Girrija mami and Ghee rice
“Priya take this pickle to Girija mami’s house on your way to the college. I will pack it tight. Keep it in your cycle front basket. It won’t spill” said mom from the kitchen. I was packing my bag with books for the day. Girija mami’s name uncontrollably brought a smile on my face knowing who else could be there. My eyes scanned the room to see if anyone else noticed my smile. My sis was watching TV and the coast was clear. I walked into the kitchen, picked up the bottle, and walked to my blue Ladybird cycle. “Bye amma,” I said as I opened the door. I slid my cycle down the slope which was right in between the steps and jumped on to the cycle, while it was in the last step and drove off on to the road. I knew mom was going to yell at me for not closing the gate. But I was too busy hiding my smile, I would not turn back.
The road was slightly wet, the rain had just stopped. I reached GIrija mami’s house in 5 minutes. I parked my cycle near her gate and walked in with the pickle. Walking past her front yard, I slowly glanced at the window on the left side bedroom. I saw an empty teacup on his table. I knew Ajay was there. My steps slowed down giving me more time for my eyes to scan. I was slowly losing the view of the bedroom and was very close to the main door. I rang the bell and waited as my heartbeat slowed down in dismay knowing I won’t see him today. Mami opened the door. I put a fake big smile and gave her the Avakka pickle. “Priya I am making ghee rice now. Stop by on your way back from college in the evening and I will keep some packed, I know you love it” aunty said. My eyes twinkled and I humbly obliged. As I walked back to the cycle, I could almost feel it in my skin that someone was watching me from the window. I would not dare to turn back.
I went back to my cycle and raced to my college with my thoughts. I should be stupid, I don’t know why I keep searching for him. He did not even look into my eyes when we spoke last time at his house. I was just imagining. It is all one-sided. I should stop doing this. I convinced myself for the time being, as I cycled to my college barely making it to the class in time.
The college was over by 4 in the evening. I was up on my cycle again, this time with lowered expectations. I rode back to mami’s house, parked the cycle on the other side of the road, and walked into her house. I stopped myself from looking at the bedroom window and walked past to the door. Mami opened the door and let me in. Should I look at the bedroom door, maybe not? I walked straight into the kitchen. She gave me two steel boxes. One with ghee rice, and the other I knew already. It was her delicious plain kurma. “Is it the plain kurma aunty, I love it. Thank you so much” I said holding the two warm containers upright not to spill.”. The kurma’s aroma filled my nose. I took a full breath absorbing all I could. The kurma she made had a thin spicy tangy gravy with just the right amount of spices. Perfect for her ghee rice which was simple plain and aromatic . The grains would stand apart. I was getting an aroma explosion into my nostrils. Of course I could smell the loads of garlic, a hint of bayleaf and roasted onions too. I was visually eating it from the closed containers. Mami had a very “nadan”(village ) style cooking which attracted me to her food. I need to ask my mom to learn this. I am getting bored with the Avial and sambhar every day I thought. As my love for food took over I walked to the front gate, without bothering to look anywhere. I pushed the gate open with my leg as my hands were full. I had to walk to the cycle on the other side of the road and was planning to come back to the gate to close it.
Consumed in my thoughts as I walked, suddenly a pack of street dogs ran from nowhere towards me. I stood still when I saw the dogs. The only thing I remember about dogs was, If I run they would bite. The food in my hand was already shaking. The dogs came snarling towards my right hand. I was in tears already, unable to hold the vessels and scared of the food falling. Standing midway between the cycle and their house, my legs started to shake. My hand shook and down fell one vessel with the rice in it. I closed my eyes and wept not knowing what I could do. The dogs barking was muted in my brain for a few minutes. I felt someone come close to me. I felt a stick woosh by me, scaring the dogs away. All the while I was clinching on to mami’s saree closing my eyes filled with tears. The dogs went away and I was still standing and sobbing holding her saree “Sorry mami the rice spilled, I did not know what to do”. I felt her hands come to my face to wipe my tears and a low voice murmured into my ears ” Do I look like an aunty to you?”. My eyes opened wide to see me holding Ajay’s towel on his shoulders. My mind went through an emotional roller coaster. It turned from tears to a frozen face and ended in a coy smile. Our eyes met, hearts spoke and I knew he felt the same too. He smiled looking into my eyes for the first time. He picked up the box from the floor, took my box from my hand, held me by my hand, and led me to his house. I was just 21 then.
What could have happened next? Did he lead me into his life since that day? Did we part ways somewhere in between? I leave it to the audience’s imagination. What I will share with you all today is the delicious Ghee rice Girija mami made and taught me too.