The grated daikon glistens with moisture as I add finely diced green chillies to it. A sprinkle of sea salt and I am ready to make the dough. As I pound and shape the dough, memories seep in.
The three of us in the kitchen. One at the stove, the other perched on the counter and me on a chair. We watch as she pounds the dough expertly, covers it while she sets out the belan and a plate for the parthan. I roll these terms over in my mouth even as I look on, fascinated. This is a world new to me. One of rolling out rotis and sauteing cubed potatoes with the barest of spices. Aloo Jeera she claims as she lifts the cover of the pan and slices through one of the cubes to check for doneness. I absorb and imbibe everything from the rolling motion of the wrist, the inflections in her tone as she introduces Hindi terms for everyday ingredients and the heavenly smells that waft my way.
The first few months after I transplanted myself from bustling Bangalore which boasted a variety of food at every corner to a remote suburb where corn fields undulated round the corner from my apartment were filled with poring over cookbooks and trying my nascent cooking skills on Saathi. I learned from the mishaps of burnt and salty food. I reveled in my successes and lost myself in the only cookbook I possessed.
I flip the mooli paratha and watch the triangle puff up with pride, the specks of green in a sea of brown, looking fabulous. I transfer it to the casserole and roll the next one out. With every paratha I make I am pulled into the curious world of new friendships cemented by food and loneliness in a new country. I remember the confidences exchanged, the endless giggling and learning a new lingo. I remember the three of us lying on the carpet, heads close to each other, blankets thrown over the heap of us pondering the vagaries of marital life, the imminence of kids, our fledgling careers and body hair.
The casserole is full. I tear off a piece from the topmost paratha, wisps of steam escaping from the edges. I chew thoughtfully and walk over to my laptop. I pull her up on Facebook and scroll through the pictures. She is laughing, her dangling earrings taking a life of its own. I catch my breath and scroll on, sneaking a glimpse into a life I am not privy to. The years have been kinder to her, aging her gracefully. I feel a pang as I reluctantly close the window and turn my attention to my food.
I wonder about relationships. I wonder about time and distance. I wonder about the selfishness inherent in relationships. The air feels colder. The euphoria from the morning dissipates. I feel a sadness creep in that has nothing to do with my current life and everything to do with alternate universes.