Today’s Scintilla Project prompt that inspired my story is “Many of our fondest memories are associated with food. Describe a memorable experience that took place while preparing or eating food.”
Back in the day, when I was just another student at architecture school, I used to love Sunday mornings. Apart from the fact that they were filled with endless possibilities, the doom of a Monday deadline at least a whole evening of procrastination away, nothing could quite compare to waking up and enjoying the feeling of nowhere to go as you sank your body deeper into the pillow and mattress while birds chattered somewhere in the distance. And it was always made better by Sunday breakfast at the mess.
Now, I have to say, food at the mess was not always good. But I enjoyed Sunday mornings in particular because it was dosa day. Not just any dosa day, but dosa-with-creamy-potato-masala-and-peanut-chutney day. Sometimes, I would wait for all week for Sunday morning to arrive because of the lingering taste of these crispy pancakes made with wonderful rice and lentil batter that fermented so well it exploded with bubbles when poured on a hot stove. That, and Oh Lord, the potato masala… Creamy, yummy potatoes with undertones of onion, ginger and chilies, cooked until they turned to butter in your mouth. And the peanut chutney: gritty, rich old peanut chutney to balance the zing of the potato masala. There was something so homely in those meals, that as I washed it all down with piping hot filter coffee served in a stainless steel tumbler, I never felt I was far away from home or family. Oh, how I loved Sunday breakfast.
One such Sunday morning, my friend H woke me up and together we ambled along to grab the last of the dosas before the mess closed before lunch, but not before we stopped by K’s bed and asked if she was going to join us. She muttered something from under her pillow before we walked off; it wasn’t unusual for K to miss breakfast anyway.
I spent the rest of morning working on some drawings to the happy feeling of doa-potato-peanut-filter coffee in my belly. And then lunchtime arrived, and H came by to get me again. This time we went straight to K, still sound asleep in her bed, and shook her until we got a satisfactory answer from her.
“I’ll join you in fifteen minutes.”
Fifteen minutes later, at the mess, H and I sat in front of our plates as the stray grains of rice and dal on our fingers and empty plates dried up. Still no sign of K. They literally had to kick us out of the mess to close the doors in preparation of dinner, and we went straight back to K, still no farther from her bed than she was when we left her. It was 2.30pm now. H was furious.
“Well, if that’s where you like to stay, that’s where you’ll stay!” she announced. K remained silent. H grabbed a piece of rope to be used in an architectural model, and playfully began to bind K’s hands and feet to the bed. K’s protests, though feeble for her well-rested state, fell on deaf ears. And I had turned into the mob, laughing along with H as I pinned K’s hands and feet to the frame. After the work was done, H stepped back and took a picture for posterity.
“Guys, let me go.”
“You aren’t going to achieve anything by starving yourself”, said H.
“What are you going to achieve by tying me to my bed?!”
“It’s a punishment.”
“Guys”, K was so soft spoken, her sternness came as a surprise.
“Alright, but you have to promise not to skip your meals like this.”
“Ok, I promise”, she said, rather quarter-heartedly as we began to untie her.
After she had brushed her teeth, she went straight to her shelf and picked up a bag of spicy crisps and chomped away as H and I looked on in slight disgust.
“Is that your ‘breakfast’?” H asked with air quotes. K flashed a mouthful smile at us in response.
“I give up! I can’t make this girl eat her meals properly anymore. K, your mother will hear of this soon”, threatened H.
K switched on her computer as she turned to us “They gave up on me long ago!”
On hindsight, I suppose K was never attached to food emotionally the way H and I were.