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Tsunami in the kitchen

She enters into my kitchen like a Tsunami everyday. And then she becomes Ahmedabad’s traffic light i.e interested only in advisory function. She is Taraben, my cook. She has been with me since January, 2010 as I was then struggling with the aftermath of a painful wrist surgery.

Three years down the line, I am still confused about her job profile. To be fair to her, she’s not a Bunking Ben. She’s punctual. She’s soft, pleasant looking and very honest too. Once in a blue moon, she also irons my clothes. But don’t ask me about her culinary skills. The other day I enthusiastically told my husband, “You know, Taraben today made a masala for the paneer sabzi.” Hubby dear then looked at me and asked me, ‘What did you do next?’ I told, “I added cumin, coriander powder, tomatoes, green chillies and  curry powder too.” My husband said, “You mean, basically you did disaster management.” With that poker-faced statement, both of us burst into laughter. So, in more than one way, Taraben brings in much laughter to our lives. Unknowingly.

The other day I sat down to count how many dishes she can make (reasonably ok) and I couldn’t go beyond five. By the way, believe it or not, I am quite generous in giving credit to people for their skills. After months of teaching, now she can make a decent alo-gobi dish, moong dal and besan ka chilla. Under my eagle eye supervision, she can also make aloo-parathas. But leave her on her own and the aloo parathas can give competition to Bata chappals. Of course, she can now (after months of rigorous training) make a cup of Earl Grey tea perfectly. In the beginning, she used to make tea which tasted like rosogulla. Now, she adds the right amount of sugar. And the tea now has a delicate lingering taste unlike in the beginning when tea tasted like a sumo-wrestler giving you two tight slaps (coz she put the tea-bag inside the cup for 15 minutes)
She speaks to me in Gujarati and I speak to her in Hindi. On many occasions, this has been a real disaster. On one occasion, I told her to make a pumpkin dish and when I went to the kitchen later in the evening, I humbly discovered that she had cooked potato ki sabzi. My hubby thinks she’s so much in a hurry that she doesn’t even listen to what I am telling. I pretend to ignore my husband’s ranting against Taraben. I behave as if I am suffering from temporary hearing problems in situations like this.
Taraben is definitely good at one thing. And she does it every now and then when I complain of a mild body ache/headache/common cold. She has this brilliant solution to all my ailments (she’s little interested in knowing about ever fluctuating thyroid disorder). She feels all this ailments owe their origin to some ‘boori nazar’. She allegedly knows how to ward off evil eye. She makes me sleep with a bed-sheet completely covering my face and body. And then she takes circles around my bed with a brass water container in her hand and chanting some inaudible lines. And then she throws the water in the kitchen sink. She tells me very convincingly, “That day you were very well-dressed. So, kisi ne nazar laga diya (somebody put an evil eye on you).” Her concerns are genuine. So, I have no option but to cover my face and lie on the bed.
But she takes the cake and the bakery when on some evenings she enters into my house and then finding me in the kitchen preparing the dinner, she (who’s supposed to be the cook by the way) says with a huge grin on her face, “Didi, sugandh hi sugandh. (what lovely smell).” And then she looks at the kadaai and says, “hotel ni sabzi chhe.”  (Food straight from the hotel). Even though that time my blood pressure goes up to 190/120, I prefer to keep quiet. Such is the power of Taraben.
I still have a soft corner for her because she’s sole bread-earner of her family. This month, I gave her salary hike and the next day in stead of 8.30 in the morning, she came at 7.30 am. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry seeing the Tsunami in my house at that time of the morning. I have instructed her to stick to her old timing. And I am waiting when will she get into her ‘warding off the evil eye’ act. Cooking can still wait.



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