Yesterday, I gave a shot at cooking. I had been editing a story for the past three hours, and after trashing a large chunk of it, I needed emotional stability.
I saw my mother standing in the kitchen, stirring dal in the pan. Atop the fridge, her phone played a forgotten Rafi melody. I crawled out of the blanket and went to her.
“Need any help? “I asked.
“Yeah. Crack UPSCE. “She said.
“No, what I meant was do you need any help in the kitchen? “I clarified.
“Oh! You could chop onions. “She said, and hummed along the lyrics. The song reminded me of all her daughter-in-laws, but I didn’t tell her that.
I took the onions with me, came back to the living room, and started peeling them. My eyes smarted and welled up as I pushed the knife through the first piece. Onions should be a metaphor for revenge – make a cut, they’ll make you cry.
“Ask your father to remarry me. “She said, out of nowhere.
“Have you watched some movie recently? “I asked.
“Rinku got a necklace on her marriage anniversary. Your father doesn’t even remember our date. ”
I looked at my father. His expression never changed as he peered through the glasses and killed dreams on paper. He was checking the mock answer sheets, and as it seemed, most of the students didn’t make it to 33.
“Ahmm…maa asked something. ”
He drew another zero on the answer sheet. To be honest, the answer seemed fine to me. I didn’t prod him again, for the sake of his innocent students.
“I remember. “I said, as I flicked through the calendar on my phone.
“12th. “I said. Men aren’t exactly good at remembering dates.
Anyway, after the onions, I diced tomatoes and minced chillies. In fact, I became so handy with the knife I could bisect flies in AIIMS. Something Doctor would love to do.
Isn‘t it weird how your thoughts fly from onions to knives to the place where they are always supposed to be? Rafi was making me nostalgic now.
“Roll rotis. “My mother said. I took the pin and flattened the ball of dough. Then I rolled it to the best of my ability.
“It looks round, don’t you think so? “I asked my mother.
“It looks like the map of Antarctica your father used to hang in our bedroom. ”
It wasn’t that bad, okay. My mother likes to be sarcastic.
“Try another. “She said. I rolled three rotis and my mother compared those to other ugly continents.
She then showed me how to fry onions and tomatoes and chillies. She asked me to observe the colour, and turn off the knob when the onions turn light brown. She then went to call Rinku and discuss the properties of the necklace. The mixture, I swear, never turned light brown. It turned yellow and then feuillemorte and eventually black. In no time, a poisonous smog flooded the kitchen. I clutched the pan at the handle and threw it in the basin. More smoke poured out. My father asked if I was burnt, and I said no but the pan was, and he said that’s fine and went back to molesting answer sheets.
When my mother came back, she flinched in horror. As she recovered, she yelled at me,
“GET THE HELL OUT OF MY KITCHEN! ”
Rafi still sang, but the romance couldn’t pierce through the smog anymore. My mother reminded me of all the times I’ve been a pain in the ass, since I was a six month old. And I listened, regretting the moment I entered the kitchen.
So yeah, cooking stunt was a disaster. But I learnt a lesson – Do not rely on the color of onions. First they hurt you, then they hurt you again.