Tahira Kashyap penned down her lockdown tale when she had visited Chandigarh and many of us can relate with her.
There is no point in having this one drink of gin on a Saturday alone in a high rise Mumbai flat. Three and a half months of lockdown with my husband and kids not only made the gin lose its potency but also my interest in it too. And since none of them have an occasional drink, of course, these expectations are only from the adult, the kids gave me company by making fancy lemonade for themselves. And then a Saturday came, when I found their rooh afza lemonade concoction far more interesting and so I switched my Saturday gin with this sugary sin.
Seeing how robotic we had become and our increasing concern for both our set of parents because of COVID-19 that decided to screw our 2020, my skinnier half and me decided that whenever it is possible we should head to our hometown, Chandigarh, to our parents. And so the day came, due measures were taken and all of us reached our hometown including my brother-in-law and sister-in-law. Coming from Mumbai we were quite psyched out and took time to get used to the city’s momentum.
Everyone was maintaining the law and order here but because there weren’t any containment zones and very few active cases, people here had marked and decided their social circle. We were very clear. We weren’t going to meet anyone except our parents. After a mandatory quarantine of two weeks, the Mumbaikars rose and saw their hometown in a different light, especially me. I took to cycling, only because of the city permits. It was therapeutic for me, draining and melting out all the rooh afza lemonade drinks I had had and the five and a half kgs I had gained.
Life on a cycle and foot is definitely differently viewed than that in a car or motorbike. I saw stories brimming while the chain of my bicycle was smoothly gliding. I saw people as characters living their lives while I became privy to those moments as I kicked the pedals of my two-wheeler. With renewed energy, I would be back home in an hour only for it to be depleted with the perfect chaos of 15 people living in a house (my family and staff and the family of the staff) and a dog. The solace being that it’s a three-storeyed house, but then evening time is when everyone crowds the lawns for a cup of tea and gossip.
Life on a cycle and foot is definitely differently viewed than that in a car or motorbike. I saw stories brimming while the chain of my bicycle was smoothly gliding.
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And so at a given time, I would be screaming at my son for putting the water from the small pool created for them in his mouth, my cousin Gudiya (every Punjabi family has one, don’t judge me) staying with us would be getting worried whether her two-year-old daughter has peed in the same water, mama would be trying to convince her sister staying in Pune, (chotu massi for me), on the phone at an unbelievable decibel level to not throw her kids, who are my age, out of their home, my father trying to solace chotu’s massi’s son and my cousin brother on his mobile to not to leave the house as it’s not a good proposition, for no one will take him in during this lockdown.
My multi-tasking mother darted her eyes at my father and so he put his thoughts in a better way telling my cousin, whether pandemic or not he shouldn’t leave the house. Meanwhile, my cousin’s sister who now was getting her toddler into a diaper also wanted me to be updated about the reason why the family feud was happening in Pune between my massi and her son and his wife. It was over a dish. While one party said that eggplant or the colloquial baigan ka bharta should not have peas while being cooked, the other party said it should have peas.
And so this dispute went to such an obnoxious level that my cousin brother himself became a thali ka baigan, na ghar ka and because of coronavirus na bahar ka. I also tried to grapple on to this mad story while my other half wanted to have his sattu chaas. There is nothing wrong with having this natural substitute to the synthetic protein shake but amidst the chaos, he wanted to explain the recipe of the same to Kamla didi working for my parents for the last 15 years.
And so while I am listening to the baigan story I also am listening to ‘channe ko roast karlo’ for the sattu concoction. And right then my daughter planned to do a la ‘baal dhamke chamke chamke’ and swished her open hair from left to right while the pedestal fan with it’s hungry mouth was ready to suck my daughter’s hair. I, like a possessed woman from Ragini MMS, leaped across from Kamla didi, jumped over our centre table and pushed my daughter out of the fan’s menacing ambitions only to land on my elbows and bruising them.
And while I thought my daughter would cling onto me because of the trauma and my family would pounce towards me to pick me up, none of them even saw what had happened. The channa roasting instructions were still being given, the phone calls were still happening, my son was playing with a hose pipe now and my daughter ran towards him to play with the same, while I just picked my-self up disheartened and caressed my bruised elbow. I saw mama looking at me with concern.
Aah finally someone took notice, I thought. And she said “beta exercise khatam nai hui?” Before I could lose it all my father kept the phone down and announced everything was sorted in Pune and that now we should plan our family dinner with all our parents since my parents share their wedding anniversary with my mother-in-law’s birthday. And so the evening had my parents, my literally other half’s parents and my sister-in-law’s parents.
The best part was I would finally have someone to share a toast with and that’s my sister-in-law and father-in-law. Pretty progressive and cool. Excited, while my mother and cousin sister took to the kitchen to prepare food with the help of the lovely staff, I decided to take over the deserts and cocktails. And with a lot of effort and love and googling I prepared banoffee pie.
This four-layered-dessert only required freezing, not too much to ask. But it certainly is when you have kids in the house and other 10 people who too are using the same fridge to take out not just ice or veggies or fruits, but also masalas which in an Indian household are nothing less than 20 bottles. Some labeled, while others had theirs either peeled off or faded away or had been generously covered with its own masala. And the only way to figure out the masalas was to closely look at it, which of course my mom attempts without wearing her spectacles, and so while she goes searching for her glasses the vastness of the freezer stares at me and so does the sad look of my melting banoffee pie.
With only a few hours left I throw a fit and declare no one is allowed to open the freezer. I gave the responsibility to Kamla didi to keep a check. Everyone complied and I decided to make a gin-watermelon concoction that I saw on Pinterest. The guests start pouring in, we all do our mandatory sanitizing and the food and conversations start flowing in. It was time to show my bartender skills which were acquired precisely three hours back that too from an online site.
Nonetheless, I pranced around the neatly cut watermelon and start putting the mint leaves and watermelon in the shaker gently crushing them and then shaking. But when I tried to pour it out, it got jammed. I tried to hide my panic and gingerly took all the material to the kitchen where I struggled with making this stupid cocktail. Anyway with a lot of effort and few cuts on my fingers I managed to make three lovely glasses of my favourite gin with a twist of mint, watermelon, honey, rock salt and lime.
My father-in-law loved it and so did my sister-in-law. Great! now I could drink in peace too. I took my first sip and loved the decision of coming to Chandigarh and to have finally someone to share a drink with. Right then my six-year-old must have confused me with a trampoline, as she jumped right on top of me. And so instead of me, our carpet was guzzling my drink. My father-in-law gestured for me to get another drink for my-self and not fret about what just happened. I smiled and painfully trudged towards the kitchen to make a drink which would cost me a few more cuts on my fingers.
But before that, I wanted to check on the dessert. When I opened the freezer, I was shocked. The entire banoffee pie was weeping I mean melting. When I enquired about what happened to the freezer, I was told our sincere Kamla didi did keep a check on my banoffee pie by opening and checking on it every 10 minutes!! With no energy left to argue or make myself another drink, I saw a lovely bottle staring at me in the fridge. The good old rooh afza. And so my kids’ quick recipe comes in handy. And while my partners in crime are getting high on the lovely gin and watermelon juice and are assuming the same for me, I am getting all heady with the rooh afza going in. Did I ever say there is no point in having a drink of gin alone? Perhaps I need to think about it again.
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