“Once upon a time…” is almost always expected to end with “… and they lived happily ever after!” I grew up with stars in my eyes, hoping to find the ideal man, despite all my mother’s frantic matchmaking efforts to divert my attention into more suitable, but definitely less exciting, avenues. When he finally walked into my library, and much later into my heart, a dashing young Army officer with brown eyes and dimples to die for, I realised that the ‘once upon a time’ period had begun.
Those were idyllic days, the days of courtship, when we saw everything through rose-coloured spectacles, as birds chirped and imaginary violins quavered their romantic tunes. He read a million books to impress me, and I preened in my dusty little library.
Our families had other ideas for us, as they brought other proposals our way, trying to tempt us with bio-datas that beguiled. Maybe those plots worked against them, as we finally made up our minds and decided that we would strive to live happily ever after. And in the twinkling of an eye, we were hooked, booked and cooked!
I, for one, remember nothing of my special day, as everything happened too soon. Kerala weddings are the shortest functions ever; before you can blink and open your eyes, the wedding is over and done with.
My husband was in less of a daze than I was. To date, he remembers the saris of all my friends who attended the wedding. However, when it comes to mine, he has no clue, his excuse being, “Well, it was such an unusual colour… you can’t blame me for not getting it right!”
Related reading: Happily married: A contradiction in terms
As a new bride, I didn’t have to cook for the first fortnight, as people called us over for breakfasts, lunches and dinners… and all the little teas and coffees in between. So there we were, along with three other newlywed couples, shuttling from meal to meal, where we gorged on every kind of delicacy. Love and happiness were in the air, and God was in His heaven.
Till the day when I had to light a gas stove and had no idea how to! I’d never entered the kitchen in my life and here I was, looking desperately at all the different coloured dals that mockingly smiled off the shelves at me. Those days were a true test of love, as I tore my hair out in handfuls. My poor husband ate everything manfully, maybe due to his Army training, and got to see dishes that had never been cooked by anyone before. The pressure cooker burst a couple of times, unable to stand the strain.
The Unit bachelors loved raiding their senior officers at midnight, and their normal routine was to make a beeline towards the refrigerator and clean it out completely – bread, eggs, meat, veggies, chocolates and everything that was edible. However, one morning, they landed up for breakfast.
“Ma’am, today we want to taste your haath ka khana!” Ignoring my dismayed expression, they sat down at the dining table, a gang of spirited youngsters who genuinely wanted to have a good meal.
There were no eggs and bread as the refrigerator had been cleaned out the night before by them. Upma seemed the best solution… if solution was the right word, for what I produced was more of a gooey paste that stuck on to the spoon as though its life depended on it.
Sheepishly, I set the gooey mess on the dining table as five pairs of eyes looked at it in shock. However, they were too well-mannered to say anything. They dug in manfully, as I waited in trepidation. Five minutes went by, and then ten!
the silence continued, and continued… till I realised that the upma had caused their teeth to stick together, leaving them unable to say a single word. I never lived that down, ever!
Our sahayak realised that the dals were Latin and Greek to me, and took it upon himself to educate me by putting little labels on them. So masoor dal turned into Mysore dal and arhar acquired a religious tinge as he dubbed it ‘har har’ dal. When I tried to articulate the latter, I wondered why folks around me went ‘ha ha’ at my ‘har har’!
Related reading: Men who cook