She heard the creak of the front door. Squeaks of wet shoes approached her. In a hurry, she stuffed the book she was reading under the stove and jumped down the slab where she had been sitting in the kitchen. It was the irritating and nosy cousin.
‘What are you doing?’ he asked.
‘Cooking.’ She answered, taking steps to stand in front of the stove.
‘I didn’t know you could cook.’ He said, peering over her shoulders and trying to look into the pan.
‘Of course I can. And at that cook beautifully.’ She retorted, cursing him for being a know-it-all and calling him something along the lines of being judgmental. She wasn’t very quaint at the name-calling.
He peered into the non-stick pan, which was simmering at low-heat on the Pigeon stove. There was tanginess in the aroma, which greeted him, blended with the spiciness of green which he could see spread on the layer of red sauce. There were chopped onions and green peppers. The distinct flavors waiting to be mixed or waiting their turn on bowls kept by the stove. He was impressed. She seemed a clean, organized and unless his senses were betraying him, a good cook.
‘This looks edible, Masterchef,’ He commented. He took out a spoon and pretended to taste the incomplete sauce, ‘Well, it does need salt.’
‘Oh, that I am yet to add the masalas.’ She added salt and stirred the pan, going about the motions of completing a perfect recipe.
‘Did you know, a Mexican restaurant has opened up in the locality? I was thinking of checking it out.’ He said, helping her out with the cleaning process and putting up some water on the stove for the chai.
‘Acha. But I prefer cooking the stuff and making it at home. I think it is healthier and the process of cooking gives me satisfaction.’ She, then, went on about vibrancy of colours, rawness of meat, organic food and all.
He was impressed again! A year away from home had really changed. She was embracing her individualism. How he figured that out, he didn’t know.
‘Call me over, whenever you are on one of those experiments. I would like to help,’ he said as they settled into the chairs with cups of tea and bakery biscuits.
‘Sure,’ she said in a modest manner of a chef who did not have any notions about impressing – who cooked to relieve stress.
The front door opened again and this time a pair of louder shoes approached them. The thap-thap, making it clear that it was probably the mother.
‘Is the sauce done, Sheetal?’ she yelled halfway, from the living room.
‘Yes, Maa,’ she bellowed back.
The mother entered the kitchen and checked the sauce.
‘Perfecto!’ she said after tasting it.
‘Sheetal seems to be on her way to becoming a good chef, Auntyji,’ He commented.
‘I have it in my genes. From childhood,’ Sheetal chipped in, all modesty thrown away – hoping and praying her mom would not burst the bubble.
‘Childhood, did you say beta?’ her mother said. ‘Sure, beta. Let me tell you a tale illustrating her genius-ness.’
‘Once upon a time when Sheetal was a kid, she decided to help me out by taking her morning milk before her school herself. So, she was done boiling and mixing the Horlicks powder by the time I was done, waking up her siblings. Her glass was on the dining table while she looked for biscuits in the cabinet. I was impressed. I thought, let me take a glass and cool her milk so that she’s all done and ready for school. I pick up the glass and look in. The yellow color some how looks misplaced and guess what! It isn’t Horlicks she has used with her milk. It’s besan.’ She continued as if telling a serious anecdote.
‘What!’ He was torn between laughter and being incredulous.
‘Mum, I was a kid.’ Sheetal protested – so much for a mother.
‘You were fourteen,’ the mother said with indignation – producing the book Sheetal had been reading, ‘This is in your genes – The man with the two left feet.’
A/N – Looking forward to your thoughts 🙂