Life now and The Tiffin Trail
Monday, December 03, 2012
Mumbai is a huge Metropolis---and it is a City that needs to be experienced--cannot ever be fully encapsulated in words!!This City thrums with Vibrance and Life and as the Legend goes--anyone can make it in Mumbai---for Mumbai keeps everyone--from a Zillionaire to the Ragpicker---afloat!!I live in this thrumming,vibrant City and I'll not lie---this City has just recently begun to have a positive impact on me!!I grew up in a small Town and though I embraced the best that this Megapolis had to offer--for most of my married life I craved the laid back easy pace of the small Town--and hence constant forays into the North as well as my roots in Kolhapur to touch base with my inner self. Sudhir's death has changed all that completely.Today after Sudhir's death, this City has become a cocoon for me--a refuge which I'm now reluctant to leave--at least for now!!Maybe I'll feel differently in Future--I don't know.
Despite living here for so many years I could never really get in sync with this City.This shows in the home I picked--buying a Flat in one of the quiet by lanes of a bustling Suburb--surrounded by lots of Greenery and Nature--definitely an unique oddity in this bustling City!!Today some 37 years after we shifted here, very little has changed.Though many large Companies have opened their Offices here, the sleepy ambience continues--and I can still imagine that I'm living in a small Town even today!!Frankly it is like living in a small Town with all the plus points of a huge Megapolis--with the least of it's drawbacks!!While Sudhir was alive my entire day revolved around him and my mornings---specially before he left would be super busy--rushing to and fro between the Kitchen,the Telephone and the Doorbell for the best part of the early morning!!Things would settle down once he left for Court around 10.30 a.m.----and then I'd settle down to read the News Papers and the Computer---mainly SP.My domestic Staff would arrive by 11 a.m. and then my day would begin in earnest once more.Cooking took up most of my time--for Sudhir loved good Food.Though not a very large eater he was very particular and critical about the manner in which his meals were cooked.He needed a variety but was not interested in the richer variations in my recipes--preferring simple but well cooked meals instead.Thanks to this I liked cooking for his friends--he'd carry Food for them on Wednesdays and Fridays sometimes--for the rest of the days were mainly vegetarian--each one observing one or the other day of the Week as a Fast.It was on these occasions that I went all out--cooking the Party Food like Biryanis, Pulaos,Curries, Kababs, and Thai Curries to keep my hand in practice!!So often he has sent our driver, Pradeep along with his Court Clerk Babu back home at 12.30 p.m. just to carry the Food to Court--freshly cooked and hot off the Stove!!
This used to keep me busy and I loved cooking----mainly because our daily Food had minimum Oil/Ghee in it thanks to my heart condition.It worked for both of us--for I felt it kept Sudhir healthy too--but he'd pile on the calories with after Dinner sweets--Dark Chocolates, diamond/square shaped rich evaporated Milk solids called Khoya Barfis in 3-4 varieties of flavour,deep Brown Gulab 'Jamuns in Sugar Syrup, "Jalebis" crisp and Saffron coated, dripping Sugar Syrup,Ghee and Sugar saturated Motichoor Laddus made with Ghee deep fried tiny beads of Chick Pea Flour to mention just a few of his perennial favourites!!It used to be so funny the way the exchange of dialogue between Vanita and him used to take place after he finished dinner.He'd ask her about the Dessert choices he had--and Vanita would reel off the list of Varieties packed in Tupperware in the 'Fridge--mentioning the variety as well as the number of pieces available!!The number was mentioned daily because he always had a sneaking suspicion that I used to eat Sweets on the sly--specially whenever my Sugar dropped!!As he used to worry himself sick over my health, I rarely told him how often this happened.So he'd try to keep tabs on me this way!!Little did he know that I had no need to touch his Stuff--for I had my own stash of my favourite Bengali Milk Sweets stowed away in the depths of the 'Fridge---to gorge on each time I needed the Sugar!!!We were a pair of Idiots--trying to protect each other from the worries of daily living.And today just the Memories remain---though painful at times, these are still a great comfort to me as well--for these are an integral part of my life with him--a span of 41 years together.
That is why when the youngsters working at the local branch of my Bank requested me to consider cooking and supplying Tiffins to them I accepted.The reason behind this was that firstly I enjoyed Cooking and secondly I was just whiling away my days--- I had Time hanging on my hands--for with Sudhir's exit a huge vacuum had been created in my life--and just cooking for myself held no incentive and no appeal at all!!This gave me an opportunity to cook healthy,wholesome Meals for these youngsters and the polished off Tiffins coming back each evening held a testimony to the fact that whatever I cooked was tasty as well as appreciated by them!!Unfortunately there was only one snag--my poor Maths!!As usual I miscalculated and when at the end of 3 weeks I took stock of my stint in Catering--I found that I'd barely recovered a third of my cost!!!Sayali and Ritu literally sat me down and explained to me exactly where I went wrong--while I had calculated the cost of the Vegetables,Seasonings and the Oil/Ghee I had forgotten to incorporate the cost of the Cooking Gas,Rice,Whole Wheat Flour and Pulses that were used regularly each and every day!!Since the quality used was excellent they told me--the cost was bound to be equally expensive and since I had used these liberally and supplied generous amounts I was operating at a loss!!Also I had not calculated the cost of the extra Salaries i was paying to Vanita,Chhayabai as well as Ramesh-- the boy I'd kept for making the "Phulkas" and Dilip--the fellow who delivered the Tiffins!!Above all my biggest crime was that I had not taken into account my on labour--so the entire cost was revamped!!Each Tiffin climbed to double the original cost and the supply came down from 20 Tiffins a day to just 3--taken by three young girls who decided that the Food i cooked was helping them stay fit!!
But then when one door closes another opens--the latest is that I'm catering to Parties--and getting orders for supplying Food for 20-30 people.The cost of each Item has been meticulously calculated by Sayali on an Excel Sheet---so hopefully, I just cannot go wrong this time!!