So my mother took herself off to Chennai to visit her mother for a few days, plunging the rest of us (i.e. myself, brother and father) at home into deep despondency (mostly because none of us are great cooks, and also because all of us are slaves to our palates). For ten days, we somehow managed with salt-less khichdi (courtesy father), weird-tasting sambhar (courtesy yours truly) and bread toast with Hershey’s syrup and crushed Oreo sprinkled on top (my brother is a big fan of Masterchef Australia). The trouble began when my mother came back.
Having finished with Yashraj-style reunions (this was partly due to the relief of not having to eat burnt rasam day after day), my brother and I formed an orderly queue towards the bag with all the Chennai snacks in it (if pouncing on stuff from either side and banging our heads in the process can be called an orderly queue) and forgot ourselves for the next hour in the joys of thattai, seedai and Tirunelveli halwa (from l-r below).
Then my mother came back from her bath and stepped into the kitchen. There came the sound of steel tiffins being opened and closed, containers being inspected, frying pans being overturned and placed back, and then there emerged a roar. I froze. My mother charged out of the kitchen with three steel dabbas in her hands, looking rather furious, and I couldn’t help sidling unobtrusively to the door.
“What the hell”, she shook the dabbas under my nose, “on earth is this?” There was a green mold-covered something that might have been a leftover chapatti a week ago (ok no judging me please, haven’t you ever done anything like this? On second thoughts, don’t answer that), a blackish looking something that might have been the poha from 4 days ago and another something I couldn’t recognize at all. I crept a bit further in the direction of the door and promptly stumbled over my father, who had obviously had the same brainwave and was muttering something about walks. My mother eyed him frostily, and he came back resignedly into the house, mumbling about heart patients and how weak they generally are. This card never fails to arouse my mother’s sympathy and concern, however unfairly it may be used, so she calmed down a bit and turned to glare at me. This time, though, I had my answer ready, “I went to college every day and came back only at night”, I wailed, “He was the one cooking and cleaning everything” and pointed at him rather melodramatically. My father blustered and blubbed a bit, but he needn’t have bothered with any explanation.
Both of us had forgotten a key player in the drama. My brother, who was, perhaps, taking revenge on us for all the nonsense he had been forced to eat for ten whole days, at once screamed, “Liars liars pants on fires” (No, he’s not very mature, and also, no, not very grammatical either), “She went to college only once, and dad was strong enough to wrestle with me daily”, and poured into her ears sob stories of how he had been force-fed watery rice and tasteless vegetables (which, I assure you, was an exaggeration; the rice was only watery twice, once when it was overcooked, and once when I tried to multitask (yes, me also Masterchef fan) and poured water into the rice instead of the dal (on that note, remind me never to trust my brother again, he seemed to believe me when I told him that it was Spanish rice with caliente agua)).
Anyway, the upshot of it all was that my mother gave us a good long lecture on the management of houses and kitchens, and asked me how I thought I was going to manage a household by myself after marriage, if my standards were so abysmal, and what my husband and mother-in-law would have to say about my upbringing if I cooked daily such burnt rice and watery rasam. Nose in the air, I replied, “You can just tell them I’m a career girl and don’t care for such petty chores”, which was, on second thought, possibly the worst thing to say to a mathematician who had given up her job to take care of a fragile husband and frail daughter (though nobody who has seen me anytime recently will believe that I have ever been anywhere near frail in my life). “What, then”, she asked rather acidly, “will you eat if both you and your husband don’t cook?” This, I must confess, had me stumped, and I bit back all sorts of feminist rants about cooking, because there are times when it is more about your stomach than about your gender.
Since she seemed to have calmed down quite a bit after this tirade, my father and I started inching towards the bedroom door again (this time to beat up my brother, who had mysteriously gone missing after denouncing us), but in our fear, we had failed to notice that my mother had opened the refrigerator and was rifling through its contents while haranguing us. “What”, she frowned, “is this?” and held up something which looked eerily like the unsuccessful mushroom tomato sabzi I had cooked 3 days ago, except that it had a purple layer on it (on an aside, this is my mother’s favourite colour, but possibly it does not quite matter in this case). “Toilet, I wanna go toilet”, I screamed and fled the scene (this, though obviously not a very mature scheme, was a very wise one, since my father promptly copied it).
So the moral of the story is, when the cat is away, the mice will play, provided they don’t have to cook, and when the cat comes back, will still be safe, since mice don’t have traitorous brothers.
P.S. This is a true story, and is only slightly exaggerated (I’m not really that bad a cook, although you don’t believe me now, do you?)
P.P.S. Please forgive my erratic posting schedule, dear readers (and also fellow writers whose posts I haven’t read and commented on for some time); this is in major part due to certain career decisions I took that have come back to bite me in the..er..neverwhere, so life is not all that it should be, but I’m trying to soldier on, please bear with me.. 🙂