‘I mean the freedom to lead a simple, uncluttered life… To retain a creative perception of it, be fully aware of one’s surroundings… I mean to resist the unthinking suction that pulls one onto the conveyor belt of class, slowly dragging one towards prosperity. And numbness.’
The pressure cooker starts to act like an attention-hog and whistles petulantly, just as I finish reading those lines. I give the whistle a nice whack, using the spatula that I am stirring the aaloo-methi with. I really mean that whack! Surely, the wretched thing could have given me a few more minutes to savour what I had just barely finished chewing? But, you know, it’s only a pressure cooker. Impatient calls for attention is its thing. It’s what they are known for, really.
I sigh and get back to The Radiance of Ashes which I hold in my left hand; the one I’m trying to stay as absorbed in, as is possible without letting my aaloo-methi burn. There’s that usual ‘fifteen minutes to lunch!’ kind of an urgency which hangs in the air. But the words of Cyrus Mistry refuse to let go of me.
There is something oddly surreal about this moment; those fantastic words, speaking of a utopian, even though ultra-revolutionary freedom, juxtaposed with the intense flavour of scrunching reality around me. Like in my two hands, I hold the two possibilities; balancing between which is the very essence of life. This book, inspiring me to be free; and this aaloo-methi, tying me to my domestic rigmarole.
I take a break, to let those lines settle in, in my mind; I will be retrieving them some time later, as I often do, during a moment of leisure. I also need that moment to get over my anger at my cooker. My eyes idly wander off to the view outside the window, which overlooks the backyard of the quarters on the other side of the block. The lady who lives there, has a small kitchen garden, which I often find her tending to. She squats, checks the bed of spinach, and gets up, pleased. She then walks over to the tiny plantlets of what I can only assume are tomatoes, from this distance. Next to those stands that papaya tree, which has a promising new candidate, which quickly grabs her attention. She is clearly so proud of what she’s achieved, with that tiny patch of land and a few hours a day. Her implicit joy at that sight is practically wafting up in the air and filtering in through my kitchen window screen, blended with the translucent winter sunlight. I stand there basking in that resplendent mix. It makes me happy, for some odd reason; although I don’t even have a casual nodding acquaintance with that lady. It’s like this moment, somehow, connects us. I exhale heavily with a smile.
And what do you know! I did manage to burn my aaloo-methi, after all! I begrudgingly put the book away to try and salvage what I can.
I recount those lines and that whole episode to my husband at lunch, partly because I think it was significant enough a moment; and also because I ought to explain the burnt up dross I am serving him this afternoon. He, as always, indulges me. Sometimes, I realize the smartest thing I ever did in my life, was to agree to marry this man. There is, literally, no one else who I can share these kinds of moments with, without having to explain why I was so moved by them or being looked at like I’ve lost a screw.
I tell him of that beautiful epiphanous moment, although I’m not quite sure I registered all of that epiphany amidst all that cooker-whistling. And I believe I must have used that wistful tone of mine, because he nods quietly while continuing to chew on his food, waits for a minute and says that he will take our son out to the park in the evening and pick up dinner on the way back.
I love it when conversations are that linear; communicating thoughts, so simple. He senses that I am dying to get back to that book, or to unravel the rest of that epiphany, or maybe do what I always do – write about it. And that I could use a few distraction free hours; without the bloody pressure cooker or a hyperactive kid threatening the very freedom I fought for – and won – from the clutches of a corporate life.
Dramatic, much? Well… alright, yes. But I’m clearly having one of those ‘over the top’ moments, so please bear with me.
As promised, my husband comes back from work and gets my son ready for the park. I feel a little guilt crawling up, as it always does at such moments; about making my son sound like an obstacle to my literary wanderlust. I try to fight that guilt by pretending to be busy brewing up a cup of coffee.
Then, just as they are about to walk out the door, my son walks back in, hugs me and says, ‘Have fun, Mumma!’ It’s like he understands what I need and is absolutely cool about giving it to me. Like father, like son! The magic of genetics, ladies and gentlemen!
I slump on my bean bag, guilt-free, to finish what I started. No, not the book; but the train of thoughts this day has left me with.
It’s been a good day. I was inspired, made to feel loved and understood, given the space I need, connected with another human being through the spirit of a joyous moment. And most importantly, reminded of how simple it is to be free and happy. You just need to know, what to be free of.
All in all, it has been a good day for me… Can’t say the same for the aaloo-methi, though.