‘That is enough for you?’, asked my team leader Shravya as I bit into my sandwich.
‘ummm, yes’, I said.
She scrutinized me and said, ‘Really?’
Well, I couldn’t blame her. People usually assume I eat truckloads looking at my figure.
‘Yes’, I said and watched as she took out her dabba. It had two layers. One had roti-sabji and the other had some sort of rice.
The aroma was tantalizing. How could I tell her that no the sandwich was not enough for me. But my budget only allowed me that. I stayed in a Working women’s hostel which fed us nicely morn and night. Afternoons we had to fend for ourselves. I had my educational loan installments to pay and had to support my younger brother with his school fees and also had to send mom some amount for the household expenses. Our father had departed the previous year.
I sucked in my breath. I love Gujarati food and the aroma was too much for me to bear.
Shravya and me shared a very difficult relationship. We had not yet discovered whether we loved each other or hated. She hated that I was a Management graduate while they all were from an Audit one. The Boss had taken me in so that I could give a management angle to their Internal Audit firm. So we had our tiffs.
‘Aditi, you don’t know how to make a simple report’, she would shout.
‘I know but I don’t know how Auditors make reports’, I would retort.
She believed in finding faults, I believed in making the team work. And the Boss had a merry time watching us.
But then she was our team leader I had to obey her.
Being the introvert type I would be stuck in my cabin. Cabin being the place were internal auditors were given space in the client office. As soon as it was 6 p.m I would leave. ‘Stay a bit late, strike up a conversation, get some info’, she said one day.
‘I may miss my train and if I do I may miss dinner at hostel’, I replied
‘Why’, she asked.
‘The refectory opens at 7.30p.m. If girls are real hungry food gets over by 8’, I said. She never asked me to wait after that.
Soon after I started taking rotis from a Gujarati lady for afternoon. 3 chappatis and some sabji. If you know Gujaratis, then you may know that they make tiny chappatis. And so when I put the first bite inside my mouth, Shravya raised one eyebrow and was about to ask, When I replied, ‘enough for me’.
She shrugged. No wonder… since that morning we had had a massive showdown in the … ahem.. loo. In case you get ideas, let me clarify.. since we work in the client’s office we could not argue/fight in front of everyone could we. In front of everyone we were the perfect team mates.
Next day she brought an even larger dabba. I seriously wonder how she managed to be so slim after eating so much. ‘Here have some undhiyu’, she said.
‘No, no, I have had enough’, I made a feeble protest.
‘Ma has packed a lot for me, I can’t have that much, at least help in finishing this dabba’, she said.
I had memories of my own mother who never found me fat and fed me to her heart’s content.
I took some and had. After all who can resist undhiyu.
It became a regular affair. She would always get something extra. And I would gladly eat.
It was the fest at Mahim Church. I went along with my hostel mates. Shravya was there too with her mother.
She introduced me to her mother. ‘Is she the one who loves my cooking and for whom you take extras’, she said.
Shravya expertly changed the topic.
Next day I asked her, ‘Why?’
‘What’, she replied.
‘Why do you bring food for me?’, I asked.
She let out a sigh and said, ‘I really couldn’t see you starving Aditi and don’t you see after I started bringing food for you, your work has improved!!’
She was right.
I didn’t have words, I just hugged her.
As Amitabh says in the Daawat ad, we Indians really bond over food.