need anything from the market. I can store it and hand it over to you when you are home for Durga Puja.” Four months prior to Puja, my clothes-shopping had already been initiated. “We will get a smaller size.” She had frowned as I fitted my jeans with a belt, and rolled her eyes.

I sat by the window and decided I needed some food to feel alive. I lazily sifted through the few home delivery menus I had stacked in a corner. Back home, Mom would have quickly listed out Chinese and Italian options and also brought out her purse, ready to pay before the order could be placed. She would then set the table with two sets of spoons and forks, tissues and beverages. On dull afternoons such as these, she would plan for us to spend the evening in the large bookshop that had newly opened in our locality.

I chucked the menus away; none had caught my fancy. The doorbell rang just then – two shrill hoots, my roommate’s quintessential style. A heady aroma of chicken, onions and capsicum poured in through the door. Outside, stood my beaming roommate with a large bottle of Coke. Beside her, holding a large tiffin box I recognized from home, stood my Mom. In the pink salwar-suit I had bought her with my salary. She smiled when I stared at her.

“You wouldn’t believe I have been thinking of you all morning!”

“Precisely why I am here.”

“But you came only a fortnight ago! Did you win free airline tickets or what?”

“Nope. But I did win some free spirit and decided to surprise you. I was missing you very much.”

We sat at the table minutes later, greedily eating the world’s most delicious chicken. The room had been magically wiped clean of the morning’s despondency and longing. I had wished for Mom and here she was. Here only because she had listened to her heart and allowed it to overrule all else. This was surely among the finest magic that exists in the otherwise drab world we live in.

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I am participating in the #DilKiDealOnSnapdeal activity at BlogAdda in association with SnapDeal.

Of blankets and ice-creams

“I don’t think we will need that blanket until after June.” I said to R the other day, while opening the bedroom windows for some air. All the fans in the house were whirring at top speed – or at least, trying to – and the number of bottles in the refrigerator had noticeably increased since we moved in.

“I would keep it somewhere handy.” R sounded cautious. “I have known Pune to be as moody as my wife.”

Moody or no, the very sight of the blanket was making me sweat. I proceeded to neatly pack it away in the bed-cabinet. “Shall we go out for ice-creams this evening?”

A few hours later, we sat by the window in our living room, dressed to go out but hindered by circumstances. The sky was a speckled-grey, overcast with clouds of all shapes and sizes. Rain came down in large drops and if the thunder was anything to go by, showed no signs of abating soon.

Rainy Sunday

Pune gears up for a rainy Sunday

“It is no longer hot enough for ice-creams.” said R, after the rain had softened. The man doesn’t know much about ice-creams. “It always is.” I explained.

Early this morning, when the first birds started singing, I sprung awake and sat up in bed. A light breeze was blowing in from under the door; the sun had started its ascent. However, the beauty of dawn was half-lost on me. I missed my blanket.

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Spicing up an Evening

There are moody evenings, when nothing, right from the hazelnut coffee at Starbucks to the chicken at Thai Palace, seems to set things right. And then there are breezy evenings when all you need to make life beautiful is a plate of spicy panipuri from a roadside vendor. 

The panipuri has several names: golgappas in Delhi, fuchkas in Kolkata and gupchups in Bihar. Be that as it may, the perfect panipuri must have potatoes, onions, chickpea and chillies, and be flavoured with salt, pepper, tamarind and lemon. You absolutely must ask for some additional jaljeera to wash it down.

“Did the vendor have clean hands?” says my health conscious family, fed on 99.9% germ-free advertising on television. “Oh, he wore sterilised gloves.”

I will tell you a secret though – please avoid the places that serve you “mineral water” panipuri. An over-hygienically made panipuri is against the natural scheme of things, and like rainbow-coloured roses, just doesn’t feel right.

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Magic in the Household

Who says magic exists only in Harry Potter books, dreams and imagination? It exists inside our homes, right under our noses. What else can explain the transformation of raw rice into fluffy strands of bhaat, lanky okra into delicious bhujiya and beaten eggs into spicy egg bhurji?

I grant you science has a role to play, but it is only magic that has made me the solemniser of these transformations – yes, me, standing with a stirrer in one hand, the fingers of the other crossed in nervous anticipation. Ten days into my new life in Pune, I have managed to whip up a few meals without raising up a storm, or a fire for that matter.

The fruit and vegetable vendors in Pune, I have found, are highly sensitive about their products. “Will those grapes be fresh?” R ventured to ask one the other evening. The weighing scales also looked biased – or call it our North Indian apprehension.

“Of course they are fresh! I only sell the best.” The vendor replied defensively. “If I had been in government service, I would be earning a hefty pension by now – so long have I been in this business.”

We were regaled with tales of his experiences as a street vendor all the while we hunted for onions, tomatoes and potatoes.

While moving into a new home has its downsides, it is terrific to live in a decluttered house. You know exactly where everything is. This lack of clutter is conducive to the kind of good habits the family advocates: waking up on time, eating a heavy breakfast, drinking milk at night.

Getting the milk the first time proved to be entertaining. “Would you want cow’s or buffalo’s milk? Full cream or half cream?” Where were my close-to-heart red-packet and blue-packet varieties? “Errm, I find cow’s milk suits our systems the best, thank you.” Some customers looked at me in awe – ah, the experienced homemaker.

It is only when we return from one of our evening walks, and find unwashed dishes in the kitchen, that we wish magic pulled up its socks tighter and lent us a hand.

When History Repeats Itself

Birds

*Picture from http://nerdbirder.com

There are a few birds chirping right outside the living-room window of my new home in Pune. It is a quintessentially “Pune” day – a hot sun, a very slight wind and the promise of a rejuvenating evening breeze hanging in the air. R and I are now married and have graduated to being housemates, student-teacher in the kitchen (no prizes for guessing who’s who) and regular visitors to the departmental store. We still sit back sometimes and breathe in hard to let it sink in – the fact that it all turned out well and we are truly, finally, man and wife.

This morning is when my laptop was accessible over suitcases, kitchenware and general chaos. Ladies and gents, welcome again to “Of Paneer, Pulao and Pune”. We promise to regale you with stories from this charming city, told with the gusto of a hot vada paau and garnished with a generous sprinkling of panipuri masala.

This is the umpteenth move from “Saddi Delhi” and I have been awarded the title of the best luggage packer in town. While life doesn’t really allow me any wind of its plans, thus preventing me from forecasting, I look forward to many bright evenings, delightful meals (some of which I will cook), fun times with R and, hold your breath, settling down in happy matrimony.

Wish me luck.