(Read the post to know why I used the photo.)
Some of you will know about The Fifty-2 Weeks of 2013 project that we are doing on Facebook. Of course, it's well over seven months old and we are no longer accepting members but I am glad to say the project is going on. Well, chugging on.
This week's theme, Aparna's idea, was this:
Write a very short story beginning with the following paragraph. Your story should begin with this paragraph and then you make it all your own.
"It was past ten at night. I had finished clearing up after dinner, and locked up for the night. The rest of the family had turned in for an early night. I was looking forward to a hot shower, and then snuggling under the covers for a quiet read before dropping off to sleep.
That's when the peal of the door bell startled me. Who could it be this late at night? ....................."
It was past ten at night. I had finished clearing up after dinner (actually we had eaten out) and locked up for the night. The rest of the family had turned in early. I was looking forward to a hot shower, and then snuggling under the covers for a quiet read before dropping off to sleep.
There’s nothing like turning on the AC and the fan and curling up under a thick, warm blanket with a book in hand. My grandmother would always, say, though, that she found it absurd – why fan, AC and then cover yourself, she would question. Dear Ammamma, who would neither cover herself nor sleep on the bed. She would sleep on the floor with her hand under her head for a pillow.
I was smiling to myself, remembering my granny, now gone for two decades. That's when the peal of the door bell startled me. Who could it be this late at night? I looked through the peephole but I could only make out a vague shape. It looked like a woman of a certain age, head bowed, waiting …
I opened the door – and froze. It was my grandmother. No, really, it was. As alive as ever. Not a day older than when she died. 72.
“Papa, give me some water. I’m thirsty,” she said, before I could scream.
No doubt, it was a dream. I was not going to be afraid, I wasn’t even going to pinch myself, I would just grab the dream and spend a few more minutes with her. I got her some water, of which she had a long drink.
“Hammayya! That’s better, I feel more alive now,” she said, settling down comfortably in a chair at the dining table. “Didn’t go to work today?”
“No, it’s my day off,” I said. “Oh, what did you do then? Cook?” she asked.
“Nothing. We ate out and I have many leftovers.”
Grandmother went over to the fridge, looked at the many containers of various sizes occupying the shelves – rice, bits of dal, bits of vegetables, chocolate – and turned back to me.
“How old is this stuff?” she asked.
She looked bemused when she saw me trying to recollect – and downright disgusted when I told her the oldest curry was five days old.
“What is happening to you, Sra?” she said. Now it was my turn to look bemused. Since when did she call me Sra?
“Yes, I read your blog, I know this avatar of yours. I know what you’re cooking, who your friends are and often, I find myself mentioned – I am flattered, of course – I also know you keep saying you’re busy and lazy and are struggling with leftovers but I didn’t know you let things moulder in the fridge this long!”
“But Ammamma, things never go bad.”
“Maybe, Sra, but I know you. You never enjoyed eating the same thing more than twice, and from what I gather, you don’t enjoy it now either. But instead of cooking afresh, you’re now eating out, and letting all this stay in the fridge.”
“The others don’t mind eating it. And I feel guilty to waste food. Some of them carry it to work.”
“But five days? Five days? Aren’t all of you bored out of your minds seeing the same things day in and day out? The same old things?”
Some get eaten up more quickly than the others, I told her. And yes, after some seven days, I do throw it away, fresh or not. Every week begins with a new resolution that I should not waste food, and every week the fridge groans under the weight of the leftovers.
“But it has gotten better, Ammamma, it’s not as bad as before. I don’t waste as much raw material now, maybe now I have to learn how to cook just enough for a day.”
“Yes, if you’re making mixed vegetable curry, cook with one carrot, one potato and 1/8th of a cauliflower instead of a quarter kilo of everything. That should work,” Ammamma said.
“And when you don’t have the time, don’t cook, just take it easy. Your family can eat at the canteen or get takeout. I don’t even understand why you’re so keen on cooking, I didn’traise you to cook and talk about cooking and go into raptures about it – I wanted you to do something in life and make something of yourself! Why don’t you write a proper book? Win the Pulitzer? What is this every week writing something in the blog about this curry, that curry – and then when I visit you, you’re not even eating well!”
“But cooking is a life skill …”
“Life skill, my foot! Looks like this kitchen and this fridge are sucking your life away!” said Ammamma, and opened the fridge again. I stood up but she pushed me back into my chair. She went into the kitchen, brought my dustbin and proceeded to throw in everything into the dustbin, steel containers et al. She threw off the bits of imported chocolate carefully preserved in bits of foil, she threw away the eggs after checking the dates printed on their smooth exteriors, she attacked my vegetable crisper, the the pantry and then the storeroom with a savage energy that could only have come from spending twenty years in the world beyond! She didn't even spare the onions, and we all know what prices they command these days!
By then I was a burning ball of shame and sadness. Shame because there was no rest for my grandmother from looking after me and my affairs even at this age. And now that Operation Fridge was over, I was sure the dream was going to end and I would lose her all over again.
Suddenly, Grandma was back, she had had a bath and I am pretty sure she had napped too, on the cold bare floor in her usual style. She looked fresh and as if a weight had been lifted from her. “I’m off now, but I’ll be reading your blog and watching over you – don’t let me see all this rubbish in your fridge again. Cook if you enjoy it, but cook just a little, eat well and be well. I’ll see you soon. And win the Pulitzer,” she said, and walked towards the door.
I woke up, hopeful, but of course, everything in the fridge was just the way it had been before I fell asleep. It was 2 a.m. All the leftovers were in recycled plastic containers I would not regret losing. I cleared out everything from the fridge, it looked like Mother Hubbard’s cupboard. What a refreshing sight! I would tackle the pantry and storeroom tomorrow. The Great Purge had begun!
There, I hope you enjoyed that!
Have lots of leftover vegetables to clear? Follow this link, the many recipes there might help
Fiction Humour Blogging