Savitri was cooking up a storm…………., literally. Her ma-in law was arriving by the night train and so the frenzied activity.
From the time she had become a widow, mayi (ma-in-law in Konkani) used to alternate between the homes of her two sons. Three months at each place. And her arrival was preceded by cleaning, clearing and cooking. She was very finicky about neatness-each item at its proper place types and cleanliness. Being a good cook, no one absolutely no one could satisfy her taste buds, she could find fault with the best of cooks.
And then there was Saani ( Saani means young in Konkani). Saani was the other daughter in law, her pet. Saani could never do anything wrong. Saani was chic, Saani could cook Continental, Saani had a lovely accent etc.
Of course she had a lovely accent. She was heading HR in an IT company not like her –cashier in Canara Bank thought Savi. Whole day dole out cash, check and cross check and then rush home to cook and satisfy mayi. She would sit whole day chanting her Ram naams but would she help her, no. And would she eat the leftovers of the morning meal or the previous days, no. And so when Mayi was with them she would have to cook four times a day. Yes four times, how can one have just tea in the evening? What- biscuits with tea? No. Biscuits were still an alien word in Mayis dictionary.
‘Amma what are you making’, asked her six year old daughter Aadya. ‘Ubbatis dear’, she replied. ‘What amma I wanted Crème caramel’, wailed Aadya. ‘Yes yes why not, as if your Bappamma (paternal Grandmother) was not enough, you also make demands. I will resign and sit at home catering to all of your needs’, screamed Savi. ‘Come here Aadya’, her eldest Aruna said, ‘bappammas coming today and amma’s BP is high’, she giggled. Rajeev chuckled but then kept a straight face, he knew it was better to be quiet, else swords could be raised.
Now mayi loved Ubbatis. Ubbati is a sweet made of all purpose flour rolled like chappatis and stuffed with sweetened chana dal.(Also known as holige in kannada and puranpolis in Marathi). But it had to be perfectly round, shallow fried to a golden color and adequately sweet). In all her 15 years of married life, Savi had not been able to evoke a good response from her ma in law on her cooking. But this time she hoped to break the jinx. And so the ubbatis.
‘Aaykale(listen-in konkani), taste this and tell me how it is,’ said Savi to her husband. In the early days of her marriage Savi had once called him by his name, but one look at her mayis knitted eyebrows and she had resorted to Aaykale. Her husband as usual was unresponsive, but so many years of marriage she could read his mind. Yes, it had turned out well.
Mayi came feasted on the spread and then Savi laid out her trump card-ubbati. But no- no response. Like mother-like son thought Savi grudgingly.
Next day lunch time she got a call from Saani
She was astonished. Saani and call her?
Saani-Hello akka and thus they exchanged pleasantries and then Saani asked, Akka can you tell me the proportion of ubbati. Mayi never seems to be happy with what I make but she always praises you and your cooking. So I thought in these three months I will practice making ubbatis and then try to please her.
A bulb flashed in Savis mind and she asked-What else does she say about me/
Saani- that you are an exceptional cook, you have kept the traditions alive, your home is like a true Konkani home etc.
Savi-And do you know what she says about you? And then she told her. ‘Do you know what this means?’
Saani-Yes divide and rule policy. Mayi praises you in front of me and me in front of you and thus has enjoyed the best of both worlds And both of them giggled.
And that night peace reigned in both the homes; the food was lip-smacking, while the families wondered the reason for the smirk in the Home Ministers face.