Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday Fiction: The Missing Ingredient

You're always in control of fiction...or are you?

He slowly rose from the sofa and put the folded newspaper on the centre table. The wife had announced that lunch would be served. For 5 years now he had been enjoying lunch fresh off the fire instead of from a steel box, where it used to lay packed for 4 hours before being consumed. He walked by the dining table in the kitchen to wash his hands and took in the smell of the curry that would accompany the hot phulkas the wife would start making as soon as he sat at the table. He was already smiling with satisfaction at the thought of the meal that awaited him. He wiped his hands and proceeded to settle at the table at his usual place. The plate had already been placed there and the glass already had water in it. As soon as he sat down, the wife gave him a knowing smile and started rolling the first phulka on the board. In a few seconds she placed it on the heated iron pan and came by to serve him the curry and some pickle. In her habitual way she also served her preemptive comment – I don’t know how the curry has come out today. And then she returned to rolling phulkas

As the first hot phulka came off the pan and straight into his plate, he tore the first piece and put it in his mouth along with some curry as the wife rolled a phulka and another phulka got heated on the pan. The curry was delicious but something seemed amiss. The salt was perfect and so were the spices. He tried eating the next piece with the pickle; it was a taste he was familiar with since many years. But it wasn't the same either. He felt unsettled. He tried to convince himself that the food was perfectly good but chewing on the next morsel the feeling worsened. He wondered if he had acidity. He didn't feel any less healthy than the previous day though. He chewed on half-heartedly, forgetting to tell the wife how the curry had come out, like he usually did. His thoughts were interrupted by her question – how is the curry, you didn't say anything? He mumbled something about it being good; he couldn't put a finger on what was wrong with the curry, or even the same pickle that he had eaten the previous day with a phulka and had seemed perfect. He finished the second phulka and told the wife he was full already. He couldn't carry on eating like this. She walked up to him, concerned. She asked if he was feeling ok and why he wasn't eating the usual 3 phulkas that day. He lied and said he had acidity and didn't feel like eating. She bade him to relax on the divan, stopped making phulkas halfway and made him some sweet buttermilk. He sipped on the buttermilk and contemplated on what exactly was missing in the meal. Meanwhile she made herself some phulkas and sat down to eat. He finished the buttermilk and went to the kitchen to keep it in the sink, taking the newspaper with him. He absent-mindedly sat at the table next to the wife as she ate lunch. And then he saw her hands and arms.

Her gold bangles and gold wedding ring were missing. He panicked. He held her hand midway to her mouth and asked her where the bangles and ring had gone. She gave him a perplexed smile and asked him not to worry; she had put them in hot water in a bowl to clean them and they were next to the gas stove. He asked her to put them on immediately as her hands looked strangely empty without those. She finished her third phulka, put away her plate and put the jewellery on after washing her hands. She then asked him if he felt better and would eat another phulka. He was a tad hungry so he said yes.

So she started to roll the phulka for him and that’s when it hit him; it was the sound of the bangles occasionally clinking, of the ring constantly moving against the rolling pin as she rolled phulkas, that had been missing in the meal. The sound that had become an integral part of every meal at home as she rolled out phulkas for the family for 40 years. The constant rat-tat-rat-tat of ring as her hands deftly rolled out phulkas. He smiled a satisfied smile at the discovery and waited for her to get his plate. He took in the first morsel with much anticipation and this time, the meal was complete.