Looking back, ours wasn’t a textbook romance at all. We did all the wrong things; I mean who slices onions during courtship? Or for that matter carves a chicken for a Chicken à la Kiev?
Nah, this wasn’t about the red roses. This was about the heady aroma that we both succumbed to at the catering college kitchens.
I guess we were meant to be, otherwise we wouldn’t have been content with cabbage foogath and horrid paneer makhanwala taking centre stage.
Dates were limited to ice cream in our days. Looking back, we didn’t do justice to that ice cream parlour, which was for some reason, called Snowfield. Why in the world would you eat ice cream when there’s snow in the field? I guess it got its patrons and among others, us, for that first and last prim and proper ice-cream date.
If I remember right, she was far more involved with her sundae than my conversational trivia. She didn’t camouflage her disinterest either. I did get a few words out, but they were limited to the minuscule portion of nuts garnishing the hot-chocolate-whatever.
I can’t complain. As catering students, we were meant to have a view of everything that faintly resembles food. Learn, comment, see others relish and drool when you feel like screaming. The guest is always right, I was told. This became our raison d’être, our mission statement.
Related reading: You can fix a cricket match, not attraction
The catering college and the industry taught me to swallow my pride. I owe my learning to that college and the limited time I spent as an hotelier. It taught me love, patience, diplomacy, grit and the ability to smile even when you felt like punching the man in front of you!
Yet I had the spark to romance and court a woman who went on to become my wife, my friend and my eternal companion.
No pretence, no judgements, no proclamations, just plain, simple love. I remember attempting to make the simplest of all the desserts we learnt at catering school; the famed Cream of Caramel or the Caramel Custard as it is known. The result was disastrous and resembled a milk shake with curd blended into it.
She watched patiently, looking highly amused at the outcome and eventually set about making it afresh all over again. I knew my cooking days were over by then. I just had the best chef I could ask for. Beautiful and highly deft at this fine art of cookery, and she evidently loved me.
The ice cream wasn’t meant to be, nor were the movies (I still loathe movies unless they are amazingly hilarious or exceedingly comfortable to snore through) and yet we got to know each other, just talking and listening. Often, I listened deep into the silence I was faced with. I kept my ears wide open to hear even the faintest whisper from her. She was shy, I told myself. Much later I realised that this silence was just a signal of careful observation. She was gauging if she wanted this funny man for the rest of her life…
The man who could blend three languages and speak gibberish at a feverish pace or create songs with lyrics that mean absolutely nothing, all to make her burst into laughter day after day. Never a dull moment and every ‘low’ met with positive humour.
As luck would have it, I won. I must been quite an amazing guy then. All 57 kilograms of me, not to forget my Afro hairdo and yellow boots to match. But yes, she fell for all that, though I suspect my sense of humour worked best.
These were probably the best years of my life. Yes, we are much married and in love 30 years later, and yet the days at college remain fond memories that will be cherished.
Life lived with a strange reckless abandon, be it the long drives with Laura Brannigan’s Self Control blaring in the car or the off record dates at home, when we were supposedly in college attending classes that would teach us to slice onions and debone chickens and make them look anorexic.
The nostalgia of those moments of silence when she kept a straight face, while I flirted unabashedly. Life at its simple best.
A life that meant people, and more importantly a life that taught me how insignificant everything beyond true love is. Love for each other and the immense passion for life.
Nothing matters more than life, even today. Trust me.