“Entire house is filled with the aroma of your curry, delicious!” Sakshi proclaimed as she entered, kept her bag on the chair and car keys on the table. She came into the kitchen and hugged Meera.
“Thank you. South India, it is today! I thought of cooking Sambhar,” Meera hugged her back.
Sakshi retrieved a glass from the utensil stand and fetched herself a glass of water.
“No cold water?” Meera asked.
“No. I am good. I haven’t started drinking cold water yet.”
“That’s good. How are you today? How was the day at office?”
Sakshi sipped the water; gulped it down her throat, took pause and said, “Don’t even ask. Hectic as always! How are you? What did you do all day?”
“House errands. Nothing special. But it is a good day,” Meera replied from her constant stirring of the Sambhar curry in making.
In less than a few months, Sakshi and Meera had become inseparable. They both walked into each other’s lives first, and then into each other’s homes like it were their own.
The conversations flowed naturally between them. Nothing seemed forced. Sakshi was Meera’s husband, Nilesh’s friend initially. She was Nilesh’s colleague. Nilesh introduced Sakshi to Meera and they clicked too soon. Then, came along Sarthak, Sakshi’s husband.
Four of them became a crazy gang of friends who did almost everything together. In just about a few months, four of them had gone to three different vacations together. They all saw each other almost every day.
“When will Nilesh come?” Sakshi asked Meera while bending over the pot of curry to have a look.
“In about half an hour; he called before leaving from the office.” Meera stirred the curry with a squealing sound on the pot.
“Oh God! Don’t do that Meera. This sound irritates me so much.”
And, both of them laughed.
“Once, Nilesh forgot to call me when he reached office. This was just a few months after our marriage. I went into such frenzy. I kept calling him frantically. And, when he finally picked the call he asked what was so urgent. I told him I needed to know that he was always safe. He understood how I am. Since then, there have been I-have-reached-safely and I-am-leaving-from-the-office calls without fail.” Meera said, reducing the flame of pressure cooker on the other side of gas stove.
“I understand,” Sakshi said and went outside the kitchen to pet the dog, ‘Biscuit’.
“Why is Biscuit so quiet? Is this normal?” Sakshi inquired from the dining hall outside kitchen as she kept rubbing Biscuit’s belly with both her hands and Biscuit wagged his tail in fast commotions.
“Yes, he is. But he isn’t keeping well from past few days,” Meera stood at the kitchen door and looked at Sakshi petting Biscuit.
The only thing that didn’t match between both of them was a dog. Meera was a no-pet person and Sakshi was drool-all-over-me pet lover.
Sakshi washed her hands and came inside the kitchen once again. She always did this when Meera was in kitchen. Both of them stood there as Meera worked and Sakshi helped her.
“Don’t you have strong intuitions sometimes? Like, a feeling so strong that you know something is just not right,” Meera asked Sakshi while putting the tomato puree in the pot.
Sakshi turned her head towards Meera from the sink where she was washing used utensils, “Yes. A lot of times. It sends me in panic mode,” she washed the glass and plate; and placed them back on utensil stand before wiping her hands dry with the kitchen towel.
“Nilesh had an accident once. He called me to inform that he, along with his boss was dropping by at the home with a few other employees. He told me to clean the room. I asked him what was wrong. He didn’t say anything. But, I had a gut feeling that something wasn’t right. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be coming back in the mid-day with boss and employees. I just knew it.” Meera closed the flame of pressure cooker as the last whistle went up. “This is done. Arhar daal is done,” she lifted the pressure cooker and placed it on the kitchen top; and then went back to stir the curry as she tossed the spices in it.
“Meera, this smells so good. I want to eat it as soon as it is ready.”
“Of course. Just a few more minutes and then, this would be done.” Meera said.
And then the conversation drifted back to intuitions.
“I still remember the day when mother had passed away. I was in 8th standard. It was a Monday and I had my Sanskrit unit test. You know the weekly tests in school, right? Those ones. So, I had just finished writing my paper when a peon came into the class. I had a very strong feeling that he had come to call me because someone from my home was here to pick me up. I just knew that at home, my mother was dead. I knew it as soon as I looked at him. Then my teacher called me and that was it. I picked my things from the desk, submitted my paper to the teacher, lifted my bag and walked outside the class, pretending to not know anything,” Meera turned back to look at Sakshi who was listening to her with grave silence.
Then, Meera turned to the front, lifted the whistle of pressure cooker as it hissed and pressure reduced. She turned the lid of cooker to open it; and separated boiled vegetables from daal. She then mashed the daal well and asked Sakshi to have a look.
“Is it fine? This has to be completely mashed, right?” Meera enquired from Sakshi.
“Yes, perfect.” Sakshi said.
Meera poured the mashed daal into the curry pot, while stirring everything continuously. She picked the salt container to add some more to Sambhar, which was almost ready.
“When will you add these vegetables?”Sakshi lifted the plate and showed to Meera.
“At last. Otherwise, they will all get mashed.”
Sakshi picked a bowl and a spoon from the utensil stand and said, “Give me. I will taste and tell.”
“Yes, just about five more minutes. So, what was I saying? I walked out from the class that day. Downstairs, at the reception area of my school, my neighbours were waiting with my sister. She had her bag on her back and a strange look in her eyes. I assume, even she knew what had happened at home. She looked at me and asked if I knew anything. I denied and pretended to not discern, knowing all along that both of us had a fair idea. It was so evident on my sister’s face. I had looked into her eyes that day and knew that both of us were aware. We went home and then, rest of it is all history,” Meera added a little more water to Sambhar as it came to boil, “Give me your bowl. Taste it.”
Sakshi’s eyes had welled up with silent tears as she passed on the bowl.
“Taste and tell me what needs to be added.”
Sakshi took Sambhar into spoon, blew into it to cool and tasted it as Meera watched to catch her first expressions.
“Delicious it is!”
“Need to add something?” Meera confirmed again.
“Just a pinch of salt. Rest of it is perfect!” Sakshi told Meera, “And, now, come and sit in the room. You are sweating. Sit down.”
“Yes. I am coming; you go and sit first.” Meera pushed Sakshi out from the kitchen, promising her to join in a few more minutes.
She put the flame off, covered the Sambhar pot with a plate to join Sakshi, carrying two glasses of water in a tray.