I was a novice in cooking when I got married. My hubby had a cook who was working prior to our marriage too and she was well trained in everything. My in-laws were in a different city, so my transition to the married life was pretty much smooth. But as they say –‘Happiness doesn’t last long’ and meri hasti khelti zindagi ko kisi ki nazar lag gayi..
It was a bright Sunday morning. A lazy day. As a corporate lady back then, I had finished off the week’s pending chores on Saturday and planned a relaxed Sunday for ourselves. Just when I settled on the couch with my cup of coffee, my phone beeped and it was my cook. My throat instantly dried up and my heart pounced in mouth in anticipation of the upcoming distress. My hubby stirred me up and I called her back to realise that she had some allergy and is down with fever. My hubby joked – “Who gets down with fever because of allergy? She must be having chicken pox or would be in a mood to take an off.” Before he could finish his sentence, a pillow shot out like a missile and hit his head hard. I just blurted –“Shubh Shubh bolo yar.” A deep breath and I pat his back – “We had plans for a relaxed Sunday, right? Let’s go for a brunch. Then a movie and early dinner back home. What say? He gave a thumbs up and we carried on with our plan.
Next day, I went to office with heavy steps and mind hovered with thoughts of my cook –
‘Will she turn up or not? What if she doesn’t? What will I cook? I hope she does because soon I am going to start PMSing’. That day my phone rang around 5PM and my heart thumped with joy. That’s the exact time my maid calls up to take instructions for the dinner. However my happiness was short lived and soon my thumping heart was sinking low. My cook had been diagonised with chicken pox and she would take at least a month to come back.
Baffled, I immediately rang up my neighbours and inquired about their cooks. I excused myself from the office before time to meet a few cooks who were waiting at my doorstep. Most of them were not ready to join the work for just a month and I had timing issues with the others. I was well attuned with my maid and she knew everything inside out, perfectly. Moreover, I would have held myself culpable for dismissing the cook in her tough times. Consider it my bad luck or whatever, I couldn’t find a single cook. Everybody had their list of issues and I had mine. Somehow it just didn’t click.
We had the easy matar chawal that day. The following day we had lunch in office and back home hubby cooked curry and brought rotis from dhaba. For almost 10 days we had cereals and milk in breakfast and pulao, dal, random experimental curries with dhaba rotis or fancy food from some restaurant or sometimes just bread butter for dinner. We somehow managed for a fortnight and now the arrival of weekend gave shivers because we had to manage 3 meals instead of 1. Unlike other times when we waited for the weekends to explore new restaurants and eateries, this time neither of us was in a mood to step out. Or tummies were growling for throwing random stuff in it. They had forgotten the day, when they last enjoyed digesting a simple yet scrumptious food. Our taste buds had lost their ability to distinguish between flavours and all the readymade curries tasted the same. Our nose had forgotten to sniff the aroma of that home-made tadka. We were done with our lives and keen to escape from the humdrum of this life and attain nirvana. Reach a state, where mind and heart has no correlation to cause pain or joy. One thing that both of us were craving for the most was a homemade phulka. We wanted to have a simple lunch of jeera aloo, moong dal and soft phulkas. That phulka which is made of wheat flour and not maida. The one that is puffed on gas stove and not cooked in tandoor. We wanted to have ‘Ghar ka phulka’.
My hubby can cook simple veggies and curries but doesn’t have any idea of phulkas and well, I better stay mute on my culinary capabilities! So we decided to try our hands on the phulka. I started with kneading the flour. You just have to keep adding water to the flour and keep smashing and rubbing it. Well, I must say, it looked easier on youtube. After spending some 10-20 minutes rubbing, squeezing, hitting, collecting and rolling around the vessel, I finally managed to collect all the particles of atta together. To me it was a perfect bonding and expected the phulkas to come out good.
Reciting “Om Ganeshaye Namah” my hubby switched on the gas stove. He rolled balls and I rolled them out into phulkas. They were not in a perfect round shape but definitely manageable. We cooked it and waited for the phulka to puff..but phussss…. It didn’t. Nevertheless, we at least had the atta phulkas. Exhilarated, we sat down for dinner and with the first bite our tummy growled– “It is better I stay empty and not waste my juices to digest these half cooked chapattis. “ Next day I cooked them for an extra minute and they turned out like khakhras. Still better. Atleast they were crispy enough to be eaten like nachos. (Self-consolation you see!)
The following day, I liberally added oil to the flour as advised by someone at office. After cooking phulkas, I realised that the one advising me was also a novice. #FacePalm. A week went by in all the trials and errors and finally I had given up all hopes on it. We were ready to compromise with the maida rotis when my husband said that “Let’s forget youtube and do it our own way. Just one last time!!”
I kneaded the flour without any salt, oil or cream with normal water instead of warm. Rolled out phulkas which were perfect oval, nearing perfection to a round shape and put them on the pan. Trust me, I was making it half-heartedly and turned around to have a glass of water when I heard a long phusss…. I just lost my temper – “I told you we cannot make phulkas come may whatever. Even today ….” I choked on turning around and seeing a puffed phulka held in the tongs. This time the phuss was not from a flat or half puffed phulka but it was a long phusss after a fully puffed phulka burst out saying –“ That’s it! I cannot swell anymore.” My husband displayed it like a child showing his new toy to the world or a kid rushing with his first winning trophy. As much as he was happy, I was proud for making that perfect phulka. It was an apt insta moment worth capturing but we were delved into the moment of rejoice. My tummy pleading to have a bite of the super soft, perfect phulka after almost a 3 weeks. And somewhere my satiated soul whispered to me: “The kitchen is gradually becoming a no man’s land, where both the man and woman of the house have left it barren, without any hands to take the baton. Don’t cook if you don’t wish to but you should definitely know how to cook for tough times like these! Don’t learn it for anybody else but me… “
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