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Fiction Happy Indigenous

Saraswathy was mending her flowerpots and just whiling away her time in the backyard. Though she had no regrets, she was still unhappy over her ex-boss in dismissing her from job, for no fault of hers. She could have explained her position and made them understand her point of view. Of what use would it be? It would be a futile exercise. Saraswathy strongly believed that certain people never changed. She was dismissed for preparing food in large quantity. Even if she could convince them that excess food prepared by her was mainly due to the fact that the boss did not tell her how many guests were expected on that day and what should be the menu for dinner for them. Above all, when she came to know that the very food which she prepared was considered to be in excess, was simply consumed by a fresh batch of unexpected guests on the same day, she really did not understand why the boss blamed her for being extravagant and a lavish spender. The only explanation she could think of, was the old saying that

“Boss is a boss. No questions can be asked.”  It was proved once again.

Her neighbour Meena picked up general conversation with her. She casually mentioned that a bakery class was being organised by an agency called Adumanai and would start classes if they could get twenty-five members to enrol. Saraswathy thought it was a good opportunity to learn something new. She enquired further details about class, duration, venue, fees etc. and gave her name. They wanted some more people to join so that classes could be started. She instantaneously suggested her daughter’s name and enrolled her also.

In a few days’ time the classes started. Initially it was only one class, though it comprised of two courses --- Preliminary then Advanced. Saraswathy had joined Preliminary while her daughter Prema took up Advanced course for which the fees were a bit higher. In the introductory viz Preliminary course, they talked about bakery, its basics, various terminologies, required equipment, general ingredients etcetera. All the trainers insisted on hygiene and purity. In the Advanced course, it was mostly on commercial productions and largescale productions. Event based preparations theme-based preparations etc.

Saraswathy was not keen on Advanced course. She was contented with what could be made at home. Bread, bun, cake, home-made chocolates, etc. Her course was over in two months. Prema in her Advanced course had to learn a little more --- on techniques of making and baking theme-based cakes, decorating them with creams, cherries, nuts and so on. Eggless cakes, cup-cakes puffs biscuits and cookies were also part of their curriculum. The students were even taken to big and small bakeries, medium size companies engaged in similar baking items.

It was a novel experience for Saraswathy to reduce herself to a student level, take notes, answer questions in classes and draw attention of others by seeking clarifications. Once she raised a query to a baker from a famous eatery MBT, Make-Bake-Take as to how he could claim royalty for a routine cup-cake just because it had cherries and the cup was in a star shape, similarly the stuffed puffs baked in different shapes. She insisted that unless some design or name was inscribed on those items, they could not be classified as unique and hence no royalty.

At the end of the course, same bakery man suggested that he would employ two candidates as apprentices in his MBT for two months. He also made it clear that there was no fee for apprenticeship and no stipend for the training period. It was open to all students learning in Preliminary and Advanced courses.

On first of the following month, there was one person who came up for apprenticeship. She was none other than Saraswathy. The owner of MBT did not expect this. He was hopeful of some youngsters coming forward and taking the opportunity. Who knows? In future such young men could set up their own unit. He asked her about her intentions in coming forward as an apprentice. He even suggested that it would be better if her daughter came up as she was younger with better prospects and brighter future.

Saraswathy deliberately avoided her daughter coming here, as she thought that this owner had some special concern for Prema. Actually, Prema was the one who wanted to apply while Saraswathy was least bothered. In order to avoid unnecessary dealings with this man, she stopped Prema and offered herself for the post. In the two months’ course, she would learn more about baking techniques and also use it as an opportunity to know the nature of the owner. Two in one. Eventually she enjoyed both.

There was something special about him --- his name. Jakanachary, an unusual and unfamiliar name. She asked him about it. He replied that his original name was Chennakesavan. But he got it changed to Jakanachary, by declaring in the Government Gazette. The reason was also very unique. Jakanachary was the name of a famous sculptor of Kaidala of Tumkur district in Karnataka. He lived in twelfth century. He was a renowned sculptor of Hoysala period. His son Dankanachary was also equally great but father’s skill was exemplary. The legendary sculptor etched wonders on rock-cut-stones and the present day Jakanachary - the baker did the same on flours and breads. As a tribute to the extraordinary creative artist of bygone era, he named himself as Jakanachari.

Saraswathy was quite impressed by his reverence for creative artists and sense of pride and honour in heritage of ancient India. She also admired him for his sense of pride and confidence in his skills. No wonder he talked about royalty for his products. She had earlier thought of him as an arrogant fellow. Now she changed her opinion. His total devotion and commitment to his work was something noteworthy. For him work is worship. Just like herself.   

Though she did not take up the Advanced course through Adumanai Agency, here in Jakanachary’s MBT, she got good exposure on baking and decorating colourful, creamy cakes. She even learnt how to bring out the photo of the customers or some popular cinema heroes on the specially baked cakes for their birthdays or special events. She got first-hand experience in baking in many novel items. Not only cakes, even puffs, ordinary breads, toasts, cookies -- all varieties of baked foods everything bore his stamp of excellency. By and large she found it very useful. She understood that working with him was a pleasure. Alas! All good things had to come to an end. Her internship was also coming to a close.

