A Chaotic ‘Tadka’

I could feel the heat of the oil; it was slowly rising. In went a pinch of turmeric. The sizzling oil soon blew the small heap into millions of tiny particles as the yellow dispersed in the ripples; the same happened to the red chili powder that followed suit. Finally I added some mustard seeds, they crackled tadkaloudly as the skins got toasted with the fiery oil. I stared entrancingly at the ‘tadka*’ I had made for the dal. The whole pan was a chaos – mustard seeds jumping and popping everywhere, bursts of yellow from the turmeric and splashes of red swam in the ripples of the heated oil. In short it was a complete chaos of flavors and aromas. And if epiphany is meant to strike at weird times , this was definitely one of those. My mind was transported to the scene of the ‘chaos dialogue’ from one of my most favorite series of current times, The Game Of Thrones. While the seven kingdoms are at war to gain control over the Iron Throne significant characters play their own little game for the sake of the kingdom or simply for their own benefit. One among such, Lord Petyr Baelish mentions – (when someone says that chaos is a pit) –

“Chaos isn’t a pit. Chaos is a ladder. Many who try to climb it fail, and never get to try again. The fall breaks them. And some are given a chance to climb, they refuse, they cling to the realm (to a lie), or the gods or love; Illusions! Only the ladder is real; the climb is all there is.”

The whole scene, in the book or even in the series has been a three minute summary of life’s cumulative calculations in metaphorical forms. While looking at the tadka, all I saw was chaos of ingredients. I didn’t know how many seeds were in there, how intensely the oil was heated, or if the spice powders had dispersed evenly or not. All I knew was that I made that myself and I only have an instinct as to when to curb the chaos to get what i needed out of it; if I overheat it, it would burn it all. As much as I loved that dialogue I felt he missed out on one thing about the ladder of chaos. It is indeed true that some fall never to climb again, while some choose not to climb however, he missed out about those who build that ladder themselves. Those, few as they may be, have no choice but to ascend, and they do. They fall but they climb again, whimsically building the rungs of their own ladder. And as they climb they wreck more chaos upon others, some unknowingly, unwillingly, some out of choice, while some forced. There is no time for illusions, the whole focus is stuck upon building the ladder for themselves; for them there is indeed the climb, but there is a fall as well, and that gives them a sense of power, of achievement and a thirst to climb higher. They do reach the top, but only when they choose to stop building the ladder further. Looking down they see the height and they may see ashes but they know that even for a phoenix to rise, it needs to burn itself down.

I don’t know why I thought all this, may be it was hunger, or an idle mind trying to be a saintly philosopher so I simply shut the flames, added the tadka to the cooked lentils and finished them with a pinch of salt. My caramelized onion-pepper chicken seemed ready, I sat down to enjoy a delicious dinner I had cooked for myself after a long time.

** tadka – heated oil seasoning. Oil is heated to a certain degree and seasoned with onions or mustard, curry leaves, asafetida, garlic and or many other ingredients. It is then poured in a broth/porridge or a stew to enhance and add flavors.

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