The pan flew in rage, banged the ceiling and flattened on the floor. Small bits of egg white and yolk flew across the kitchen and created a symmetrical design on the walls. Varun looked the mess and sighed, he wished he would close his eyes and everything would return back to normal. Had it been yesterday he had spent three hours cleaning just the kitchen? And today again, he had no patience!

Living alone was fun, but cooking definitely was a nightmare. How did it sound so easy when they showed it on TV – “Just add some onions, a pinch of salt and let it simmer…” and boom, the dish was ready to relish as if having cooked itself. The show hosts chatted more than moving their fingers – and projected that cooking was the easiest art to master. But he sure was missing home now, and more so, his mum!

He had braved hostel life when he was eighteen, but the food was served in a platter there, even though it had been hard to gulp it down. After college, he had had a good placement – the first thing he did was to get his own house and set up a life – one very different from his hostel or from his parent’s home two thousand kilometers away! He had wanted a “free home” where he could be himself – wake up whenever, sleep whenever, watch tv all day, not bother a shower or change of clothes – devil may care! He had put in a lot of efforts to setup this new home – he had purchased a flat screen tv, some great speakers, a nice fridge to store lots of beer and ready to eat stuff, a huge mattress and some utensils.

The first week had been great – he had collected all phone numbers for food delivery. Mostly, he had ordered pizza and had beer. The TV had showed ftv all day and he was glued. But slowly, as cash ran out, he switched to tandoori chicken and beer, the channel changed to mtv and loud singing. Further, he switched to mini meals, and the tv showed star movies. When he couldn’t bear the taste of the food nor the expense, some beer stock in the fridge was replaced by eggs, bread, mayonnaise and cheese and the tv showed a cookery show!

Eggs had been the easiest to cook, a matter of 2 minutes – easier than maggi  noodles  which he had been eating in a routine.  He decided to go easy on the beer , his tummy had been signaling him for some time now. He decided to follow a regiment from Monday – woke up early, went for a jog, came back and had some juice, took a shower and toasted some bread from breakfast. He was ready to cook the eggs now – he had watched enough cookery shows and how they tossed the omlettes. And then the disaster occurred. He quietly ate the bread and shut the kitchen door.

Smoke had filled the house and was consuming him. He opened all windows and doors and went out of his apartment door. Till now, he had not explored beyond his house. He climbed the stairs and reached the terrace. It was a beautiful morning. His terrace had a small amphitheatre to sit and relax.

“Oh maa….” He heard a voice from behind. A lady in a yellow sari stood there, holding a pile of clothes and a hand on her back. “Let me help you.” He held the pile of clothes from her. She smiled. The lady must have been in her thirties, wearing a small red bindi on her forehead, hair tied in a bun and a small line of kohl in her eyes. She had a quiet calmness on her face and an angelic glow which he couldn’t decipher on the sunlight. “Thank you.” She said with a sweet smile.

“My back has been hurting since a few days. I live just downstairs, apartment 412.” “Great, I am in 414, just moved in last week. Let me carry these for you.”  He kept the pile of clothes on her sofa – it was a neatly decorated living room, not cluttered with heavy furniture. He noticed a number of paintings on the wall. “Yes, I paint sometimes. Haven’t been able to give it up.” “Wow, you are actually good.” He started at the oil painting with the small pond and lotus, the colours stood out brilliantly. There was another one of Ganesha done in gold and black and it shone, even in darkness. "My name is Aparna. I stay here with my husband." "Mine is Varun, I have never lived alone, so just trying to be civil. If you hear loud music, just knock my door."

“Oh, today is Lakshmi puja. I made some kheer and aloo puri. Would you like some?” His heart screamed “are you kidding me!” at the top of his lungs. “Sure.” It was too tempting to wait till he got home but obviously he could not hog in front of this kind lady. He took it in his hands and slowly walked out of the door. As soon as the door closed, he sprinted to his house, and not even bothering to find a spoon, started gobbling the food with his hands. It was delicious! Reminded him so much of his mum, maybe it was better than what he had eaten at home. It was god’s answer to his prayers and most of all – his inability to exist in the kitchen!

