Saturday, October 28, 2017

Serving Erissery To Germans

Erissery on the menu board
I have eased into my role as a cook at the cafe. The owner lets me decide what I want to cook and it's great fun planning a menu. It should be something that's scalable, so there's no point thinking of something elaborate if it can only feed four. Pumpkins and squashes are in season, so a few weeks ago I suggested that we serve Erissery for soup. The customers were told so on the board with a brief description of what the dish was at the bottom. It found tremendous favour - though I had to turn down its peppersome heat a notch with coconut milk after someone said it was too scharf.

After a few weeks of experimenting, I think I've hit the jackpot with roti. The first week I made it, the owner wrote it down as handmade bread on the board. But last week she asked me if the bread I was planning to make was actually chapathi and I told her yes it was. And her eyes lit up and she asked me to spell it out for her. In true South Indian tradition, I added a 'h' to the spelling and that afternoons, the customers asked for 'chapathi'.

Every day, the veggies that are not fit to be sold in the cafe shop, end up being cooked and the menu has to be clever and adaptable enough to accommodate these unsuspecting ingredients. Yesterday, it was the turn of some kind of kale. I had planned to serve dal, chapathi and some curry but what would I do with large ferns of kale? I turned to the lady who usually makes fresh green smoothies to be sold in bottles at the counter and asked her if she could blitz the kale for me. I then asked her to pour the juice into the bowl of waiting atta. I started binding the dough as she poured it gradually and rather bemusedly. The dough's bright green was a sight to behold and proved quite popular with the customers, many of whom complimented me on it.

This is perhaps the most unconventional work I have ever done and each Friday, I am stricken with angst and I wonder why I'm doing this rather than stay at home and watch Netflix instead. I don't really know why I put myself through this experience that leaves me shaking and scared and excited and thrilled, all in the space of seven hours. May be that's why. May be doing something while being shit scared is a good thing. That and the fact that all the kale is good for digestion. 

Nothing By Half

My left calf was cramping. And not long thereafter, my right calf joined in and I tried every trick in the book to take my mind elsewhere. Wasn't it just great that my name had been called out by the DJ on Munich's Marienplatz as he was cheering the runners that had turned out to run the annual Munchen half marathon? Wasn't it great to see so many runners with inspirational quotes on their t-shirts like 'Pain is temporary, glory is permanent'? So pithy and so perfectly annoying. None of it was working though.

All I could think about how painful the whole exercise was and how little I was enjoying it and could I please hurry up and finish the whole thing quickly so I can go home to the pulav and paneer curry that I had made that morning before I set off? Instead, my pace slowed right down and I became the rock on either side of whom runners streamed. And then I did the one thing I never thought I would do - walk. I dragged my uncooperative limbs across one agonising kilometre after the next.

And to make my matters worse, with less than a kilometre to go, my husband called wondering why I wasn't yet in the stadium at the finish time I had expected. I just wanted the whole business done with so I never have to lace up and run a city race ever again. The runners do a lap around the Olympia stadium before the finishing line and I felt none of the famed rush that is supposed to hit the runners once they cross the line. Just blessed relief that I didn't have to run any more.

Yet, there I was, less than two weeks later setting out for a gentle jog on a foggy autumnal morning. I won't be doing any of that stuff again once I have thrown my running shoes away.

I was running to raise funds to replace the asbestos roof at my school in India. If you wish to contribute, you can do so here -

Monday, October 16, 2017

Why now?, asked my mother. Why are you telling me this now? If you had told your father something then, he would have slapped him hard with a slipper, she added holding her palm up as if it were a slipper. I knew this was coming, I had seen it a mile away. I knew this question would be her response when I told her that yes, I too had been sexually assaulted. But the brutal manner in she had tossed it back to me. As if it were my fault all along for not saying much, for keeping quiet, for rolling the words over and over in my mind and each time faltering at the last hurdle. Why are you telling me this now? That question again. Why have you remained quiet for so long? So I told her then that I had not the words for assault of the kind I had endured when I was a child. And when as an adult, I had confessed, there were no slippers that were raised, no anger that was displayed but a mere cowardly silence. And quiet words asking to be left alone. Deal with it yourself, it seemed to say. I will not join your fight. I will not even raise my voice in anger or display disgust, fight your own battle like you have always done. That voice that fights so many other battles, refusing to lend its weight behind mine. I fight alone like I have always done.