It was mostly like this for Tanu. The day would commence with a dull headache, sneezing, blocked nose and a lingering boredom stemming out of repetitive household chores.Somedays would even begin with an inexplicable fear, a foreboding feeling. Something terrible is on the way to spoil a whole day.
Things can never be different. They never can be with the limited income followed by a lackluster pattern of life resulting from the fixity of funds available. Mobility and change are luxuries affordable to the affluent. The rich can talk about boredom, the need for a change and the stupidity of a mundane life. To someone compelled to manage life with meager allowances the scenario is altogether different. Time is practically divided into duty bound sections from which extracting even a few moments becomes impossible.Tanu has this habit of philosiphising,so as to justify the dullness in her daily life. Sometimes thoughts are propelled into her being with so much vigor that she is automatically catapulted from her surroundings to imaginary spaces.
A hot cup of morning tea with hot news seems a soothing combination to expel the shadows of depressive thoughts.Tanu enters the kitchen. A neat clean sparkling kitchen, for her, is always welcome. The tea prepared is then poured into an attractive coffee mug which has good morning inscribed on its surface. “Such trendy utensils give me a high. A feeling of well being, an ordinary tea cup can never offer”.Tanu reflects. Even the smell and freshness of newspaper in her hand recharges her vital energies. She slowly sips her tea and goes through the news headings. She is no more dull, but relaxed and energized to reenter the kitchen ready to prepare a delicious breakfast for her family.
Out comes the pressure cooker.Tanu peeps into it. Inside is slightly grey.A piece of lemon peel should be thrown in to regain the pristine whiteness. She pours water, adds lemon peel, ignites the gas stove and places the cooker on top. Pours the batter in greased Idli trays and places them in the cooker. Then she slowly closes the cooker. She hates idlis but they are dear to her family whose palatal preferences often douse the sparks of her culinary skills. Whenever she finds cooking boring she unbridles her ability to abscond from anywhere, anytime flying on dream machines to exotic destinations. A genetic mobility trigger she calls it. But how can one leave the kitchen stranded and disappear all of a sudden? Tanu is an expert in this vanishing act. She can cook and mentally dwell somewhere else, all at the same time. She thoroughly enjoys such imaginary excursions “.
“Oh, God, she is such an absentminded cook.” Her family is often heard to complaint.Tanu simply smiles.
Steaming idlis and spicy chutney is ready.Tanu now has a compelling desire to go back to Haruki Murakami’s “After dark”. The rest of the family treats it as her irritating excessive involvement with letters. Dishes don’t appear on the dining table on their own. The process of transformation from vegetables and spices into something edible has to be performed with a pair of hands. Preferably female.
What can Tanu say?
In her words her journeys through the literary landscapes keep her balanced. Post lunch time is precious for Tanu.Drifting on waves of sleep and wakefulness she traverses the vast literary ocean. She eagerly gulps down the feast offered by the nearby library.Tanu is often dazed with amazement at the skill of writers, the myriad ways in which people,emotions,places and lifestyles are depicted, how the ordinary is touched by the magic wand of enigmatic words imparting an enchanting exclusivity to them. For others Tanu is addicted to foolish fictions.
Tanu curbs her desires and enters the kitchen to create lunch. The word create sprinkles an interest in the art of cooking. She lures her wandering mind by the vibrant colors in her vegetable tray. Lavender of onions, shocking red of capsicum and tomatoes, leafy greens, and the yellow turmeric all fill her with excitement.Oh! Cooking is actually akin to painting. A blend of bewitching hues. Every dish is an art form. Colors add grandeur to your dishes. She cuts beetroot into small thin pieces. The tips of her long slender fingers are colored crimson. The blush spreads across her shining cheeks. She smiles…a happy and relaxed smile.
Now Tanu is in a playful mood. She takes out potatoes, carrots, cabbage, onions and tomatoes. She remembers the cookery show she watched on television the other day. All of a sudden she decides to use those ornate words spoken by the woman on the show. Tanu is almost transformed to the television stage. Let me put these tomatoes in boiled water for a minute to remove their skin. I should have said “blanched”. Blanching sounds very chick. Next the potatoes are diced, carrots cubed, onions julienned and the cabbage shredded. Using those words in kitchen gives her feeling of self confidence, convinces her that time spent on cooking is not entirely futile.
Actually her genuine interest and eagerness for using fashionable words (that is how she talks about them) in kitchen had opened a door to the realm of the profundity of language.
“Just like every other aspect of life which has an ordinary rustic appeal and a sophisticated grand appeal, the language used can also be categorized as simple, ordinary and grand. When you start using such sophisticated language in your daily life, your days begin to exude a charm.”Tanu professed when she was ridiculed for using such pretentious terminologies and then coming up with “ordinary dishes”.
“Instead why don’t you use ordinary words and cook exotic dishes for us?’ was her family’s question.
Tanu can never be perturbed by their discouraging comments. She has started enjoying the beauty of language.
Tanu has no qualms about preparing evening snacks. They always turn out to be delicious and spicy. In her own words in the evenings she is brimming with an anticipatory exaltation at the thought of her impending interactions with the verdant vistas. Looking at them is not just soothing but meditative too.
The family explanation is something like this. “Tanu feels happy about her evening walks.”
One should find time to enjoy their surroundings was Tanu’s reply.
In spite of all this Tanu finds it difficult to face the approaching darkness. “My anxieties about darkness emerge to cloak my spirits in a shroud of depression” is Tanu’s complaint.
Ah! She is always slightly disturbed at dusks.
Twilight depressions should not pose any threat to dinner. So for once, the family is genuinely concerned with Tanu’s strange fears.
They play gazals to lift her moods. Thus dinner is prepared with her favorite gazals playing in the background.
Conversations at dinner table invariably end in criticizing Tanu for her bizarre preferences and attitudes. The strange methods adopted by an ordinary house wife to sprinkle interest in cooking for her family is in no way acceptable to them.
“Oh, shouldn’t you feel proud of your efficiency in running a home?
“On the contrary I find the kitchen driving me away from my home. The underlying compulsion leaves me crazy.” Tanu ponders.
However she doesn’t want them to sense her boredom. So she says “You are all born with a genome that expresses in a stable and orderly way. Such balanced genomes are essential to maintain a balanced society. (She purposely uses orderly instead of ordinary to spare an embarrassment).Well, unfortunately mine has an inbuilt bohemian streak. But aren’t we all helplessly entangled in those double helices for an entire life time?
Oh, God! Now what does that mean?
Just a bit of genetics, was talking about human genes.
While the family exchange bewildered looks Tanu says “Now stop staring at each other and finish your dinner. Let me clear the table and go to bed. A woman’s days are hectic .Aren’t they?
“We must see to it that she doesn’t get totally lost in those science fictions “was the family decision.