The loud doorbell surprised him. Wiping drops of kheer from his mouth and his stubble, he opened the door. “I had forgotten to put almonds in the kheer so brought you some. Put them in before you eat, it brings out a great taste.” Her smile widened when she noticed the empty bowls behind him. “Would you like some more for lunch?” And they both laughed.

Everyday, when he returned from office, he found a tiffin by the side of his door. And he so looked forward to it, that he refused a dinner with colleagues and friends. The food had been heavenly – nothing like he had ever eaten before. He was mesmerized with the aloo bhaji and pooris and kheer, till he got the raving biryanis and the delicious mutton curry. He could swear that he was her fan!

But each day, he felt like a burden growing upon him. He thought about the lady – who slaved all day and still made extra food for him everyday. Every morning, he rang the doorbell to return the tiffin and thanked her with all his heart. He could not make himself offer money for it, it was too awkward. Nor could he be like the nextdoor lady, offering some great meals in return.

Often, when he reached home early, they sat down and had tea. “You should paint more. You have a great talent.” “Thank you, but there’s hardly any time left after all the household work, and now I have a back problem.” “Don’t find reasons, you just have to make it work. Get up, go get your brushes this instant. From now on, everyday you will paint from 4 to 6. If you need a danda – I will give you one!”

Every evening, they sat in the amphitheatre and she painted. He even brought a new pack of oil paints for her. “Gosh, you are so creative. Have you tried to approach an art gallery for a show?” “No silly, my paintings are very average. Who would want to see them?” “I am telling you, I am no connoisseur, but I can tell. Why don’t you try atleast.”

“Come to my house for dinner tonight with your husband.” She smiled “allright, he has been eager to meet you as well. The boy who banged his pan at the ceiling.” “You didn’t tell him that, did you?” “You bet!”

The night after the pizza party, apartment 412 had a visitor from Glances Art Gallery. He was impressed and appreciated Aparna’s work. They signed a deal that very day for an upcoming art show. The husband was overjoyed. And Aparna, who had never thought beyond her house and household work, finally found her niche. From that day, the tiffin stopped coming to Varun’s house. Instead, he joined his newfound friends for dinner at their dining table. Maybe, the regiment and family he wanted to break away from had found it’s way to his heart. He had found a reason to come home everyday at an earthly hour. The beer and ftv were still there, but they could wait till late night – couldn’t they?


03/08/2011 8:59pm

Elaboration - on request :)

Lemme start off being all nice :) ...... bang-on with the attention to details with the "lady in a yellow sari" , "small red bindi on her forehead, "hair tied in a bun" - all this, considering the fact that she's in her thirties. "COOKIE POINTS" :)

And what I meant when I said "it could've been a lil' sharper" was with reference to a few teeny weeny things ....like "easier than maggi noodles" could have been "easier than maggi" minus the noodles ....As a reader , I'd probably go "Heck, I do know maggi is a noodle brand" ;).

"Wiping drops of kheer from his mouth and his stubble" could have been "Wiping drops of kheer off his mouth and his stubble" ...."Varun looked the mess and sighed" should have been "Varun looked at the mess and sighed" (Bet that was unintentional) :).... "return back to normal" could just have been "return to normal".

No grammer trip this :).

The whole episode could've been a few lines shorter which would inturn make for an amazing read. It still is :).

I guess I should stop now ... being over-critical has never done me any good :). All said and done, I'll be back to read more for sure :). Cosmopolitan curry/Food for thought ... yummy :).

03/08/2011 9:16pm

wow...such elaborate criticism...i love :)

i get your perception and will work on it....do keep reading :)

03/08/2011 9:37pm

im one of these ;o)

Nice one there again.. Story line was strong as urs normally are.. But somehow i felt the lack of depth.. im no big writer.. So im not able to point out what exactly it is..

may be becos i have a cook and i dont have that cooking problem.. and so my fridge is still stocked up with beer and varieties of white rum.. ;o)) i still eat pizzas.. but im a little overgrown for ftv though.. ;o))

nice work.. keep writing ;o)

03/08/2011 9:40pm

I would say this is one of your best stories so far..and different from the ones before :-)

I liked the way you narrated everything in detail..please write more such good stories..

03/09/2011 2:32am

thanks guys...i think all guys who live alone start with ftv and beer...then they graduate...is what i know ;)

i will focus on the depth part....keep reading :)

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