Spicy Rasam

Not a cooking or food blog! I just share what's cooking in my mind.

To read the part 5, click here

India, 1998

Rishi played with a yoyo ball as he walked towards the grocery store. His mom had given him a big list. The chore was worth it though. He will get to buy 2 Bar One chocolates. Rishi walked past Mr. Saxena’s house. The front door was closed. Simran, Mr. Saxena’s granddaughter, always opens all doors and windows. They were even nicknamed the ‘open house’ in the neighbourhood. ‘Odd,’ he thought to himself as he walked away. “Hi!” he heard Angel’s distinct voice. He involuntarily smiled and creased his forehead with sudden realization. He turned to face Angel. As usual, she was wearing a blue dress. She smiled brightly.

“If you’re here, who is it this time?” Rishi stooped his shoulders and said, “Angel!! I have work. Come on! Mom will kill me. She thinks I am slacking away. Last time that girl did not even thank me.”

Angel smiled. “Come on!” she said and walked towards Mr. Saxena’s house. Saxena uncle was in his 80s. had been in the military. He stayed with his daughter and granddaughter. “Uncle!” called Rishi, “Aunty! Simran…..” he called. Angel was already inside. She gestured, ‘come inside.’ Rishi sighed and walked inside the compound.

He called again, “Uncle! Uncle, you there?” Rishi saw that the newspaper was near the shoe-flower plant. It was today’s newspaper. He turned to look at Angel. She was not there. He walked near the window and looked inside. The house was dark. No lights were on. Rishi pursed his lips. He looked at the big list in his hands. His mom will kill him if he goes empty handed. She has made carrot halwa. He was sure his share will go to his sister. He wet his lips and thought for a second. He walked around the house and reached the backyard. The house had a huge well in the backyard. He kept the bags near the mango tree and climbed on the well. He held a branch of the mango tree with one hand and swayed his way onto the sunshade. Once he was on the sunshade, he pushed himself up the terrace wall and jumped on the terrace floor.

Angel watched him with delight as she sat on top of the coconut tree. Rishi was resourceful. She knew that. He did not empathise with people, but he could be persuaded to care. “Whatcha doing?” Angel heard a voice. Without looking, she knew it was Bright eyes. “Shhhhh….” said Angel as she watched Rishi remove all the ropes that were used for drying clothes. He tied the ends and connected the ropes. He then tied one end to the huge pillar in the middle of the terrace. He proceeded to climb down to the first floor. Bright eyes nodded and said, “I am impressed.”

Rishi looked though the first-floor window that was Saxena uncle’s bedroom. He was not there. Simran was his tuition teacher, and he was well versed with the house. He went to the kitchen window and kicked the grill door. The screw came off a little. He swayed back and kicked it again with more force. He was lucky. Aunty had not yet fixed the door. It fell with a thud on the kitchen floor. Taking some utensils and the water cooler along with it. ‘I am dead if I don’t find anything wrong,’ he thought.

He jumped on the kitchen counter and walked on top of it to reach the door. He proceeded to search in the living room. Mr. Saxena was not there. He thought for a second and went inside the bathroom. He found Mr. Saxena on the floor. He immediately tried to lift him up in vain. He opened the main door and ran to the Nairs’ house. “Uncle!” he called. “Uncle!” he shouted with increased volume. “What?” asked Sanjay, Mr. Nair’s son, as he came out of the door. “Saxena uncle’s fell down. Help me!” said Rishi. Sanjay ran, along with Rishi, inside the Saxena house to help him.

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“Want some?” asked Angel to bright eyes. She held out a piece of coconut. Bright eyes got it from her and started to eat. “When did he see you?” asked Bright eyes. “Some time back!” replied Angel, “The kid is different.”

“How?” asked Bright eyes.

“He has a knack for getting things done,” said Angel.

“Hmmmm…” said bright eyes, “So! He is the one for Janani?”

“I think so,” said Angel.

“He looks so small, though. He’s really 15?” asked bright eyes and Angel nodded. Both looked at the boys helping Mr. Saxena. Sanjay, who was much older than Rishi, effortlessly lifted Mr. Saxena by holding his shoulders. Rishi was talking on the phone. He kept the phone down and went to the kitchen to get some water. Sanjay lay down Mr. Saxena on the sofa and started to rub his soles. The walls were not there. Bright eyes and Angel could see what was happening inside. “And! Hey!” said Angel to bright eyes, “The snake near the lake, the one that eats rats. It saw Janani’s third eye.”

