|Padma turned frenzied eyes to the galloping hands of the clock, she was behind in preparing the dabba for her husband’s lunch. The rice and vegetables were all ready, but the chappatis were pending. She needed to get three of those done, wrapped and packed. Mix the yoghurt with the chopped vegetable salad, pack the whole in the five-container case, load it in the marked carrier provided and place it outside the door for pick up. The dabbalwalas never waited, just picked it up on the run; if it wasn’t ready, no delivery for that day.
One hand scooped out flour from the bin and sprinkled it on the marble topped work station, deft palms rolled the dough balls to the right consistency.
“Mommy?” Jaya’s sleepy head of tousled curls peeped into the kitchen. She had slept unusually late today, holidays had her vying with the koel .
“Yes, darling?” Padma had tried to brush her stubborn forelock with the back of her hand but left a flour trail across her forehead nonetheless, a delighted trill of laughter from her daughter told her so.
“Mommy, Bun-bun says we should have a party breakfast for the School Ti-umph.”
Now, Jaya’s school had just won the Regionals for Inter-school Sports and announced a holiday to celebrate their ti-umph, correction, triumph. Bun-bun was very involved in all Jaya’s activities and the demand seemed reasonable, just not at eight-thirty in the morning. Not with twenty minutes to D-time.
‘Right now, pet? I’m busy.”
“But it is his birthday Mommy. He told me so.” That was a clincher.
Jaya’s lower lip trembled and turned out in an unconscious pout, “Isn’t that OK, Mommy?”
Padma spoiled her daughter every bit as much as Pramod, even if she would swear it was he who indulged her.
“I guess, if you and Bun-bun can help.”
Bun-bun might be demanding, but he seemed to be helpful when it came to furthering his own needs. The little table where Jaya ate in the kitchen soon sported a bright yellow table-cloth and was neatly laid with three dishes and glasses, cutlery at the sides.
“Can we have jam-roll chappatis, Mommy? With lemonade? Bun-bun will make the lemonade.”
That should be do-able. I just need to roll out a couple of extra chappatis. I’ll cut the lemons into halves for her, it’s just squeezing and mixing after that.
“Sure, love. Here are two cut lemons. Take it to the dining table and squeeze out as much juice as you can in our small juicer. Use exactly six spoons of sugar in this pan. Ask Bun-bun to count out loud. Add as much salt as fits between your finger and thumb and three large glasses of water from the jug. “
Jaya did an impatient jig to signify that the simple instructions were well within the capacity of her playmate, bedmate, friend and counselor. She made two trips to the dining table.
Padma returned to the assembly of lunch and breathed a sigh of relief as she finally deposited the finished product outside the door.
Now for the jam rolls.
She concentrated on getting these chappatis evenly browned, laid on a platter and spread with jam while still warm, rolled up tight. Each little plate got one jam roll each, in elegant diagonal slices. One swift swoop from the sprinkles container, they looked suitably festive.
Now, all this while there had been sounds from the dining room. Giggles and exclamations, some counting aloud. It seemed Bun-bun was doing the hard part, the thinking and directing. All the physical work was being done by Jaya. Well, stuffed bunnies will just loll around and let others get all sweaty.
The jug was borne into the kitchen, Bun-bun was dangling daringly from the handle by one ear and Jaya’s thumb.
The three sat down to enjoy their feast, the roll was delicious and filling, indeed Bun-bun could not finish his roll and gave some to Jaya and Padma. A smear of jam on his face told that he had partaken of enough and if his beady black eyes were lackluster, at least he voiced no criticism.
Jaya took a generous swallow of her lemonade, a puzzled expression came across her face.
“Is the melonade all right, Mommy?” Jaya sometimes reversed syllable sounds when excited or upset, it was an endearing habit.
Padma took a sip into her mouth and rolled it around to test; it needed little more to tell her something had gone terribly wrong with the recipe. It was sweet enough, the tang of salt balanced it just right, but …
Then her eye found the dining table, it still had the scattered remains of the measures and implements used. There were the discarded pulpy lemon halves. Unfortunately, there too was the juicer, with about a half inch of cloudy fluid in it. The juice of the lemons.
Jaya’s eyes followed her mother’s riveted gaze. She could add two and two as well as anyone else, then too, her tongue had been prodding her that the familiar sourness was missing from the refreshment.
Knowing arms spread wide to receive a sobbing child, the budding sous chef was taking all the blame on herself. Like all great chefs, Bun-bun remained aloof from the disturbance.
“Pet, look at it this way, we just invented a new drink. Un-lemonade.” Padma tipped some sprinkles into the jar, where they slowly dissolved to give coloured streaks to the surface.
A tear-stained face lifted from Padma’s shoulder to see the rainbow drink. It certainly looked different.
Padma ‘freshened’ the glasses and lifted hers in a toast. “Here’s to budding chefs, Bun-bun and more parties. May we always toast them with un-lemonade.”
And they did.
Word count: 988 words