Hey everyone, I am at a space in life where I am a little confused, upset, vulnerable and full of questions. But there don’t seem to be any satisfactory answers. The “injustices” that many women live with all their lives, for their own personal reasons and limitations, have always affected me hugely, be it the daily battles of a simple housewife or this big deal about a host of “utterly misplaced” taboos on menstruating women. How is a woman having her period “impure”? By that logic every “constipated” man is impure because seriously if he hasn’t done his daily business in the loo — he IS full of shit! Literally. Every person who has any ailment is “impure” and if we stretch the logic a bit and start talking about the “impurities of the mind” most of the temples will stay near empty!
In all this gloom then, every little change that happens fills me up with positivity, hope and belief in the inherent resilience and goodness of humans. Weren’t we all touched by the star of the moment Ayushmann Khurrana’s adorable gesture this karva chauth for his cancer-stricken wife Tahira. Posting a picture of the first syllable of her name written in mehendi on the palm of his hand, he wrote, “She can’t fast this time. But I will. For her good health and life.” I am getting goosebumps even as I type, melts your heart doesn’t it?
Things are changing. Many husbands also “keep a fast for their wife’s long life” on karva chauth, brothers also tie rakhis to sisters in the spirit of “looking after and protecting each other always,” age-old restrictions that hinder the true growth and prosperity of humanity are gradually disintegrating – the toilet movement in India is one classic example, gender equality and acceptance of every sexuality are no longer in the closet along with detailed discourses on religious tolerance, cultural integration and of course the #MeToo wave sweeping across the world finally! So it’s not all bad, I tell myself as I get ready this bhai dooj to visit my little bro, who is all set to break an age-old tradition in his own way by cooking me and my son a festive lunch.
The best part about it is that it’s not a social media photo-op, it’s not laboured, but a very personal gesture that comes very naturally to him, that cooking is among his many passions is an added bonus. Reminds me of one of the latest ads about dish washing liquids I think, where the voice-over applauds a man for washing dishes and he turns around and sternly dismisses it with “if I enjoy the eating, washing up after is also my duty.” Guys that’s revolutionary in Indian circumstances and we all need to feel very good such changes are at least being talked about now not just in our country. Looks like the world has come a long way since 11-yr-old Meghan Markle lobbied against P&G for its sexist dishwasher soap TV commercial.
Coming right back to my special bhai dooj, it went something like this then — I reached baby bro’s bachelor pad by 11, my teenage son in tow. Delicious aromas of garlic fried in butter, freshly chopped basil, home-made barbeque sauce with smoked paprika, streaky bacon frying in its own delicious juices and subtle fragrance of Kashmiri spices in the Nihari wrapped us in a welcoming embrace as I rung the bell.
Once inside his neat apartment, I made myself comfortable on the sofa-cum-bed that was the one and only piece of furniture in his consciously de-cluttered hall area and for the next two hours as my son and bro slogged in the kitchen chopping, frying, tasting, baking, washing, basting, pressure-cookering and cleaning, I watched a movie on Netflix with my feet up for once, shouting out unsolicited advise every once in a while.
The movie: The Manchurian Candidate, suggested by my actor baby brother, was such a gripping political thriller, I had no idea how time flew. Finally, the lunch, eaten in all sorts of mismatched crockery was so delectable, I overate majorly. For me there was just the most melt-in-the-mouth creamy Nihari with plain white basmati rice cooked to perfection in all its long-grained glory, for my son: Chote Mamu’s signature home-made whole wheat BBQ chicken pizza with mounds of fresh mozarella and grated parmesan along with super crispy bacon. We washed it all down with huge glasses of the most divine sugarcane juice even as a whole chicken roasted to a moist rich shade of brown in the oven laden with the rich goodness of lots of butter, garlic, black pepper from Cochin and kuti lal mirch from Rajasthan which strangely has a uniquely mild heat just right for my palette.
Amid entertainment, food, laughter and a warm togetherness I suddenly felt very relaxed in body and soul. The air-con hummed a lullaby and soon we were all asleep on the cool floor like content cubs on Nat Geo taking their post-lunch siesta. In the evening, refreshed from the meal and the snooze that followed I blessed him loads and as I left I realized it just takes a very small heart-felt gesture to make one feel loved, respected, wanted and extra special. Can’t we all make just that one tiny effort? The joy that it brings us in return is a priceless byproduct worth striving for.
Sometimes “a simple gesture, the smallest compliment” the fact that you “think about someone” is enough to change their world, I felt it deeply this bhai dooj, and for once even amid the tugs and pulls of life I believe, I smile, I bow my head in prayer and count my blessings!