Sunny With An Occasional Chance of Rainfall!

A secret

It’s a summer day in Kolkata. The weather is sultry and the sun blazes mightily. Inside the 11th grade classroom, the teacher tries to hammer in the implications of simple harmonic motion to a set of indifferent students that are surreptitiously stealing glances at the clock. It is the last period of the day and cannot end soon enough. A girl passes a note to the boy on the next bench. The boy reads and then pledges complicity. The bell rings. Students rush out to crowd around the ice-cream seller. The boy and the girl do not join them. They have their own plans and proceed accordingly.

They leave separately. The girl arrives early and waits at the agreed place for rendezvous. It’s the dilapidated compound of the erstwhile police quarters. Usually deserted during the day but rumoured to be the haven of shady activities by night. The girl feels a little uncomfortable and hopes that the boy would hurry. The boy in the meanwhile, takes a circuitous route to avoid detection and the ensuing questions from nosy neighbours, or worse, being dragged home by his strict elder brother. After what seems like ages, the boy arrives. The girl is a little miffed at having to wait but decides to forgive seeing him breathless and soaked in sweat. They look around to double check if there are any known faces around. There aren’t. Satisfied, they hold hands and smile; eyes shining with the knowledge of guilty pleasure they are about to partake.

A little ahead a man waits for them, same place, same time, as always. The boy pays him. The man nods and then sets to task. The girl watches the man in giddy anticipation while the boy watches her intently. He shouldn’t encourage this habit which has become an addiction, he muses. But they are young and in love! Moral scruples at that age are easily overcome with the desire to see your dear one happy.

At last the man is done and hands over the two paper packets to the loyal customers. The girl takes a small bite, closing her eyes in pleasure, she rolls the first morsel inside her mouth, feeling the potato, tamarind chutney, and green chilies  come together in perfect harmony. She is oblivious to the rest of the world. This moment, this bite, is her one addiction, her one escape. She suffers from a medical condition and has been under a strict antibiotic regime for the whole of last year. The onslaught of bitter medicines have blunted her taste buds and the only thing she craves for is denied to her. She had entreated, pleaded, begged even till the boy had agreed. This rupee 1 worth of aloo chaat after school was their one little secret. Did the seller know how much it meant to those two young people? Maybe he did, maybe he did not.

The remnants are polished off quickly, a bottle of water guzzled down to wash off traces and the girl runs off to take an auto rickshaw home. She basks in the after taste. She thinks about him. Feeling secure that she can trust him she loves him even more. The boy watches till the auto fades out of sight and makes his journey home, caught up  in his own thoughts…

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In case you are wondering what made the girl drool, here is a recipe of the aloo chaat. Bon apatite!

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For the love of biryani

Last night Mr.H walked for miles battling harsh weather. It was getting late yet,ignoring exhaustion he trudged on to hunt his prey and bring home food to the frantic wife.

Okay, it wasn’t quite so dramatic. He may have walked for 3 miles or so and the prey in question was authentic biryani. Truth be told, I was more frantic for the b than the H. You’d appreciate the situation better if you are a biryani lover fanatic and have been deprived of this heavenly delight for more than six months! No distance is too far, no expense too great when it comes to this cuisine of the kings. In fact, if Maslow had been acquainted, he might have put biryani at every level of the need hierarchy. Slight stretch of imagination that, but you get the drift.

I,personally have been quite late in joining the bandwagon but I sure am glad to have not missed the train! I remember, during the college days of weekend dating with H, Lazeez  used to be a regular haunt for us. (I don’t remember visiting any religious places with such regularity!) H, not surprisingly would order the mutton dum biryani while I would settle for roti and some meat curry. I really did not understand what the fuss was all about and don’t even get me started on the myriad varieties available. He would pity my choice and may have addressed me as “Ye of unspeakable gastronomic appreciation or the lack there of”. I can’t be sure. Yet, with unabated energy he shepherded me from haunt to haunt initiating me to the different forms of the dish till I developed my own  taste and preference. 

Circa 2011, Bangalore. It was a Tuesday night in June . I asked H what he felt about going to Hyderabad for the weekend. “What for?”, he asked, one eyebrow raised. ” To visit Paradise and experience an eat-all-you-can biryani weekend”,said I casually. I may have been consulting him for the monthly grocery list, such was the nonchalance in my demeanor. Now, both eyebrows were raised, his eyes had assumed circular proportions and he had to quickly refer to the calendar. No, it wasn’t 1st of April and indeed I was serious. H broke into a gleeful smile and agreed to the proposition. The prodigal partner (read wife/ erstwhile Ye of unspeakable gastronomic appreciation or the lack there of) had come around. 🙂

P.S.- the Hyderabad trip was a memorable one with its charming historic influence that made eating biryani an even more royal experience.

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