Maid For Each Other

What is the similarity between a ‘break up with one’s girlfriend or boyfriend’ and the ‘village visit of one’s housemaid’? Well, the ‘emotional journey’, for starters.

Having experienced both these situations multiple number of times, I can state with uber confidence that there is no trauma greater than that of waiting for your housemaid to be back from an unplanned ‘village visit’. My suffering has been in play for the past twenty days (well, almost!) and here’s an account of the stages that one needs to cross to finally make it to where I am right now.

Stage 1: The news is broken to you. Typically these visits are planned but there will be times when your strongest ‘pillar of confidence’ will have to leave due to an unforeseen circumstance. At least as per the information you have been provided with, that’s what you will come to understand. The abruptness of the situation will frustrate you but being the know-it-all manager that you are, you will somehow manage to curb the desire for an outburst. Here’s where one wears the ‘lets be practical’ cap and starts to plan how the days will be organised, sans your biggest support system. I call this stage as the “Big Bang Theory” as a lot of action manifests from here.

Stage 2: This is my favourite stage actually. Here’s where each member of the house is turned into a ‘ninja’ and is designated a certain responsibility while the maid is away. Everyone seeks to please and pledges to sincerely deploy the duties in the hour of need. Families discover the ‘quantum of work’ and secretly start appreciating the housemaid’s contributions even more now. There is joy in coming together and dealing with the new challenges. With great delight, I call this stage as “Orange Is The New Black” time.

Stage 3: The honeymoon period of collectively dealing with housework while singing “ye tera ghar, ye mere ghar….” is kind of over by now. The family members have now put their initiatives and offers to share workload, on a total ‘halt’. The domestic work is being put off due to sudden increase in respective office pressures, school timelines and other deliverables outside of the house. This is the time when the piles of unkept clothes begin to rise. The rhetoric nature of house work is exposed and meaninglessness starts to creep into the daily lives. A lot of introspection happens at this time. The pressure typically increases on the lady of the house (especially if its an Indian household). She begins to see the hand of ‘karma’ in the conspiracy. “Maybe I shouldn’t have given her so much work”, “What if she had tea made in full milk thrice a day….does it really matter? I shouldn’t have watched her like a hawk” and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I call this stage the “Breaking Bad” time of the trauma. This is muddled with the upcoming of “The Mentalist” zone, as deep investigation kicks in during this testing period. The house lady begins to make multiple phone calls, from various telephone numbers (especially the ones that the housemaid is not expected to know) to get a chance to speak with her.

Stage 4: The “Game Of Thrones” stage is reached by now. A series of presumptions begin to happen. The emotional journey reaches its pinnacle as one starts to feel the pangs of a greater conspiracy, by each passing day, or should I say, by each passing hour? “Did she do it deliberately? Why is she not taking my calls? Has she really gone to her village?” and the biggest fears begin to sow seeds in the mind “Has she been poached by Mrs. XYZ. The lady had been eyeing my maid for ages now!” By now, the phone calls are reduced to the point when they are finally stopped. This is the grey zone of the journey. A feeling of deceit starts to eat up the family members. They pledge never to take the housemaid back into their lives, even when she wants to return. The pledge is sealed via a tattoo on every member’s shoulder and the anthem of oath is sung every single day for the following duration.

Stage 5: By now, the interviews for a new maid have begun to happen. Fresh lists of ‘great expectations’ are prepared and applicants are screened with extreme scrutiny. The shortcomings of the ‘maid on leave’ are kept as a testing criteria. “We will keep no one but the very best” the family decides.

And then comes the ‘call’. With shivering hands, the lady of the house picks up the honking phone and manages to say a subtle, deliberately casual “hello” despite feeling the bile rise in her throat. She hears the six sweetest words of her life. “Didi, I am coming back soon.” All that the lady can manage to say is “okay, sure” and she keeps the phone down. Her hubby looks at her face and asks, “what happened? what did she say?”. The lady gives out a nervous laugh and replies, “you remember that bottle of rose pink champagne that we have been saving up for a rare occasion?” He now knows. “Of course, darling, I will put it in the chiller right away” he says.

Both wipe away the tears of joy from their eyes. This is where the “F.R.I.E.N.D.S” jingle plays. And the bottle is popped open.

Culinary experiments by a ‘non-cook’!

Mostly anyone who knows me, does realise that cooking is rather an ‘event’ for me than a ‘chore’. So much so, that during the early years of my job, when one barely earns enough to feed in to the rentals of the skyscrapers and groceries, I had dared to employ a ‘cook’! As a result, I was saving nothing, was mocked by friends, lectured by family, but all in vain.

