Have a Break, Have a Chit Chat

RECIPE 1 - INTERVAL

On a late Saturday afternoon, the four friends put their long-standing plan into action and assembled near the metro station.  After the initial hugs, kisses and the ‘catching up’ a certain sense of uncertainty crept in. The reason – ‘What is the plan for the evening?’

One of them said, “There is a place that sells nice sandwiches. Let us go there and then we shall think it through!” Each of them grabbed themselves a plate and gobbled up whatever was served. The food was indeed appetizing – but more than that little wedge-shaped fries, the toasted bread and the sauce acted as mind cleansers for the evening ahead.

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Chappals – jewelry – stationary – decors. That was the order all agreed upon. The next hour they did what they know best – they moved in from one store to the other; saw much; selected few; and purchased even fewer. Fewer still meant that each had a bag to carry with themselves. Chappals and jewelry ticked off – the next, stationary.  As they were about to move, one of them confessed, “This stationary after jewelry is exhausting. Can we pause for a bit?” The rest sighed, she spoke everyone’s mind.

But pause – what would that be? Immediately as the question started to linger, one of them ordered, “Bhaiyya, one plate for me. Sweet and spice mix.” The other followed suite. Each of them held out their hand and waited patiently for their turn on paani puri to appear.  The more the number of puris drowned into their mouth, the more the pause - the more the relief - the more the readiness. It was a strange algebraic equation that oriented their senses for the next phase of action.

The stationary followed by the décor was accomplished without any further intermediate halts. But in the middle of the décor hunt, one of them spoke anxiously, “These are so repetitive, I am not liking it here. Shall we go to that House Store?

But that is far from here isn’t it? And a bit close for an auto?” enquired the other.  “So what, we can walk!” affirmed one as the other exclaimed, “Walk! Really?

But covering the distance needed motivation, encouragement, and engagement. And just the four of them was enough to meet the requirements. So, they picked up companions on the way – a plate of steamed momos and a cup of steamed corn; set out to joyously walking to conquer their destination.

RECIPE 2 – KURUM KUDUM

The three of them shifted awkwardly in the seats they had found themselves in the living room, seated in their friend’s house. Sitting opposite to them was their friend’s mom and dad. Much had been heard about them before, but this was their first meeting. Their friend was not yet back and the entire room was filled with monosyllable answers, head nods and half smiles and blank stares at each other.

The father made a move. He held out a bowl, filled with Murukku and shook it front of each – a que for each to take one. Each picked up one and in synchronous manner the sound “kurum kudum’ filled up the silence of the room. The mom and the dad joined – “kurum kudum

Now the bowl went in rounds. One to the other in both clockwise and anticlockwise direction. As the noise filled up the room, even alphabets appeared. “These are my favorite and there is a shop next to MG Road, where this guy makes real fresh ones”, the father pronounced to which the friend seated on the chair now confidently got up, reached out for the bowl and said, “ Oh! Are you talking about Bhasker? Even my uncle gets it from there!

Once the first exchange was made, there was no holding back. The murukku like its shape spiraled a conversation of where one got the best; what other snacks supported it in whose house; the nostalgia of eating during college days; the first meeting of the friends mom and dad ; its name in different states, who belonged to which part of the country, their personal choices and even their grandfathers stories!

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The awkwardness now turned into a jalsa – as the tables were now filled with bowls and plates of different kinds -  chura, sev, banana chips, a murukku top up and an assortment of all kinds that while eating made as much noise as the people seated there. The rattling noise words coupled with the snacks reached a crescendo as the father held the ‘murukku’ high in his hand and recited couplet:

Ek woh bewafa thi,

Jo mere dil ke tukde karke pyaar ko tamaam kar gayi

Aur ek tu hai meherama,

Jiske tukde tukde se bhi dil mein pyaar mukammal hoti hai!

 

There was once an unfaithful,

Who finished my love, by breaking my heart into pieces,

And then there is you my companion

Who even in pieces, fulfill the love in my heart!

