Catastrophic cooking

‘Good morning and heartiest congratulations Aheli !‘ my day started with a wake up call from my close friend Simi.

‘Ahh… oh….thanks Simi,’ those were the only words I could reply.Mornings especially on weekends start late for me.I was struggling to open my eyes and mind.

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‘I had seen your WhatsApp ping about your marriage.But with an office deadline hanging over my head last week,I could not ping you back. Sorry dear,’ Simi was justifying herself.

I wish I could tell her ,’You should apologise for waking me up at 6:30am on a weekend morning.’

However I said,‘It’s okay Simi.Not a big deal.’

’Wow ! You are getting married soon ! How does your future husband look like? Where does he work?’ her excitement was back all of a sudden.

’You are the first one in our group who is getting married .I am so excited Aheli.I can’t wait to dance in your wedding.Have you already decided the wedding saree and jewellery ? What about the make up ?’ she continued.I guess Simi was in mood to destroy my happy hours of sleep.

I couldn’t answer her anything. To be honest ,I didn’t think about these details.My mind was pre-occupied with something else ever since my wedding date was fixed. The word MARRIAGE always provoked another dreadful word in my mind. It was COOKING .I didn’t like to cook.I wasn’t tensed about anything else more than the thought of imagining me in a kitchen.

Catastrophic cookingI had seen my mother spending half of her life in kitchen.She also had a career at the same time.Though she tried to give her best in both the fields, but things could have been better for her had she opted to delegate the cooking part to someone.I certainly didn’t want to be in a similar situation.

I excelled in preparing Maggi in an electric kettle(thanks to my years  in hostel).But I assume this was not a talent worth mentioning about a bride-to-be.

‘Are you there?’ Simi brought me back to reality.

‘Yeah, so you are coming to the wedding,right?No excuses please,’I replied.

‘Of course, how on earth can I miss your wedding?Remember the days when we used to laugh at the thought of some prince charming coming into our lives. At least you found your Mr. Right ,’ she breathed out heavily.I understood where she was coming from.Simi’s parents were trying hard to find a suitable match for their daughter.

‘Cool ,then please save the date.The wedding is on 24th February.Exactly three months from today,I have already messaged you the other day,’I reminded her.

‘Sure dear, I need to go for jogging now. I will call you some time later,’

‘Bye,’ I hung up.It was 7 am ,a bright Saturday morning.I had weekly offs on Saturdays and Sundays.However I failed to sleep further.Finally it appeared best to leave bed and go to canteen for some breakfast.

Meanwhile I reach canteen ,let me introduce myself.My name is Aheli Sen.I am born and raised in Ranchi, Jharkhand.A Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science helped me to secure a job in an IT firm in Kolkata.At present I live as a paying guest in the city.

My parents think this is not an ideal way to lead life.So they have decided to zero in on a potential groom from Ranchi to marry me off. It meant overcoming a big responsibility for them and declaring a full stop to my happy-go-lucky nature.

The wedding is just three months away.Everyone who knows about the wedding is excited. Whereas I had no idea what my life was going to be like after the wedding.I am an average looking ,untraditional and a lazy girl who thinks of every possible excuse to escape from domestic responsibilities.I wonder how the guy accepted the marriage proposal at first hand.

‘What’s there for breakfast today?’ I asked the canteen staff.

‘Dosa and sambhar,’ he replied in a monotonous tone.

I already knew how the food is going to taste.Nevertheless,I took my breakfast and ordered for a cup of tea.

While the staff was serving me tea,I could not resist the urge of asking him,‘Do you mind me telling the recipe of Dosa and sambhar?’

He could only reply,’Huh….. Madam !’

Can anyone tell me the secret of a successful marriage when the woman doesn’t know to cook at all?

                                                                       ~THE BEGINNING~

It had been almost a month Gaurav and me shifted to a new apartment in Kolkata after our wedding. Gaurav was my newly wedded husband who exercised a lot of patience.Within these few weeks, he understood that I was a moody ,lazy and an impatient person. He realised that I was also a horrible cook.On the contrary, he was slightly better cook than me and an avid food lover.Still he would depend on me for cooking and ate whatever blunt dish I offered him without any complaints. I felt Gaurav didn’t want to lose hope on me so soon.

‘What do we have for breakfast today?’ asked Gaurav with a big yawn.

‘Milk and cornflakes’, I declared.

My breakfast choice was normally limited to noodles or cereals.Dinners comprised of either boiled rice with smashed potatoes or brown bread with fried potatoes. We had lunch in our respective office canteens (to both our respite).Cooking didn’t seem to be my forte at all. Gaurav took the initiative of preparing meals sometimes .

Youtube tutorials and Google’s recipe links couldn’t help me from making a terrible dish every time.At one point,I had suggested Gaurav to hire a cook. But Gaurav was not comfortable with the idea.He was concerned about the hygiene standards the cook would follow.

