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Salt [Story]

Posted: December 18, 2014

While juggling multiple roles, don’t forget you are important too.  Make yourself a priority because no one else will with #KhayaalRakhna

Don’t let the pressure to marry come in between you and what you love, says this story about enjoying singledom.

I wanted to leave office early today, but could not. There’s a cookery competition tomorrow, and just so much shopping to do. Why am I worrying? Does anybody care? Would the parents of a fat, twenty-nine year old, unmarried woman, be proud of her culinary skills? If I call my mother and ask for tips, she will say, “wish you were married! You would have learnt so much by now!” Moreover, the contest is ‘for women only’, so there is no chance of meeting even one man!

Finally, I am at the market. Aromas, textures, colours, spices, sauces, gravies, juices, butters, cheeses embolden my entire being. Smoke and flavours spice up my otherwise dull life. I wish I had a good man with me, for it is a beautiful evening. The air feels like one of mom’s soft, moist, cotton saris, and it smells of a past once spent in the comfort of true love. I am so distracted. I don’t need a man, but fresh prawns, honey, chilli, beautiful cutlery, and a calm mind.

Yay! I am up early and will switch to chef-mode, right away. Look! How in the golden light of the morning, my prawns have transformed into pieces of elemental beauty. I wish there were someone to share it with me. Someone who would lovingly say…Gosh! I am diverting again. I must focus and get ready.

Good lord! there are hundreds of women here. And this place smells like a giant’s kitchen. Well, even if I don’t win, I will make some friends at least.

Good lord! there are hundreds of women here. And this place smells like a giant’s kitchen. Well, even if I don’t win, I will make some friends at least. “Hi! I am Rosemary,” I say to a lady on my right. She moans out to a man, instead, “Hubby, the judges will be late, so please take your lunch, and can you please bring me something to eat? I am starving.” He retorts, “don’t act silly. Just have water and finish this stupid competition.”

The lady to my left looks at them and mumbles “so middle-class!” I try to look at her dish, and she makes a face and says, “my husband made it. I don’t like cooking-shooking, but he enjoys it. I want an independent life, you know.”

This woman sitting in front of me seems very familiar. I remember, “If I am correct, are you Naureen, the winner of last year’s contest? Belated congrats!” She replies benignly, “Thank you! however, the entire credit goes to my family. My husband demands new desserts every day, my children are crazy about chicken, and my in-laws love the low-sugar halva I make”. “So, is your lucky family here today to cheer you up?” asks the “independent lady” beside me. “Oh, they are very busy. They like to spend their Sundays with games, friends, television, and whatnot. Why should I disturb them? But I know that they love me a lot.”

 I am not feeling alone anymore.

The judges are coming.

What did they say? Did I hear correct? “Your preparation would have been great if you’d just added salt!” My day is over.

The winner of the contest is a young woman, not much older than me, actually. Right now, we are both waiting for a bus. I wish her, “congrats!” She says “Thank you”, and I continue, “your husband must be very happy!” She laughs at me, “I am not married”. “Sorry,” I say and she responds with a sweet sass, “Don’t be, I am not!”

I feel better: joy, shame, anger, but no guilt or grudge. I just want to go home, add some salt to my prawns, and enjoy them simply by myself.

Note: This story is based on the experiences I had while attending two major cookery contests in Hyderabad in the year 2013.

Pic credit: Image of spilled salt via Shutterstock.


Hi! I am Jhilam, a research scholar, working in literature and culture. Although I enjoy

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