"Did Suma’s husband call you?" Asked my wife.
"No. what’s the matter?" I was sure there is something.
"May be he will call you tomorrow." She said and kept quiet.
That is called the Bollywood style of creating suspense. My wife knows for sure he is going to call me, knows the subject matter, and still keeps it a suspense!
"Tell me what is the matter?" I was determined not to give up so easily.
"They want us to join them for dinner this week-end" said my wife as if she is breaking the protocol.
"That’s all? Granted. You go with the children" as usual I offered permission without any formal request for it. This is the royal way of creating and maintaining some respect for self.
"No. She wants you to come"
"Any specific reason?" I asked even though I was happy. Suma is known in our circles for the "’adai aviyal’" she makes. I thanked for my stars and asked my wife whether she gave any reply.
"I told her to ask her husband to call and find out your convenience" she replied.
"You know I am free most of the Fridays" I did not see any need for anyone to call me.
"Yes, I know. But how I can say that? I told her that you are busy most of the Fridays, so better talk to you direct" For a moment I could not make out whether she is adding value to me or to herself.
"OK. If he calls me I’ll say I will come. Anyway, if they call you, tell them that we’ll come. Its almost six months since I tasted the original Tamil ‘adai aviyal’".
"And what about the one I made last week?" came the question sharply.
"That was also nice… but that was ‘adai aviyal’ with north Indian flavor" I patched up. "Tell her that I am free to come and willing to come provided she makes ‘adai aviyal’ dish."
"No way. I am going to tell her that I have put a word to you and you told me that you have a meeting. Let her husband call you and when he calls, you tell him that you are busy in the first instance. I know he would insist you to some how make it. Then slowly agree to make some adjustments to be there by say 8.30 PM"
"OK OK…but are you very sure that he will call me?" I was doubtful about this false prestige issue is going to cost me the lovely ‘adai aviyal’.
"I am sure they will not leave you. They want your guidance"
I felt elated. This was a pleasant surprise!
Somebody feels that I have wisdom and I could guide them!
"Guidance on what?" I was confirming what people think I knew better!
"Suma has been asked by a magazine to write some article. So she wants your guidance"
I was surprised. "By the way, which magazine is this?" I asked.
There was a reason.
I had thought of money, fame, popularity, recognition and so many other things when I started to write articles. One after the other, I wrote dozens of articles; sent them to all magazines. Barring a few, most of them came back in original shape and envelope with the comment that their cupboards are full. From these standard regret letters, I got the clue that unpublished articles can be kept on cupboards. I kept continuing writing; the cupboard at our home had become full. I had no clue as to what to do now ? I can not send them back to the place they originated as the magazines do.
I thought I will ship the entire cupboard as cargo to this magazine which is in need of articles.
"I do not know. I will enquire and tell you. Yes, your apprehension is right. I will tell her that it is not worth wasting time discussing and modifying the article if it is some small time magazine" My wife had misunderstood my question.
"No problem. We will go there, discuss the article, finalize, have food and come back" I made sure that there will not be any last minute hindrance to the master ‘adai aviyal’ plan.
I was busy at office finalizing the rates for the ten ton cargo going to East Africa with our logistics agent. After I finished the deal, I casually enquired him the rates for 60 KG of articles to be sent to India.
"60 KG sir? Which articles sir?" He asked
"Articles written on paper" I replied.
"Oh… you mean documents… let me find out for you sir… are they important documents?" He asked again.
I was not sure what I should answer.
"They are important for me, but not very sure how important for the receiver" I put the reply as correctly as I could.
"No problem sir. We will insure. I will get back to you sir" he replied probably wondering what insurance value he should put for such ‘one side valuable’ articles
Still I had a doubt. How on earth I thought that this is an Indian Magazine? May be not. Globalization is the order of the day you see!
Nagesh called me soon after. I knew this is the formal invitation and yes it was. I accepted the invitation straight away.