One day Prema told her mother that an exhibition of cakes along with a competition for best entry was going to be held in Bangalore shortly. It was also an annual feature in Bangalore similar to the Flower show in hill stations like Ooty and Kodaikaanal. Prema told this as a piece of information. But Saraswathy took it very seriously and urged Jakanachary to participate. Jakanachary was not keen on it. He was very particular about the name and reputation of his MBT Bakery shop. He somehow believed such competitions were biased and winners were predetermined. No fair play was expected. Suppose he participated in such competitions and did not win, then it would be construed as a black spot, both for him and his MBT. More than anything else, entries for such participations had to be on massive scale which required more hands, that too skilled hands. He shirked.  

Sarawathy did not give up. She again prompted him to participate. It was a rare occasion to showcase his ability. Winning the competition should only be seen as additional bonus. She further explained that in travel or trekking, journey was more important than destination. Similarly, in competitions, participation with sincere efforts was more important than winning. Further she added, for extra hands he would need for making massive scale cakes, she suggested that both herself and her daughter and if need be, some more students from her batch could be relied upon.

He was getting tempted. He said jokingly if Prema would join hands with him, then he would consider participating. Saraswathy got the clue. So, the cat was finally out of the bag. Both were silently nursing their hopes of bright future. When Prema talked about exhibition, it was with an inner motive and Jakanachary now confessed that he would like to join his hands with hers with an inner motive. Both were talking as if it was not exclusively for participating in the competition alone. Saraswathy welcomed their move and was in tune with them.

She started it. So, she had to take it further. She told both of them, “Let us concentrate on …. 1.what should be our entry, 2.how we should try on that and 3.how best we should accomplish it. I suggest that you choose one of Jakanachary’s famous and unique monumental scupture and bring it out in the form of a cake by baking it and add special effects on it. You will be achieving twin benefits by this participation. One, you will be offering your tributes to your mentor cum Guru and next, your cake entry being exceptionally unique will draw attention from all viewers and if you are lucky, it may even win a prize.  What do you say? How about Chennakesava temple as your model for cake?”

She allowed some time to pass so that her idea would seep into him. Then she continued. “Once you decide the design and size of the cake, you please advise us on how to bring it alive on our table. Step by step instructions, please for baking.”

Prema was also seriously listening to the proceedings and was keen on making it ‘dream come true’. She was the one gave a leading clue on exhibitions. Her mother Saraswathy took it little further in prompting Jakanachary to enter the contest. He was the type who would venture into anything if and only he was sure of winning it. Probably that was the reason he did not propose even if was interested in her. Unless he was motivated and his confidence level was highly boosted, their efforts for participation in the contest would not any bear fruits. She bought a colourful chart paper and on that she used stencils and wrote in admirable calligraphy the following lines which she had extracted from School Days Quotes.

‘There is no dearth of opportunities. If you keep your pursuits on, you are sure to achieve what you want. Hopes are the biggest driving force in life. Certain things do not change.’

It worked.  He discussed with the ladies Prema and Saraswathy. He told them it was just next to impossible to create the whole structure of temple. Better it would be to choose a small portion of it only for the purpose of making a cake. Then he decided upon one sketch which showed -- two elephants on both sides of broad steps leading to entrance wall with intricate works on the ‘mandapam’. The legendary sculptor could do it on rocks. This modern bakery legend would be sculpting it on the cake he would be baking.

Before starting their venture, all three of them offered sincere prayers to their God Chennakesava and also sought blessings from the sculptor Guru Jakanachary. The ball was then set to roll on.

Once the model of their sketch on paper was ready, rest of the planning and execution work were not tedious. They enlarged their paper model and took copies, kept them handy at places. They applied their minds day and night, sat on discussion for hours, set their hearts and hands on its layout. Then they collected ingredients, prepared the base stuff for each item as it appeared on the model work, assembled parts by parts, time and again checking them with their model paper. As many idols and images were on the sketch, so many idols and images had to be on the cake also. Slowly the work was progressing.

No doubt it was an enormous work. But it was quite gratifying. It was then that Saraswathy again emphasized on her philosophy that journey was more important than destination. He too agreed.  Whether he would be winning in the contest or not – it was secondary now. His job satisfaction, that alone counted now. He decided to craft hereafter such cakes based on the super sculptor’s works as much as possible.

He told the ladies that he was indebted to them for this achievement and job satisfaction. The daughter looked at her mother and mother looked at her daughter as if they were reading each other’s minds. Then Saraswathy gave words to her thoughts. There was one way available to him to clear his indebtedness.

That was a visit to Chennakesava temple, after winning the contest to which he readily agreed. His eyes set on Prema he said,

“Winning or not winning, it does not matter. We will surely go there …. With some garlands.”

Saraswathy did not ask why and what for about the garlands.       

December 11, 2020 19:09

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