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'Have the full kheer,' dadi said, 'there is more in the kitchen for me'. Was she lying & trying to sacrifice? Love can be expressed so beautifully through food.
Dadi had been there throughout my 26 years of life. Visiting her, spending time with her and relishing her delicious preparations always excited me and gave me comfort.
The first thing that greeted me when I entered the house, was the smell that wafted from sautéing garlic. The green creeper that decorated the door frame was one of my favourite things about the place. I opened the door and entered dadi’s house with a smile on my face. There was something so warm about the place that instantly relaxed me.
Dadi walked towards the dining table, a huge smile plastered on her wrinkly face. She was nursing a cup of her evening ginger tea and sitting at the head of the table, her kaftan flying in the wind from the fan.
There might be hundreds of things going on in my life but one sit-down with her was enough to make me feel better. In the 26 years of my life, dadi had been a constant. And her fierce independence had always inspired me. I looked at her hands, frail and wrinkled, but she embodied an aura of formidability even in her eighties.
“How are you doing Dadi?”
“Old age is definitely catching up on me.”
I shook my head, knowing that even though she called herself old, her spirit was a lot younger than mine. She began to hum an old tune and I smiled, nestling the comfort of her company. Her helper brought me a hot cup of hibiscus green tea and I took small sips, enjoying the silence.
Dadi was my childhood best friend’s grandmother and since I would spend so much time at their house, I developed a strong bond with her. Mahika had packed off to Singapore three years ago and even though I missed her dearly, I found similar comfort with her grandmother. I would drop in, whenever I found the time or would find myself desolate. The marvellous thing about this routine was, I never had to call before I arrived. The door was always open, her mongrel was always on guard– to eagerly welcome me.
“Mahi may be visiting next week.”
A sigh escaped her. I took a minute to look at her lips, tainted with a beautiful shade of lipstick. To the best of my memory, I had never caught her without it.
She might be old, a widow for about two decades now, but dadi always got ready every day. She might be alone in the house, with only her help (and the other neighbourhood help), arriving for an afternoon rest. But I had never seen her without her fine jewellery, her chiffon kaftans or suits and of course her favourite shade of lipstick – red.
“I have been hearing of these plans for a few months now, but your friend always ends up being busy at the last minute.”
“She wouldn’t miss your birthday for the world dadi, you know that.”
Old age and Bollywood films had made her cynical. She was increasingly becoming wary of her place in her family’s lives, even though they had not done anything to foster it.
On the contrary, I knew that uncle and aunty visited her daily for dinner and Mahika was judicious about her weekend video calls. It was a little funny, an Amitabh Bachchan film had made her jovial self. Such a sceptic!
“Leave all of that. I made some kheer, have some.”
I smiled, my excitement akin to a child. Dadi made the most scrumptious food and I was yet to find a cook as talented as her. I hurriedly thanked her for her help as she kept the serving bowl in front of me and offered me an empty bowl to take. I took a small portion of the sweet dish, relishing the smell of the curdled milk and vermicelli.
“You eat the entire thing na.”
“You also have some!”
Dadi shook her head, placing a hand over her mouth.
“It is okay, I am not in the mood. If I want, there is more in the kitchen. I will take it from there.”
Her voice was convincing but I knew that Dadi had the penchant to sacrifice. I went inside the kitchen, ignoring her frantic calls and knew my hunch was correct.
There wasn’t any kheer in the kitchen. I took an empty bowl and went outside, shaking my head. She had a mischievous grin on her face, though she was embarrassed that she had been caught.
I put some kheer for her in the bowl and we relished it with lots of gossip and memories.
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