Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Eating in a tree

From A day with animals

[For once no copyright infringement, I took this photo myself.]

No, I haven't suddenly turned into a monkey, I am just recounting a small part of my life in my Slice of Life series.

The story is from a long time back when I was just a boy. I don't remember how old exactly but in my teens around 14-16 most likely. My parental village is in U.P. and I used to visit there oftener than I manage to do now.

I remember this one visit very clearly when I was staying at my aunt's place for a few days. Just me, my parents were back in Delhi. If I remember correctly it was part of the summer school holidays. In my aunt's front yard there was a tree. Don't ask me what it was, maybe just neem, but I remember it was branched low so that even a city boy like me could climb it and sit in that lowest branch.

One of my aunt's daughters, my cousin sister, was called Kumma. Just a nickname, her real name was nice and beautiful. She was very nice and our ages were close enough that she used to treat me like a younger brother even though she was a couple of years younger than me.

So I would spend my hours up in the tree, enjoying lazy afternoons with no specific plans to do anything at all. And Kumma would ask me if I wanted something to eat. If I said yes, she would offer to make my favourite and I would agree. And what was my favourite? Read on!

She would take red chilli and grind them fine by hand on a stone "sil-batta" or pastel and mortal for all you "angrez" types. Adding a little water in it, she'd would make a thick sauce. And this pure red-chilli sauce she would put on a thick chapati and ask me if I wanted to come down or eat in the tree.

Of course, I opted to eat in the tree! She would hand it up to me in the tree. No plate, no cutlery, just the chapati and the chilli sauce on it, a lot of sauce like a sandwich filling. And I would roll it up and eat like a monkey in the tree. In those days I could handle the spicy sauce without running for water afterwards.

Since then, I have had many different kinds of meals in many countries, in fancy restaurants and modest cafe's, in dhaba's by the roadside and in coffeehouses where they didn't even speak my language but nothing can compare with that simple meal made by a loving sister! 

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