He took a deep breath. A full deep breath to his navel and let it out slowly. Deeply.
He was inhaling the coffee he had in his hand. It wasn’t any coffee. It was the coffee. The caramel double latte of Starbucks. ………………
And in front of him was a scene. The lights of the Empire state building and the tall skyscrapers shimmered in the water as the Hudson silently flowed between the NYC skyline and the waterfront. It was the dream scene, a reality. Not anymore viewed on the 70mm screens of multiplexes, glamorized by the Bollywood stars and directors. It was live, simple yet overwhelming.
The scene turned misty as a film began to play in a flashback mode, virtually.
In a distance, in his mind, he could hear a loud wail let out by the eight year old kid that he was fourteen years back, as he denied eating the plate of rice and dal with some chicken tikka because the salt was less in the dal and that the combination was not proper. He felt himself loosing appetite at the age of nine when he saw a vegetable being prepared in a vessel in which technically fish was to be prepared. The sizzles of the oil in the fryer, of the mixer roaring louder than the king of the jungle were clearly audible as his mother evoked her magic of ingredients to bring the ‘young gourmet’ some continental fare. Excitement surged in him as he remembered the smile he used to have many years ago as his family got ready to have dinner in some new restaurant he wanted to try. How old was he? Just twelve years old and yet his demand to try out the new five starred restaurant was being met by his father. He was marinated in love and care. Seasoned with the rights and wrongs and flavored with culture and traditions. If nurturing a child was as good as creating a dish then he knew he was and is being prepared by master chefs.
Years rolled…the plate for the love of food was built by the master chefs, the steak was ready to be served…
“Ommm…” began Mrs. Ekam, (a spontaneous pet name conjured by him for the yoga teacher) and the morning began for his two sous chefs in Mumbai. Just as their eyes closed in concentration of the pranayama he cracked opened two eggs on a pan perfectly heated to make a nice sunny side up. He delicately and deliberately flavored the sizzling albumens with pure ghee, pretty sure that the aroma would replace the “Om” with “yummm” as his uncle slowly breathed in. And while the demanding postures of the yoga continued in the living room, he comfortably sat to enjoy the well toasted bread and eggs. Thus began his day. The wind gushed past as he rode his bike to his world, a small world where he knew everybody, where everybody seemed to know him.
A world he loved and hated, for all the games it played and made him play too. The day seem to roll faster than a bread being baked in the oven…soon it was evening coffee time. A seat in the corner and the gang all around: so began the great discussions about the food and the industry.
Those three years rolled rapidly…The steak was not only ready…the sauce was done too…and if any signature dish requires the right accompaniments to enhance the flavors he knew he had the best ones on his plate.
His five friends believed in the weird ideas and talks. They were encouraging, knowingly and unknowingly those five changed his life, his approach towards it. They helped in making things, in building a research and a life. Devotedly. Trustfully.
The eyes sparkled of those who put the wontons he steamed and the satays he fried, in their mouths. They were simple preparations really.
They even ate all the weird combinations right from radish and chocolate to cilantro and strawberries. He had made them – a reason, they gave, while convincing him they were not only edible but good.
The garlic sizzled, a little burnt, even he made mistakes. But his cousins devoured the oriental cuisine he made with eagerness and such love. Whatever, he made, they ate, simply because he made it.
A wild experiment in caramel custard and one of his friend still cherishes it’s taste.
A candle light dinner he could not complete and a promise of making something big given to someone, yet unfulfilled…
….Little did they know they were all chefs; All who contributed every bit to craft and build this small plate of life that he himself was now garnishing…getting it ready to be served.
The film ended; and the last scene itself was the beginning. He was standing right in front of it, planning the garnish…planning every step to it. In his country, while beginning anything new,they began with ‘om’. For him his world began and ended with ‘yummm’.
……………………His coffee was over. Still, he tilted the cup to get the last drop to savor the rich caramel flavor. It was getting late and he was getting hungry. He threw the cup, put on his jacket, sat in his car and drove home.
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