Had one of the most profound conversations with my 8-year-old last evening.
It is one of the sultrier Mumbai evenings. Another day gone in waiting for the illusive monsoon. The Bee’s back from his buzzing hive post a busy day, a two and half hours of drive back to happy Mumbai suburbia, with a rusty neck and a creaky back. He has “Fragile, handle with care” written all over him. The tiny R and the adult M keep out of his way till he’s managed to scrub off every bit of grime and sweat with the special sea salt body wash meant also to soothe frayed nerves.
Almost civilised, by his own submission, he is now ready to mingle with the two women of the house. Half an hour goes down well with Camomile tea flowing and M and R taking turns at beating the Bee at Domino. R quickly retorts, after winning the third time in a row, “Well, what can I say, I’m a fast learner!” She, incidentally, learnt the ropes the same evening!
Time the enemy! The Bee’s clock’s ticking and before long the ” Brit to the core” aura announces “It’s 9:00 already, why aren’t we having dinner? Tiddliwink, aren’t you supposed to be in bed by 9:30?”
With that the evening reverie draws to a close and I waddle off to dish out the final meal of the day, the only one that all must sit down and enjoy together.
It’s a simple meal and with the 8-year-old eager- beaver laying the table, serving the meal is a breeze. I take pride in dishing out the exotic Mughlai keema I’d fished out of a woman’s weekly of yesteryear and am ready to fish for the compliments as a reward of my toil.
The meal should have gone rather uneventfully. I have already started R off with her dinner before I serve out ours. She takes a couple of detours on her plate before she attacks the keema, the Bee alights to join her.
She looks directly into my eyes and asks “Can I say something?”
Generally our dinnertime conversation is breezy, so I relent.
“Ma, how will you feel if Bau and I praise something you have cooked?”
“Elated, of course!” I am overjoyed. The Mughlai keema can now become one of the standard dinner fares!
“What if we don’t tell you that it tastes horrible? Instead, we eat it and praise it and then ask you to cook it again?”
“Well, I would think you love me too much to hurt my feelings. And it’s your unconditional love for me that makes you praise it and ask for more !” I can almost hear my heart sinking.
The sprite returns an impish smile, “I’d love to have your Mughlai keema everyday!”
I taste some, and some more to make sure it tasted the way I thought it tasted and a third attempt confirmed my fears. I’m sure the Mughals loved to salt their food while cooking.