Sunday, April 25, 2010
He had a slight built. His face was weathered. Fate had not been kind to him and it showed in those deep lines. His sparse hair around the temples were already turning white. They shouldn't have. He was Ma's younger brother, five years younger to her black dark hair.
Almost every Saturday he stopped by at their home after the half day at office. Every Saturday Ma would keep aside the choicest piece of fish from the day's macher jhol, some tarkari and ladle-fulls of dal before she served lunch. Baromama never arrived in time.
Ma would sit, waiting at the dining table long after everyone was done.Some days she would crane her neck out from the verandah at the lane now empty at noon, and finally go off to take her nap. Baba who generally was averse to the human race and found more kinship in The Statesman editorial than any mortal, would fold up the paper around three in the afternoon, declare, "Nah Khoka aaj ar elona" (No Khoka is not coming today) and retreat to his study. She still waited, occasionally glancing out of the window, beyond the football field, trying to locate the very familiar hunched figure with a battered briefcase in hand.
It was strange that she and her other siblings liked him so much. You wouldn't think kids looked beyond the exterior, the materialistic outer cover, to the honest soul within. You wouldn't believe they preferred a warm heart to a cadbury's dairy milk.
He would eventually come, much after lunch around tea time. Ma would get agitated, "Saradin kichu khas ni (You have not had any food almost whole day)", she would complain. He would smile sheepishly and mutter something about getting late. He didn't want lunch. Tea was all he wanted, tea was something he survived on. A cup of strong black tea was his lifeline. "Khali pete cha khas na, omlette kore dichi (Don't drink tea on an empty stomach, have an omlette)", Ma would say, trying to rejuvenate her young brother in that half day every week. Ma had this theory about the stomach being totally empty four hours after you ate anything at all.
She would make the omlette. Carefully breaking two eggs into a bowl and then beating the eggs with a fork. Sometimes she would add a tablespoon of Milk as she had read in Femina. She would beat vigorously, the fork making "ting-ting" noice against the bowl. She would add a handful of chopped onions and some chopped green chili. On the nonstick Trupti pan, she would spread the omlette and fold it, the center well done and the sides crisp.
Baromama would eagerly have the omlette amidst noisy sips of tea. He would praise her omlette making skills and launch on his favorite topic, his future dream project.
There would be many more cups of tea that he and Baba would gulp down throughout the evening. There would be arguments, Ma would give advices, distant relatives would be discussed as the water boiled and tea leaves brewed.
It has been more than a decade that she has missed such Saturdays. But she still waited for one of her trips back home, to snatch half a Saturday to see if Baromama still came home after half day at work. If Ma still waited for him at lunch.
That will not happen though. The early morning call across the oceans last Tuesday just confirmed, Baromama would not come home on the Saturdays she would visit Kolkata this summer, he would never come home again.
This is a part of my Food Fiction series. It might seem strange but it is the simplest food that has all the fiction entwined around it. This post goes to Aquadaze for Of Chalks and Chopsticks. What is your Food Story ? Send it over to Aqua.