The kitchen is the heart of the house. Come inside. The waft of the tadka is playing hide and seek with hungry wind nymphs. The fluttering pages of Grandma’s secret recipes are singing siren songs alluring little girls with mermaid braids.
The prelude is a guide on how young girls metamorphose into young women. You tell them to outgrow their polka-dotted sunflower frocks for ladylike clothes wearing perfume of overwatered lilies. The moment they whisk with hands bouncing like butterflies in spring gardens, you chide them. You teach them to leash their marigold hearts lest the kitchen heat will wither their petals. You fill their hands full of food, gearing up tight smiles at upcoming jesters of lewd.
Guitar riffs herald the siren song as women busy in the kitchen pass dishes from cabinets to tables like trained magicians. They shell peas and share a whispered laughter that drowns as soon as it crosses the kitchen door like paintings trapped under floorboards. There is batter being sizzled, oil splashes reacquaint with the skin like two internet mutuals meeting over a drink of gin. There is batter being made, the beer drinkers who belch at television shout for more pakodas. The women duck before anger ensues, the sweat equity reissues.
The verses flow like hands flow to fan themselves. Until your mother begins a story in hushed voices. She adds no sound effects, stark and factual descriptions of sewed subjects. There are infidelity tales, unwanted pregnancy chronicles, illnesses of various horrible kinds. Some require doctors, she says, and some require love.
Some are mourning over the dead, some are mourning over the living and some mourn for themselves, dwelling under quicksand of sacrifices, mortals to Olympians of patriarchy. She transmits the silent screams of an aunt and the loss of her childhood ambitions. She reads letters with rainbow stamps of a disowned uncle and his lover. She narrates the story of my grandma who makes mouth-watering dishes. Onions are an excuse to cry, grandpa’s bruises hid behind her unskilled knife days lies. Your mother says, “grief is just love with no place to go so she puts them into food.”
Secret family recipes are stories that bleed tugging shadows of the past. The young girls, oops! young women listen with wide eyes trying to hold onto marigold hearts. The women sigh as their hands move among the dirty dishes.
With the sigh, the song ends. But mermaid braids hide behind dupattas as they rearrange fridge magnets to form escapist poetry. When they shout, “where’s the tea?” Your mother smiles and hands you the tray. The kitchen is the heart of the house. It beats. It beats. It beats.
//”Grandma’s Secret Kitchen Stories”// Enigma
Copyright © 2016-2021 Enigma. All rights reserved.
Picture Credits: Enigma (Inktober 2020 Art Day 22 Chef)
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