Thursday, August 29, 2013

'Served with Love' Contest Winning entries

Dear Readers,

I know I am rather late in publishing the winning entries to my contest 'Served with love' but it has been a rather busy period for me and blogging unfortunately took a backseat. I am happy to be back and hope to be more regular in my posts. Ladies and gentlemen I present the three winning entries to the contest, they are three beautiful memories shared by three wonderful people. I hope you enjoy reading this special post. Your prizes will reach you soon and thank you once again for sharing your beautiful memories.


This beautiful memory is shared by a dear friend and published writer Vibha Batra.

Served with Love

Lifetimes ago when I was a teenager I thought love was all about grand gestures, passionate 
declarations, musical cards, teddy bears, chocolate hampers  and what have you. I guess that’s what happens when you are hooked on to a steady diet of M&B novels and cheesy romcoms. And if my Mum hadn’t dragged me to Meera Aunty’s place one sultry afternoon, it’s entirely possible that the heart shaped blinkers would have stayed firmly perched. 

As it happened, it was a Saturday, my day off from school and I was looking forward to a weekend that would involve, well, doing nothing. The last thing I needed was to attend a boring oldies reunion. But Mom had other ideas and that was that. Turned out, my worries were unfounded, for Meera Aunty and her husband, Jagdish Uncle were excellent hosts. They were pleasant as opposed to patronising (unlike many other elders) and I was happiest when they decided to give the customary cheek pulling a miss. 

It was hard being grumpy in such company, even more so when the food was served. There were just three places set on the table but at that time I didn’t think anything of it, enamoured as I was by the sight of steaming bowls laden with rajma chawal, aloo gobhi, karari bhindi, and dahi bhallas. The promise of dessert lingered in the air, making it very indeed tough to pay attention to practical matters.  

Meera Aunty helped me pile the food on to my plate (not that I needed any help in that department) and then it was Mom’s turn. Finally, Aunty proceeded to serve Uncle. I thought, perhaps, ever the good host, perhaps Aunty would eat after we were down. So imagine my 
surprise when she went to sit by Uncle’s side and proceeded to spoon some bhindi into her mouth. I was rather taken aback, she was actually going to eat from the same plate. Public display of affection between elders was an alien concept in those days (and dare I say, in the present). 

Mom, who must have been familiar with their practice, continued to feast on the dahi bhallas with much gusto. From time to time, Aunty got to her feet, and not minding our protests, heaped food on to our plates. 

I was instantly charmed by the quaint ritual. Right then and there, I resolved to share a plate with the person I would eventually share my life with. Alas, it didn’t quite come to pass what with me being a staunch vegetarian, and he an absolute carnivore.

Aunty Meera is no more, we lost her to cancer a few years ago. But it’s how I remember her, sitting side by side, partaking morsels of love with the person she loved most in life. And instantly I’m reassured that love’s not what greeting card companies, soppy novels, and Hollywood flicks would have us believe. 

Love is sharing those little moments which add up to the big event called life.

This memory has been shared by my dear friend Avanthi, who I met many years ago at a student orientation meeting. We were both preparing to come to Australia to study and who knew at the time that a chance meeting would lead to an everlasting friendship.

Served with Love

To write this,I am now going back 7 years down memory lane. The year was 2005, the place - Melbourne Australia, the time - chaotic, stressful university life, the reason - a precious, precious friendship. 

It had been just a few months since I landed in Melbourne, a place I hold very dear to my heart, yet in that year it represented a competitive university life filled with stress and challenge. My partner in crime and darling friend, who I had then only recently met was the one who traveled with me to this strange land for the very first time. She was this little child (in my opinion :) - barely out of her teens), although she thought otherwise, as she played mother to many of her friends. 

In those days, I would grab a slice of bread in the morning and disappear to university where I ended up eating junk food through the day until I came back to my apartment where I had to make my own humble dinner. I recall that I had been having one of worst weeks then, where there was practically no time for myself. I had been leaving university past 10 p.m. everyday and that gave me little time to cook a decent meal. 

