Submitted into Contest #31 in response to: Write a short story about someone cooking dinner.... view prompt



Saraswathy, by virtue of working in the same house as cook for the past four years, knew too well about likes and dislikes of the family members. She was also aware of frequent visitors to the family and to some extent, their likes and dislikes. It so happened that their ex-colleague, Srikrishna, who worked with them at USA had come with his family to Bangalore and wanted to meet them. So Ramulu invited him and his family for dinner. He also called other colleagues and common friends known to Srikrishna, for dinner on the same day, so that the esteemed guest could meet all of them at one place and on same day.

Srikrishna coming from USA on a short period of leave, did not have sufficient time to spend on friends and relatives. His very purpose of visit was to attend his nephew’s wedding and then visit few holy places and temples. More important than that was meeting Ramulu. He was different – more than a friend or a relative. Having come to India he would rather miss attending the wedding than miss meeting Ramulu. Equally Ramulu, was also eagerly looking forward to meeting his bosom friend, Srikrishna. No wonder, he wanted to make the event a fantastic one.

Ramulu first wanted to host the dinner at some posh hotel. It was Saraswathy who suggested to have it at home, with a shamiyana, a smaller type of marquee, in their balcony. Her intention was very clear. She wanted extra payment for the extra work done. Ramulu readily accepted idea for two reasons … all friends can join freely with all members and of course, there was no time limitation nor even formal dress code or any such societal formalities. He told Saraswathy that about 15 to 20 members were expected. Saraswathy had to prepare a menu chart. She knew Srikrishna was Kannadiga, Ramulu from Andhra, Parasuram a Keralite and Subramanian a Tamilian. In her menu Saraswathy included one special item for each family. This was in addition to her routine base course like roti, rice, sambhar, curry etc. When Saraswathy wanted to take approval from Ramulu, she found him busy talking to Deshpande. He was inviting them. But the telephonic conversation went on and on. So, she went to Seethamma, wife of Ramulu for approval of menu. But that lady also, was busy on phone and also simultaneously getting ready to go beauty parlour, with the result, decision making was upon herself. Since Seethamma was not that amicable to Saraswathy’s way of performing, it was better to have her concurrence before-hand. But, what to do? Time was a big constraint. When would she seek approval and when would she start and when would she complete? There was no choice. Finally, she decided. ‘Ok. Come what may. Let me go ahead.’   

Sarawathy, with her elaborate menu, was busy in finishing one by one and ticking them in her menu chart. There was Bisibela and Ubbittoo as special items for the Kannadiga family, Puliyodara or the Tamarind rice and gonkoora chatni as Andhra special, Avial as Kerala special and Sweet Pongal, the Tamil speciality. Oh yes, she had included Deshpande also in the list of guests for dinner and for their sake, she had already prepared Saboodaana Kichdi – a typical Maharashtrian dish made with tapioca, potatoes and peanuts. She checked up with her menu chart and ensured that nothing had been left out. The normal curry, curd rice, pickles, chips and such other routine items all were done. Finally, all the mouth-watering items were decoratively set at the dining table. She was happy that she had prepared sumptuous and sufficient food. She thought it would be gratifying to see the guests appreciating and enjoying the feast. For her, the satisfaction was only in serving them than in mere elaborate preparation. Had it not been dinner, she would have done serving part also. But she had to go home to take care of her family.

Seethamma was yet to come back from parlour. So, she told the host of the house, Ramulu, and then left. Slowly, one by one guests started arriving. Parasuram with his wife and two kids, was first to come. Soon Srikrishna with his unit of family joined. Oh! It was a sight to see the old pals meeting and greeting each other. The depth and warmth of their friendship were explicit and noteworthy. ‘Tears of joy’ was an understatement. Subramanian also joined them shortly. It was sheer joy and surprise for Srikrishna to meet all friends at one place. Any amount of words of praise and thanks was a too little. Introduction of family members, exchange of greetings and gifts for each other etc., kept them busy. Memories were freshened up with old anecdotes and happy times spent together, updates of other common friends, etc. the talking went on and on.