Bright eyes stopped eating and looked at Angel with a startled expression.

“She’s just 12, right?” asked Angel and bright eyes nodded. “All the best,” said Angel and turned to look at bright eyes with a smirky smile, “You’ll be called up soon.”

India, 1998

Parimala looked at the clock eagerly. She worked in a local wholesale rice shop as an accountant. The work was good and it paid well. The best part was she got discount on rice. “Annachi, I am leaving,” said Parimala and took her handbag.

“OK!” said Annachi and got back to counting money. “Wait! Parimala,” he said.

“Hmmmmmm…”

“How much was the money Dilip stores deposited this month?” asked Annachi.

Parimala thought for a few seconds, “hmmmmm…. 2000. They deposited Rs. 2000.”

“OK! OK then! We can give them rice tomorrow. OK, see you tomorrow,” said Annachi.

Parimala smiled and walked outside. “Bye Mani,” she said to the store helper. “Bye!” replied Mani.

Parimala walked to the Aavin milk centre and bought milk sweets for Janani. She loved to walk home, even though there was a bus to the locality she lived at 6:15.

She placed the sweets inside her bag and started to walk. She loved the evenings. The orange sky was beautiful, and the greens were greener. She could see people everywhere. Some were leaving work. Some were buying vegetables from the street vendor, and some were gathered in the local Ganesh temple for evening pooja. She kept walking, taking in the liveliness.

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Saravanan walked silently behind Parimala. She always walked. Why can’t she take the bus? It is definitely safer. He sighed. He had to walk everyday because of her. Saravaran worked in the medical shop opposite the rice shop. He loved Parimla. He knew she was a widow and has a child. He could not help but love her. She was sincere, intelligent, and simple. Annachi could not stop praising her when she had joined as an accountant. She organised the books and eased book-keeping within a month. For some reason, whenever he praised Parimala, Saravanan felt proud. It took him a whole year to figure out that he liked her. And another year to figure out that he loved her. His assistant thought he was crazy. He understood why. He was a good 5 to 6 years younger than her and she had a child.

Parimala wore a bright maroon saree today. Her hair was always plaited. She never wore earrings. She had a dark complexion, with tiny pimple marks on her cheeks. She always wore a red, round bindi, a thin gold chain, and one bangle on each hand. She never wore synthetic material sarees and she loved cotton sarees. The way she wears her saree makes someone wonder if she ironed the cloth after wearing it. It was perfect. She was perfect.

Parimala walked in a steady pace. He sometimes felt like she was dance walking. Saravanan smiled. This was her only indulgence. She was a frugal woman, so of course her indulgence did not cost money. Everyday, Saravanan will follow her till she entered her apartment building, and he will board a bus back to his shop. His assistant knew, Annachi knew, and Mani knew. Even the lady who sold flower garlands near his shop know this. She would pester him to profess his love and give him jasmine flower garlands then and now. ‘Everyone knew, except Parimala’, he thought.

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Parimala stopped to buy some fruits. As she bargained and paid the amount, she could see in her peripheral that Saravanan was following her. She was used to him by now. He did that every day. He was a good man. He never tried to talk to her or misbehave. “He just wants to make sure you go home safe, akka,” Mani would say with a mischievous glint in his eyes. She had a fondness for Saravanan. She was not sure if it was worth redesigning her life. Anyway, Saravanan has never told her that he loved her. So, no point letting her imagination go further. She distracted herself with the mother and kids trio who walked in front of her. The two kids were fighting to hold their mother’s hand. The mother was walking slowly so that the kids did not trip and fall. She was holding a heavy bag on her left hand. Parimala smiled and went near the mother. “Want me to hold the bag?” she asked with a smile.

The mother looked at her two angry kids, one of whom was at the verge of tears. “Yes, please!” she said and Parimala got the bag from her. “I can carry it till Mullai flats,” said Parimala.

“Till Apu Flats will do,” said the mother and held both the kids’ hands.

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Saravanan looked at the scene proudly. ‘I wish she was younger’, he thought, ‘Maybe I can change her birth certificate.’ He then smiled at his silliness. He suddenly realised that his legs hurt. ‘God! Why can’t she take the bus?’ he thought.

To read the part 7, click here

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