                                                                       ~LUNCH INVITE~

‘Why don’t we have some fun this weekend Aheli?’ Gaurav suggested me on a Wednesday morning.I was getting late for office.Having fun was the last thing that came to my mind.

‘Gaurav,I am not going anywhere this weekend.It is going to be a hectic week for me at office. All I want is to chill at home,’ I grumbled.

‘Cool .Then we can call our close friends at home this Saturday and enjoy,’ came Gaurav’s prompt response.

It was true that we didn’t invite anyone in our new abode so far. So I thought calling some friends at home would be a nice idea.

I replied at once,’Great ! Then let’s invite them for lunch this Saturday.’

Catastrophic cooking‘Goes well with me too,’ Gaurav confirmed.

In a Bengali household , breakfast, lunch and dinner- each of them is at least a three course meal affair. And if there are guests coming in ,then we always try our best in filling their stomach to our heart’s content.Naturally, my continuous unsuccessful effort in cooking couldn’t stop me from deciding an elaborate menu for Saturday’s lunch.

                                                                        

                                                                        

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‘Gaurav ,wake up.It is 9 am.You need to go to the market.Everyone will be here by 1 pm,’ I tried to wake up Gaurav on Saturday morning.

‘I know.Don’t worry at all.I will buy everything within time.Can you please bring me a cup of tea first?’ Gaurav assured me still lying in bed.

I had invited Tara , Arunima and Vishal, my friends from college days. Gaurav called Samar and Rajnish, his office colleagues.We had hardly found time in the entire week to shop any groceries for the impending lunch invite on Saturday.The whole task was left to be done on Saturday morning.

Initially the lunch invite didn’t concern me much.I thought to start cooking early on Saturday.My past experiences would help me not to repeat the same mistakes thus helping me to cook food a little bit better.I could also take help from Gaurav whenever required.But as we woke up late and found a significant amount of time had passed, my whole strategy went for a toss.I was feeling anxious.

                                                                         ********

‘Hey look I am done with the purchasing. I told you there’s nothing to worry,’ Gaurav  announced and smiled on doorstep.I guess he thought he would receive a gold medal for this.I looked at the time. It was 11:30 am.I had planned to prepare fried rice, dal, pakodas, fish curry, chicken and dessert. 

‘Gaurav ,you should have come back home a little early. I hope I can prepare everything before they arrive,’I expressed my fear.

‘Don’t worry. I am there to help you Tell me where I should begin from,’ he was trying his best to calm me down. But I wasn’t much convinced.

‘I think we should cut all the required vegetables at first.Then we can start cooking.It will help us in saving time,’ Gaurav shared his master plan.

‘In my opinion, we should cut and cook at the same time,’I argued.

It is only 11:30 am.We have plenty of time in our hands.Moreover our friends are not so punctual.They will not show up before 2pm.Just take my words,’ Gaurav was reassuring me once again. Sometimes I can’t help but admire his way of justifying a weirdest logic.

‘Ok.I trust you,’ I surrendered.

It took us more than an hour to chop the vegetables and grind masalas before cooking.When I just started preparing dal,the doorbell rang.

‘Hi Aheli !’ Tara embraced me standing on the doorstep with a big packet in her hand. I realised the time was 1:10 pm.

‘We hope the lunch is ready. Felling damn hungry,’ I heard two more familiar voices coming from downstairs .Vishal and Arunima were climbing the stairs in hurry, probably out of hunger.

‘Please come in.I have been waiting for you,’ I replied and prayed silently to get an hour more for preparations.

‘Hold this packet. Let us see your place first. Where is Gaurav?’ Tara enquired.

Gaurav ,in his T-shirt and boxer, was busy in kitchen with the chicken. I mean he was marinating the chicken.

Catastrophic cookingTara and Arunima discovered him.They couldn’t resist themselves from bursting out in laughter.

‘What are you up to Gaurav? I guess Aheli has already become a hard task master,’ Arumina commented.

‘That is why I can’t see myself getting married in near future,’ Vishal joined.

Gaurav kept a smile on his face and a raw chicken leg piece in his hand. It was the best response he could imagine of at that moment.

The doorbell rang one more time.This time Gaurav grabbed the opportunity and rushed towards the door.Samar and Rajnish had arrived.

I heard Samar telling Gaurav right after entering the room ,’Smelling chicken ! What are other items in the menu?’

It was almost 1:30 pm then.I had a feeling that the lunch was going to be a disaster.We had cooked only dal till then.I dropped the idea of fried rice and settled for plain rice instead.There was no time left for pakodas and fish curry(I had planned to cook these items after checking recipes in internet).My brain rattled about the dessert.

All of a sudden my attention went towards the packet given by Tara.I opened it in no time.My intuition was right. The packet consisted of ten rasgullas.

So that was it. The only items left to be cooked were chicken and rice. I had never tried my hand on chicken till date. I had to depend on Gaurav. But where was he?