It was on one such day when I returned home, hungry as ever, that my flatmate told me I had a visitor during the day. Someone had popped by and left me something special in the refrigerator. Intrigued and even slightly shocked that I had a visitor who left me food, (when I barely had time to keep friends), I found the most wonderful strawberry pudding in my fridge. After much interrogation, my flatmate relented and told me that it was in fact my sweet little friend who came all the way to make my day just a little better. I was touched then as I'd never been before as I was truly 'served with love':). She knew how bad my week was and her thoughtfulness meant the world to me. It was a simple gesture of love, but one that I will never forget. 
And what makes this story 'especially special' is that my sweet little friend is none other than our darling 'Cookie'. :)

This last entry is written by my dear friend Aliya, who shares my love for food and was my housemate for 4 years. She has shared a very special memory about family ties with us.

Served with love

As a fussy kid I always wondered what made the meals I didn't like always go down better, when fed to me by my mom or grandmom. At the time a child's guess wasn't what it is today. I came to truly understand that added ingredient, the one that completely altered the chemistry of food was love. Love cannot be measured, cannot be doctored, cannot be physically seen, smelt, touched, or heard, but it can surely be tasted!

How I can vouch for this needs me to tell you the story of 'the surprise trip'. Back in 2005 I had left India for Australia to study. After my first visit home that same year, I had decided that another visit the following year didn't make sense as I should stay back to gain work experience over the summer holidays. It was the practical thing to do. However being heart over head, I found myself feeling the pangs all alone with most of my friends having headed home. I was homesick beyond belief and to make matters worse there was a congregation of my entire family under one roof. It was my aunt's birthday on X'mas day and other family members from different cities were all in town for that. Two things to point out is that my aunt is a mother to me, and that our family doesn't get together very often, so this truly was a momentous occasion.
This was too much pull for this mere mortal to handle. I threw reason to the wind, emptied my bank account and booked a last minute ticket to India on Christmas eve for 3,000 $ ! Concocted a cover up story as to why my phone would be out of reach, fed it to my family and set off towards them.

I still remember standing at the main door of the apartment in Mumbai, feeling my heart beat faster than ever before. I rang the doorbell and waited patiently. What would they all be doing, how would they react? 
The door opened and I saw a sight that still gives me goosebumps even today. My entire family, under one roof, was seated around the dining table. In front of them lay a small feast. A mountain of crisp hollow puris, and an array of stuffings and condiments to complete the ensemble of a dish that we call 'Pani Puri'.

Everyone had a look of utter shock on their face and tears rolling down their cheeks. They couldn't believe I had traversed half the globe, without a whisper and was standing right before them in the flesh. Looks like they had missed me a lot more than I had missed them. Without much concern of how I got there, how my journey was, or even enquiring how I was, my aunt decided that the primary point of action was to feed me. She promptly instructed my poor lil cousin sis to leave the table to make place for me. Sat me down beside her and began the ritual of assembling the perfect pani puri. Allow me to point out to you how much this dish means to my aunt who is a perfectionist. She takes great pains to select her own set of special stuffings that aren't very typical to this dish. She has just the right measure of how much of the various stuffings to use, how much chutney to add, and just how much flavoured water to fill into the hollow that completes just one mouthful of this wonderful dish. I was ordered to open wide, as it takes a mouth of significant diameter to accommodate the entire puri in one shot. Having been a foodie, and grown up sampling street food on countless occasions, I can never replicate the taste of that one home made pani filled puri. It was different to anything I had ever tasted. Sure it looked regular, sure it felt regular, heck it even smelt regular, but I can assure you it didn't taste regular. It was an amalgamation of that entire moment and all the associated emotions in the room into one mouthful. It was a taste I will never forget, the taste of love, served with love.

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