I’m sitting cross legged on a mat that is insulating my butt cheeks from the gentle cold of the stones. These stones are square tiles, paved all over the lawn filled with natural crevices. Armies of ants are transporting the stolen goods from our kitchen into their underground godowns. Are they preparing for a long winter? Is it coming?
As a spotted moon is showering us with it’s argentum rays, a chilly gust of wind grazes my face like a cold piece of silk. Somewhere concealed in it are the traces of the aroma of the vegetable (sabzi) that my mom and grandma have prepared for us in a decades old ancestral cast iron pot. The beetles are playing their regular piece called ‘Buzz’ while circling the burning yellow bulb hanging from the stone tiled roof. Complementing them are other nocturnal insects. The midget trees along the boundary of the lawn are swaying with the wind like toddlers reciting a poem.
While this orchestra is playing, my sister looks at my father and grandpa with an innocent concoction of hope and hunger. Her open mouth might leak the accretive saliva while she is distracted by the spicy redolence emerging from a hole in a thick muddy wall, on whose other side is our kitchen. It has a stove (choolha) made with cow dung and clay mortar. Black carbon and leftover ash covers the outer lining of the stove. There is a pile of firewood arranged into a neat stack beside it.
Meanwhile, my grandpa rises and walks towards an aluminium bucket kept nearby. It’s the season of the king of the fruits. He digs out some ripe and juicy mangoes from the water, rubbing his cracked old palms on each one of them to make sure that the organic dirt is washed off. Then collects them in a huge pan called (paraad). With a long, aging knife, he cleaves each yellow bag of sweet pulp into three pieces. I remember fighting for my favourite piece, the middle one that had the big seed at its centre. Biting the pulp off the seed while holding it with hands wet with the juice, brings a peculiar satisfaction.
Finally, the paraad is decorated with mango pieces laid out like flower petals. And my mom, too, has arrived with the savoury dish of the night.
This may be a regular dinner for the village folks but for me it is one that will play in my mental records for eternity.