‘The India vs. Australia match is about to begin within fifteen minutes.Someone put the TV on,’ I overheard Rajnish.

In next fifteen minutes ,another match started in kitchen between Gaurav and me.

‘Nobody was about to turn up before 2 pm, right?’I imitated Gaurav.

‘No big deal.You prepare the fish curry. I will take care of the kitchen….err….chicken.’

‘I have opted out of fish curry.See the time.People are hungry.We can’t make them wait too long.’ I was not ready in listening to his optimistic words this time.

‘Okay. I am putting the chicken on the gas.You just keep an eye on it,’ Gaurav seemed to give up for the first time.

Chicken was on the gas ,rice was boiling in the rice cooker.The rest of us were sitting in the living room enjoying soft drinks. All eyes including mine lied on the India vs. Australia cricket match. I pondered about the interest guys always showed in cricket matches. Girls were only checking out Virat Kohli.

Catastrophic cookingIt was 2:15 pm . Suddenly a smell hit everyone.Where was it coming from?Gaurav and me  looked into each other’s eyes. It was not romance , it was the chicken.

Oh my God! I had completely forgotten about the chicken.

I hurried towards kitchen. There were burnt pieces of the helpless chicken in the frying pan.I stood there frozen.

‘What are we going to do now Gaurav?’ tears rolled down from my eyes.

‘Don’t worry. We have still some time left in our hands. Why don’t you try to make the fish curry?’Gaurav responded. This guy was seriously giving me inferiority complex. How could he be so cool about the whole thing?

Our friends understood the situation.

‘We should have helped you.Very sorry,’ Tara was consoling me.

‘Can I order anything from the restaurant,’ Vishal extended his best helping hand.

‘Please give me few more minutes.I am really sorry for delaying your lunch,’I wanted to give my last and best effort of the day.

                                                                             ********

It was 3:00 pm.

Everyone sat in the dining table to have lunch finally.I had downloaded the fish curry recipe from internet and prepared the dish by some means. Tara and Arunima also helped me.My initial elaborate menu of six course meal came down drastically to plain rice,dal,fish curry and rasgullas(thanks to Tara).

Catastrophic cookingI lied down after everyone left at the end of the day.I was feeling really tired.It was hard for me to believe that attending guests at home for a simple get together could be such an exhausting task.

How did my mother manage for all these years?

‘Aheli ,I think we should have ordered food from outside.This would have saved us a lot of trouble,’ Gaurav pointed out our mistake.

‘There is no point in crying over spilled milk,’ I retorted. It had been an overwhelming day for me.I didn’t want to discuss it.

After Saturday’s fiasco,I understood it was high time for me to either take cooking seriously or hire a cook.Hygiene or no hygiene-I thought both of us would be grateful if we had edible food in kitchen.I had to learn the lesson in a hard way.

                                                                              ********

The next day, Gaurav booked a table in a nearby restaurant for lunch.I had no reason to deny the plan.

My phone rang when we were about to leave the house.

‘Good morning Aheli,’ it was Simi on the other end.

‘Hey Simi ,Good Morning.’

‘I pinged you in WhatsApp yesterday.Where were you?You didn’t even check my ping,’she complained.

‘Sorry Simi ,I was busy yesterday,’ I didn’t check my phone since yesterday.

‘Enjoying married life to the fullest ,huh?’ I could speculate she was grinning.

‘Nothing like that.I will share with you some other time.How are you?’ I wanted to change the topic.

‘I called you to give a news.’

‘What is it?’ I had a hunch about her early morning news.

‘I am getting married.The boy,I mean Sanjay Mehta, is the son of my father’s friend in Delhi.The boy’s side initiated the proposal at first.Sanjay works in Mumbai.My parents have agreed to the proposal.I will also request for a transfer to Mumbai in my office.We haven’t fixed the date yet.’

‘Wow Simi ! That is a real great news. Are you happy?’ I felt Sunday had made a good start for me.

‘Yeah I am happy. But I wanted to ask you about something.’

‘Sure , what is it?’I thought she might be asking me the number of a designer or a beautician.

‘I have heard Sanjay is a food lover.He loves to eat and you know me.I can’t even boil water properly.I don’t know how I am going to manage things after marriage.My mother is constantly after me to learn cooking now.But I hate to cook.That’s why I thought of asking how you manage it,’Simi sounded very much familiar to a girl I knew four and a half months earlier.

‘Don’t worry dear.You will learn to manage things on your own,’ I sighed and smiled.

‘Really?’she was still in doubt.

‘Yeah really.Trust me.’

I was smiling widely even after Simi hung up the call.

Gaurav came to call me.We were getting late for lunch.

My smiling face made him to ask,’What is the matter? Why are you smiling?’

‘Nothing.It is a long story.I will tell you later.Let’s go now,’ that is all I could manage to answer him.

I thought it was wise to keep quiet  at that moment. After all , action is louder than words.

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