I am stressed. I feel a big boulder in my chest. My breathing is getting uneven. I can feel pain piercing into my cheeks and temples. Classic symptoms of sinusitis inflammation at display, Lady pay attention to us, they seem to claim. God! I want to scream. I want to go home. I want to take rest. Most of all I worry about that tiny drop of tear threatening to roll down my cheeks. I cannot dismiss it as just-one-drop. That one stupid drop will unleash an avalanche. I have no time for that. Those bloody traitor tears of mine have embarrassed me quite a number of times, giving my emotions away when it would’ve mattered to have exhibited a composed front.
Today I won’t let them bury me in shame. I rest my head on the seat and order my muscles to relax. I close my eyes and feel my spine against the seat. It feels good. I will myself to think about something relaxing. Something like swimming on a full moon night, only that I don’t know swimming. I think about cooking. I’ll make Upma.Not the way Amma makes, but the way her daughter makes.
I imagine myself peeling an onion, cutting it into two neat halves and soaking it in water. Soaking in water takes the burning edge out any fiery onion. It is a minor victory over a silly onion that would’ve made you cry. Ha! Revel mortal revel.
I sieve a cup of Rawa, white and coarse like desert sand. I heat the pan with a little desi-ghee.The ghee is frozen. It will take a little time till it turns in to the golden yellow liquid I love.
Meanwhile I slice the onion evenly into thin pieces. The chilies’, cut into small wheels of fire and crushed ginger bide their time.
In the now golden yellow liquid ghee I fry the Rawa.Mixing slowly and steadily. The practiced constant movements of my wrists make sure that the Rawa is fried evenly. When it turns a light brown I switch off the burner and tell it cool.
I take the Wok and heat Ghee in it. I shake out the bottle of mustard and the tiny black beads fall into my hand like soldiers up for a war. I pop them in the Ghee and watch them splutter. Tripp Troop Thudd .
It is time for onions. I fry the onions till they are soft. I lower the heat to add the chilies’ and crushed ginger. Oh yes the curry leaves; Fresh and clean with the smell of all things beautiful. I drink in the smell of curry leaves.
It’s time for water and salt. I measure two cups of water. I slowly pour the water into the hot wok careful not to burn my hands. I’m not careful, now it is a habit; a habit born out of handling hot woks and cold water innumerable times with unfavorable outcomes. I add salt.” How many teaspoons of salt do I add?” I think out aloud. I decide on two. I taste the water to make sure the taste of salt stands out.
As I wait for the water to bubble and boil I measure out a handful of raisins and cashews. I take out my priced possession, a baby wok. The wok I bought from
market for Rs 20.A
handy little thing when it comes to frying garnishes. I heat a teaspoon of ghee
and wait for it to melt. I put the cashews and raisins in the hot ghee. Stir
them twice, switch off the burner and stir in the heat of the wok. It is the
golden rule that begets you golden brown fried cashews and raisins. I add a few
curry leaves to the now cooling ghee Mysore
The water is boiling; bubbling with ghee and onions. I add the fried Rawa into the water in a circular motion as though I am making Jalebi or Murukku. Perfect concentric circles of Rawa drown in the boiling water. I mix them constantly to avoid the odd lumps of uncooked rawa.The water is soaked by rawa.The anger with which the Rawa is funny. It angrily spurts itself here and there and then quietly resigns to its fate. The spurting fades and Upma thickens.
I mix the Upma once again. I garnish it with fried raisins, cashews and curry leaves.
I sigh; a sigh of contentment. The stress is gone. Well almost. I feel relaxed until the cab driver tells me,” Here we are, at your office. Client visit in the morning eh?”
I smile and drag myself to the dreary office. May be in the lift I’ll imagine making Moru curry.
Actors in the order of their appearance:
Upma: a popular Indian breakfast dish originating in
Ghee: Clarified butter used in Indian cooking
Jalebi: A sweet popular in
and countries of the Indian Subcontinent. Persia
Murukku: A savory snack popular in
Moru: Butter milk
P: S: The ghee is a girl’s calorie night mare. Well then, I was only imagining.