As the accolades poured in, the friend finally returned and announced his presence. In return he was greeted unanimously with the sound of ‘kurum kudum

RECIPE 3 – TIMEPASS

The board exams were around the corner. So once her parents left, she gathered herself, checked her timetable and organized to make most of what was termed as the ‘study holidays’. On one side she piled up her textbooks, class notes, practice question papers and the necessary stationary. To maintain equilibrium – on the other side she placed biscuits, packets of chips, kurkures and fruits. 

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As she read through her chapters, her hands reached out to chips packet. “The hydrogen bond in water,crunch-crunch” is a dynamic “munch-munch” attraction between “umm-umm” neighboring water molecules “umm-umm”.

 

Soon the munching paused. The chips were over, but her chapter was still pending a few more paragraphs.

She concentrated back again, opening her favorite packet of biscuits. She bit a part of a biscuit and read a few lines, then read a few lines and bit another piece. It was a harmonious melody that she had tuned herself into, only to be disturbed by the telephone.  Crunching into the biscuit, she answered the phone. “Helluu-rrr, humm is it?

On the other side, her mom asks worriedly, “Malini, what is wrong?” by then, Malini having swallowed the biscuit replied, “Nothing Ma, my mouth was full of studies, so couldn’t speak!” After a few typical exchanges, she hung up the phone and returned to the biscuits – followed by her textbook.

With every passing time and a new lesson packet emptied itself. It was not that she intended, it was just a reflex action. She soon found herself deflected in her thoughts as she popped in a Kurkure and contemplated, “Nitrogen is the lightest member…. Kurkure is a light snack… No! we used to get that ‘picnic’ remember! …. Oh yes! I do. Yes, that was the lightest snack which I ever came across…” The lightness of the snack now made her float. High above in the sky, like a swaying cloud and down somewhere lay the stationary, the notes and the textbooks whose pages turned almost by itself. One bite, a few distances covered and another one a few more miles traversed – thinking about friends, school and life in a general.

Suddenly, an unwanted noise broke her thought. The noise – that of a searching hand within an empty packet. She quickly glanced at the time, then to her timetable and then to her textbook. Her schedule had fallen apart. Then gathering herself, turned to the page where she left off. But even before she read the first word, she exclaimed, “Oh, I completely forgot of those new wafers Ma had got!

RECIPE 4 – HOMEMADE

The girl was new in town. She had just got a job in the city and stayed by herself in one-bedroom apartment. Her interactions in the city were limited to daily exchanges of work with her colleagues. After her Diwali holidays, she geared back to get back to this daily routine.

Like a regular day, she took out her dabba during the tea break. However, today it appeared different from the usual single box of biscuits. Today she had three boxes, each filled with an assortment of snacks - Kodbale, chakali and kunda. The moment she opened it and placed it on the table – her colleagues swarmed in. Some just walked in, a few stooped in and the rest just rolled themselves on the chair towards her.

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“You had gone to your hometown during the holidays, is it? When did you come back?" were the questions that poured in from all sides. She sat confused – no one knew of her travel plans; she had not made friends yet to mention that. As each one, self-helped themselves, more enquiries poured in, “Who makes them? Your mother or some one else? And are not these kundas a specialty of your place! Do you make it at home?

As the questions multiplied, the new girl in town could no longer hold herself from just answering directly. Soon she turned into the showstopper, as she explained, “Our summer holidays were meant for preparation of many snacks and eatables which would cater for the whole year round. Raw Mango pickles, Papad, Shavage, Sandige. Ajji gathered all others from the neighborhood to help her out and kept the days busy”. Everyone listened with both eagerness and joy – of listening to a voice that was hardly heard in the past few months.

So, what will you get tomorrow? Or have we finished all of it today?’ enquired a hungry colleague. To which the girl excitedly said,

I will get laddoos, definitely.” And added with a sheepish voice, “But for one special thing, you will have to come over to my flat. It is the tea powder which I have always had since my childhood. I cannot adjust to any other. So I always carry stock of chai powder from home.

The invitation was met with a heartfelt laughter and an even more warmer acceptance. As each started to disperse, one of them said, “Can you ask Aunty to make some of these kodbale for me?

The girl nodded and then repeating in her mind the word ‘aunty’ smiled looked at the boxes that now lay empty. 

Illustrations by Sai Kaavya (the_pastel_theory)