Let me share something interesting with you today. Do you recall the picturesque scene of Karan Johar’s ‘Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham’ where Shah Rukh Khan enters the screen? Well, don’t worry if you can’t. What am I here for, after all 🙂

The royal black swanky helicopter gargles its way through the crisp blue skies reaching the plush greens, amongst which emerges the ‘Raichand’ mansion. Celebrations are in full swing inside the palace cum humble abode. The diamonds encrusted ‘mother’ lights up the traditional lamp that is placed on the giant silver thali. As she progresses to apply sandalwood tilak on the foreheads of the ‘queued with discipline’ family, her intuition jostles her. She knows that ‘he’ is about to come! Outside the house, the tar dipped black shiny shoes crawl out of the helicopter and land on the gravel of the mansion. This is where you and I typically, skip a heartbeat. It is none other than Mr. Shahrukh Khan…

I recall that my family had clearly advised me against whistling in the theatre but here’s where I had to breach that instruction, stand up and whistle with full strength in my lungs till my brother pulled my arm and quietly asked me to sit before my father throws us out. I took his advice, by the way. Anyways, so back to the scene. The private helicopter elevates from the ground and is half in the air when the cinematography reaches its pinnacle with SRK galloping (all in black) with his dangling bag (again, black) towards the mansion. His mother, who has sensed his arrival diverts her steps towards the entrance door, with tearful eyes, but of course.

She marches past the underpaid dancing divas who are oblivious to the ‘sixth sense’ of the mother or to the event, so it seems. Close up on the door; the white swaying curtains. The hush hush prevails in the background when the mother thinks that she might be mistaken as she has not yet seen the face of her son. Just when she turns to go back, she senses it yet again. And there appears our ‘black beauty’. Its like a ‘give me those dimples and I can rule the world’ look. The mother’s eyes glisten more than ever, now. SRK slants his head and acknowledges the sixth sense of the lady. “You knew it, didn’t you!” She applies sandalwood tilak on his forehead and welcomes him in the house cum humble abode cum ‘give me a break’ kind of a mansion. For those who haven’t yet seen the flick, click here to see what I mean.

I know, I know. You’re thinking, why did I recreate that visual for you? So here’s my point. That’s the kind of ‘welcome’ I expect every time I enter the kitchen to cook something. Alright, you may have a glass of water now. And I will wait while you do that.

Since the very kind hearted women in my family are aware of this, they keep sharing recipes that are quick and easy to prepare and at the same time are pure genius when it comes to ‘taste’. For this Valentine’s day, I have picked three very healthy and yummy recipes; mind you, tried and tested. Without fail, they will get you the desired accolades. Quite amazingly, whatever little time you will spend to prepare them will be truly worth it!

So here’s your chance to woo away your mom, dad, wifey, hubby, bro, sis and of course that special friend with your limited but fabulous culinary skills!

Recipe 1: The all ‘P’ soupa! The final product of this recipe has ‘love’ written all over it. It is thick, warm, yummy to the core and the best part is that I excelled it. And trust me, if I can make it, anyone can! So let’s get started; Ingredients: Pumpkin (1 bowl), Peas (1 cup), Onion (1 large), Garlic, Olive Oil, Water, Salt and Pepper. Yup, thats pretty much it! Process: heat a pan (preferable a cooker) and add in some olive oil. As the oil heats up, throw in some crushed garlic, well, the more the merrier. Experience the karmic fragrances that will rise from the vessel. As the garlic sizzles (before it gets too brown) add in the coarsely chopped onion. Toss it! By now you will start to feel like a real chef. Just as they get a bit translucent, put in the chopped pumpkin and whole peas. Add in salt and pepper, to taste. Add about one full glass of water and close the lid of the pan. Let it boil. If its a cooker, two whistles would be sufficient. Make sure the cooker whistles, not you. And once that is done, let the mixture cool off a bit. Then use a blender and mash it up. Do not strain it. Keep it a bit thick. You may garnish it with roasted peanuts or some parsley of you want. Thats it! This is my mom’s recipe and a ‘true winner’ in every sense of it.

Recipe 2: Cheese stuffed mushrooms. After I share this recipe, you must promise to try it, because when you do, you will surely thank me a million times, just like I thanked, Anupama, my sis-in-law for sharing this culinary secret. The recipe is a quintessential ‘protein shot’ that is sure to establish you as a ‘masterchef’. I am sharing a video that I referred to, while perfecting the art. Click here to watch. Special Tip: While serving, use a rustic wooden or stone tray. Drizzle in some extra virgin olive oil over the finished product to make sure it looks just as good as it tastes. And yeah, few twigs of chives or basil thrown around the mushrooms will literally make it a cover picture of a ‘fashion’ magazine.

Recipe 3: Quinoa meal bowl. This, I call as the ‘love bowl’. It is health and love thrown in together, with a myriad range of colours, for you to relish with your partner. And one can totally expect this recipe to come from none other that my sis-in-law, Divi. It is a visual delight, a healthy meal and above all, your romantic indulgence that comes sans guilt. It has three parts- hummus, salad and of course, quinoa. Salad- spring mix, rocket leaves, olive oil, ranch or any salad dressing, balsamic vinaigrette (very important) and pumpkin/sunflower seeds. Dried cranberry and croutons are optional. Quinoa- boil 1 cup quinoa with 1 teaspoon olive oil and 2 cups of water. Add salt to taste. You can also add sautéed vegetables (bell peppers, onions, broccoli) in olive oil and minced garlic. Top it with 2 spoons of hummus and sprinkle parmesan cheese for the extra oomph. Relish with your loved one!

Hope you would enjoy making these, as much as I did. Happy experimenting 🙂