"Your food is a big hit in the office," so,I'm told by hubby.
Despite the fact,that the office kitchen lays out a fairly edible spread,my hubby continues to take his 'ghar ka khana',everyday to work. And I'm not complaining. This speaks volumes about my cooking! !doesn't it.Well,frankly,fact is stranger than kitchen fiction. I admit, on a candid note, that I love to feed people, whether the food is worth being eaten is an inconsequential and small issue.I inherit this streak from my Nani,who was known for her guerrilla tactics,at the dining table, especially when it came to loading and goading people to eat more. So, everyday at lunch time,hubby dear opens up his dabba,of home made goodies,much to the envy of other colleagues.There are ready takers for paneer and egg curry and Dum Aloo and mix vegetables and the sweets, for all apparent reasons.But,why the dabba comes back with leftovers, on days when it housed orphans like lauki(ghia),tauri,cabbage kuttu,lobia or the oh- so -healthy soya nuggets, is no great mystery. But,there’s one man,who managed to capture my attention.Mr.A (we shall call him), never has lunch,but has requested to be invited,ever since he spotted ‘Baigan ka bharta’in hubby's tiffin (Steamed brinjal mashed and curried,till it fails to resemble a brinjal)….(err I like to believe that I have readers across seven seas,as well). “Now,that’s an unusual dish, to be saved under the ‘My favorites’ column”,I thought to myself,one morning packing an extra dose of BKB.Till,one lazy afternoon,the story unfolded itself and was narrated over ,the office lunch table.
The eighties were gloomy times. The economy wasn’t really ‘Rocking and rolling’,like it is.A good job and a decent salary, was what one should have looked forward too.No,flashy M.B.A’s,were required to keep pace with office politics and the job market, and those at the top of the corporate ladder were genuine stalwarts, who had ample amount of salt and pepper,both in their hair as well as their experience.Mr.A,was the average engineering graduate, who had a good job and manged to make more than a decent living, with his wife and little son, in a plush one BHK.
But,then his heart said, ‘Yeh Dil mange more’…much before the pepsi bottle ever did.He longed for an edge,for that elusive M.B.A,unheard of.His seniors laughed and dismissed it as the lunacy of a young mind.Add,to this ,his commitments as a husband and father loomed large,upon him.He,finally decided to take the risk asked his company, if he could somehow juggle both the job and the M.B.A.They declined,but offered to take him back, after he finished his studies. It was a tough decision. With no job in hand, it was a herculean task,to manage both the household and his tuition fees at the university. His parents, coaxed him to take help from them. It was the easiest option out, but somehow, he couldn’t convince his pride and conscience. Till, one day someone gave him the idea of approaching a bank.Loans, in those times, were actually a proof of your incapability to manage your income.Apart from being very difficult to obtain.But, finally the bank decided to give Mr. A an educational loan, along with a stipend of Rs.500 for managing his home needs. He allotted Rs.250 judiciously for home and the rest for his college and stay at the campus.He shifted, his family to a one room barsati,which acted as hall..Kitchen….bedroom. All in one. They shared a common bathroom,with the other tenants,where water till 6 am was a luxury. Back at the campus,things weren’t all that rosy.A’s classmates were from wealthy families,and were more than aware of A’s economic status. With books being a rare luxury, A often relied on libraries and lending’s from his friends. With his purse strings literally like a noose around his neck, Rs.3 per day was all he could afford to spend on his meals. Very often, the portions would barely suffice the hunger pangs of a students’ stomach. It was here that A discovered, that BKB was possibly the cheapest thing on the menu, and would invariably end up, with it, on his plate.
There were times when,the stipend gave way much before the end of the month and A had no money to buy himself a meal. At such times, his friends would invite him home on some pretext or the other,knowing very well,that he would never ask. He too always waited for such opportunities. After a grueling two such years,Mr.A went back his old company.Impressed with his ideas and diligence, they further, sent him for further studies, to the U.S.A.The rest becomes,predictable history.Mr.A today is the V.P of an huge Indian corporate giant and enjoys his life,between office,home and his grandchildren. I’m sure you have heard and read stories that have more awe value than this.But,what touched me was the fact that,when most of us would have chosen to willingly forget anything associated with difficult times in our life,for,it isn’t easy reliving memories that are bitter,Mr.A chose,to retain the humble BKB, as a reminder of the fact, that the life he enjoys today,is a gift from his past. We all move on in life, often embittered by either love,family politics,destiny.But,little do we realize that those times are the benchmark to measure the happiness we enjoy today.
Mr.A will never read this.But,it’s a tribute to his infectious good spirit and his love for the bharta. It’s a fact known by none that I think of Mr.A, every time I buy Baigan and pack in that extra helping.I know,I made someone happy that day. My granny must be grinning, in heaven, I’m sure ! !