Someone’s going. So, what’s cooking? Farewell of course! Call me nostalgic and a drag, but I hate farewells. Especially when they are for my sister- returning back to her college.
Shopping and check lists stay ready on the table, sprawling like mansions on the manor. Bags and baskets of clothes (yes, the shopping ritual continued till today evening) that she must take back to her college. Other necessities, food stuffs, some sweets, clothing that needed tailoring, goodies and bills. A jar of murabba made of the Indian gooseberry, bought after the indifferent, consistent convincing by my mother, who reiterated every minute without fail, until my sister agreed, that “One must not go back empty handed to hostel.”
Her unfinished novels wait on the study table to be packed. Dirty rugged clothes wait on the washing machine at the eleventh hour, for until eternity they stand in the breadline, only to be transported to the speed post queue and get washed until clean and hygienic enough for travel. Meanwhile, she stumbles from one email to the other- looking for her flight ticket “Where in this universe did that mail go?”
“What’s the time we must leave?” asks my mother from the corridor. My clueless sister remains quiet and spurts out of childlike glee and carelessness.
The afternoon passes with some petty anecdotes about family whereabouts in place of the metro stories that I happen to miss quite so much. And then dawns the evening, bringing us closer to departure time (whatever that maybe).
With no plans to attend morning tuitions tomorrow, I pick up maths books and sit to study for my test. I fail to do so indeed. I wrap the textbook and my pens together and rush to the kitchen instead. Something’s crawling up my nose. And luckily (this time) it is the smell of something hot and warm and minutely sweet, it is the fragrance of saffron convulsed with some sugar.
It’s time for farewell, twirl the words in magnified text animation that swing out of the boiling and fretting bubbles overlaying the milky kheer in the pot, which is cooking against the homely kitchen shutters of my house -glass with black polka dots- and is spindling and waving and wagering like fairy-dust in the vessel. I can see the creamy beige of the condensed milk spiral into the milk. I can feel the softness of the swollen rice by looking at them flutter in the pool of creamy delicious kheer.
Albeit my mother cooks once in a blue moon, she is a wonderful cook, and sweet dishes are like her signature recipes. The best of all her nifty experiments is the saffron tinted, condensed milk kheer. It is but my and my sister’s solemn love. But today, the cooking in the pot wasn’t a very delightful sight. It was not kheer cooking in that pot, but farewell. The sugar, the saffron, the milk, everything was just preparation for biding adieu. Ingredients of a goodbye. This sweet dish, was in fact scheming and preventing paradoxically bittersweet goodbyes. Farewell isn’t a pretty thing, luckily for the kheer, it saved me the emotion.
My sister, she leaves tomorrow. Well, that’s not fair. But then, life isn’t served as the same sweet churned-to-perfection condensed milk kheer each time. Is it?
No, I do not have a philosophical metaphor to end this memoir. Just the understanding, that at least there was one thing good in all of this, saying goodbye became easier (and pretty scuffled for I had a mouth busy relishing the sweet, creamy, whipped, velvety sweet in my mouth…! )