Seethamma reminded them about dinner and the kids losing interest in elders’ endless talk. She led them to the dining table. Upon seeing the various items spread out there – too much and too many, she was very angry and annoyed. That cook! What a nasty woman! In these days of expensive vegetables and groceries, how could a person think of preparing so many items and for a few members! A terrible waste of food stuff! All at whose cost? But, in front of these guests, she just could not express a single word. She had to put up a smiling face. Smiling outwardly only, but she was actually boiling inside. A frowning face could mar the show.

But worse was yet to come. Srikrishna’s wife excused herself saying that she was already suffering from stomach-upset. The wedding she attended and the mass-level food served there did its job in robbing her crave for tasty food. The children also did not do justice to their food as it was quite untimely for them. Each one had something to say as excuse for their not taking full course. The men kept saying that the lively conversations with recap of old memories were more filling. Food for thought was more gratifying than food for stomach. Contented heart weighed more than contented belly. More than half of what the cook had prepared were left behind. The best part was that Deshpande and his family did not come at all. Saraswathy was not aware of that. He had frankly told Ramulu about his inability to attend. But Saraswathy, not knowing this, included him and his family for the gala get-together and raised the over-all number to 25.

All of them left one by one. When all were gone, Seethamma dragged Ramulu and showed him the splurge of things on the dining table. Undue liberty taken by the cook in the splurge was something she could not tolerate. She told Ramulu in very strict terms that no more of any cook for the house. Enough of extravagance. Ramulu was also not happy about so much being left out. He was never hesitant in spending but never in favour of wasting. When the cook asked for having the dinner at home, he readily agreed because that extra income would help her and her family. But it did not mean she should be least bothered about the quantity of food to be prepared. He too agreed to warn her. Seethamma was adamant that cook had no place in their house and had to go.

Just then door bell rang. About ten people were standing outside asking for Ramulu. As soon as they called, he immediately remembered that he had agreed to offer and feed a group of pilgrims who were on their way to Chamundi Temple. His neighbour who had to do this charity had to leave urgently to his village to take care of his father who fell ill suddenly. So, he had requested to Ramulu to attend to this noble deed. Ramulu conveniently forgot all about it. Luckily, Sarawathy’s extravaganza came handy. He wholeheartedly invited them and gave away all the food to those travellers. The ‘too many and too much food’ became just enough for all. Needless to say, that they did not expect a big feast of too many varieties. Indeed, they were very much satisfied. One of them, a lady suddenly rushed to the backyard, looking for restroom.  One more lady followed her. Ramulu was shaken and a bit worried. He asked Seethamma to go and see what went wrong. The first lady was vomiting. The other was comforting her. Seethamma already angry with the cook, was now all the more furious.

Ramulu had to cut a sorry figure. He apologised for such an untoward incident. The old woman just smiled and nodded denoting that all that, was not needed. After a while, all of them left.                      

Seethamma was just waiting. Next day when Saraswathy turned up for work, she was shown the door. The extra amount for the extra work done was paid as agreed upon. But no word of thanks for extra care taken for special items prepared for esteemed extra-special guests. On the contrary, vomiting by one person was highlighted. Saraswathy, a poor cook, could say nothing in her defence. How could she tell them that the hosts both Ramulu and Seethamma were not available for approval of menu, nor could she tell about inclusion of Deshpande’s family merely on hearsay. She was not craving for name or fame. She had no regrets for her deed. So, she bade good bye and left. She would now look for employment elsewhere. She said to herself:  One thing was certain!

The employers were always free to fire their employees, whenever they felt.

Ego ridden women never give up her stand. They always had their ways to establish their one-up-man-ship.

Pregnant women continue to have nauseating feeling and vomit in their early pregnancy months.

Certain things do not change. 

March 06, 2020 19:47

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