Amma almost tiptoed into my life in Bangalore. One fine day a pint and a quart of beer came off premise for a drag. And while the quart passed on the bubbles of knowledge while trying to stay on top of the bitter waves, the pint spilled over and gushed. Trainees. On the tracks. And relying on her to blow off some steam. I wasn’t a part of her world yet. She hadn’t let me in.
Two years went by without a blip. And then a junior recommended her with a confident nod.
“Egg pakoras at Amma’s.”
Off I went in search of the fabled boiled egg in fried batter. Munching into heaven amidst pearls of wisdom for a newbie, every addiction begins with a whimper. I came back for more. The boiled egg and chitranna (yellow rice) to heal the wounded ego on days when your mobile is the perfect accomplice and cannot receive network coverage, the omelette dosa on days when you just want to sway on the creaky bench, the earthen cup of tea on days when you’ve got to run, the chilli pakoras to get you through the days of perfect calm and a hastily gulped aalu bonda on the days when your mobile betrays you.
Her stall was underestimated as a social networking site. There were people who came for a joke and people who came for a drag. People who left in a hurry when they realised that it’s better to live in denial than to realise that life is a drag.. that life is a joke.
And people who came to realise.
The tongues that wagged and the heads that longed to stop spinning. Your granddaughter waiting with a glass of water and a twinkle in her eye – did she like it when someone bit on a red chilli? Or when someone raised their voice? Did she eye the smoke and smell the fire? Which did she prefer – the gossip or the fuel for it?
Did I speak first or did you? I think it was you. And for some reason, you triggered off the examinee deep inside. I couldn’t leave my sheets blank. I had to attempt every question of yours. You talked in English, I remember. I don’t know what you gathered from what I said because you went right back to your mother tongue. Talked it over. And I was too busy contemplating a prepaid service with you. A hundred bucks. Eat as much. Recharge when you can. Lots of mental maths. And the beginnings of a strange relationship. You and I. Relative strangers. So this is what trust feels like.
I could count on the egg pakoras being ready at 4pm. I could also count on the stray dog waiting for a bite or two. And I rarely disappointed him.
I’m sorry your mother passed away. It must have been her time. I missed you those few days. We wondered where you’d gone. And we wondered how many of us would go over to your competitor. For good. We contemplated articles and blogs on “Brand Amma”. And then you came back. The theories were puffed away. The discussions veered towards exitees. Who had left? Who were planning to? Where would they go? Who has come in? And when would they leave?
I’m sorry I left so abruptly. And thanks for the photograph. You’re gorgeous. :-)