He mistook this as my gesture to him and his family and thanked me profusely!
I took this opportunity to ask him which magazine is this.
"No idea… See how foolish I am. I did not bother… I will find out and let you know" was his reply.
We were all in smiles and great spirits as we entered their home. Suma was on even more high. Nagesh told me the whole background of the need of this article.
Nagesh and Suma are members of a Tamil Cultural Association which is celebrating Silver Jubilee. The secretary had requested her for an article to be put on the souvenir to be released on this grand occasion.
"The souvenir is likely to get to the hands of thousands. That is why she is so nervous" explained Nagesh.
I was switched off. I had thought I could see many of my articles also published in this magazine, but it turned out to be a one time magazine, that too in Tamil.
Suma must have put the final oil fried chilly seasoning for the aviyil. The aroma reached even in the drawing room. I was taking deep breath to get the maximum feel of the aroma. It had so much in it that I could forget my disappointment within no time.
She must have finished cooking, Suma came out smiling.
"You should help me out in this test of time sir" she was polite, excited and exuberated.
"Absolutely no problem" I told "where is the article?"
"I will write one of course with your guidance" she told with a smile.
"OK. What you have thought? On which subject you will write?"
"That is a problem sir. The president, secretary, treasurer, committee members – all have decided to write on some subject matter or the other and they have exhausted all"
"Nothing like that. You could still get one subject and you can write an interesting article on that in such a way the readers will enjoy" I pacified her.
"I know sir. That is why we called you for guidance" she was beaming with joy.
"Do you have anything built up in mind?"
"Like what sir?"
"Like… women issues, dowry, upbringing of children?art… culture"
"Those are all old subjects… I want something new"
"May be fashion, career, divorce, single mother, extra marital…lesbian, gay"
"The matter is going all around the place. We will eat and continue discussion after that" told Nagesh who seemed to be hungry.
The way we discussed the matter, Suma was sure that she could get one article ready in time. She had put in her best efforts in preparing the dishes. ‘adai aviyal’ was fantastic as usual I felt and helped myself with two servings.
The dinner went on.
"Suma, the article will be your article. You have to think, write and finalize. I will only see the final draft and suggest improvements" I told.
"No sir.. That’s too far… you will give me the idea. I will think over it and write it . You will correct it afterwards.. then I will translate it to Tamil" Suma pleaded earnestly.
"One should write on some thing which one knows very well" Nagesh quipped in.
"What do you think I am very good at?" Suma asked with all the seriousness.
"At pulling my leg" told Nagesh, probably he was bored by the discussion; stomach full, might have been feeling sleepy.
For sure, Suma did not like that at all and there was a lull in the air.
"Husband and wife pulling each others’ leg is not a bad idea at all. It can make a good subject with a lot of potential" I told, wanting to clear the air.
"You could write humor article on that" told my wife. "To me, that looks to be the easiest one. If my husband can do it every now and then, I am sure you could do it as well. If required, I can assist you in this"
"That’s what I was also thinking? let me try" told Suma with all the confidence in the world.
I was about to go in for a third serving of ‘adai aviyal’. The comments made by both my wife and Suma were still lingering in my ears. A seasoned person like me should not get offended by such remarks, I thought.
Still, the ‘adai aviyal’ taste seemed just ordinary and no more interesting to me and I thought it to be because of the law of diminishing returns.
I had totally forgotten the matter until one day my wife made adai aviyal for dinner. It was the original Tamil taste and I was delighted. I remembered adai aviyal prepared by Suma.
"So, ultimately, Suma gave you the recipe?" I asked.
"She did not give, I planned it nicely and took it from her" told my wife beamingly.
I was stunned. How did Suma give the recipe which she kept as secret all along?
"What was the plan?" I was curious to know.
"She tried to write that article but could not get it right. I offered her any article of her choice from that cupboard of yours in exchange for this recipe."
About the Author:
Author: Gopinath Rao- UAE