After having lived with my parents for the last donkey years, did not even know the recipe for making Ice, had to land up in a strange country. Possibly vegetarian food was not available unless you consider eggs, shrimps, and lobster as vegetarian. So I had to cook my own food.
In the short notice of 1 week, before I departed to the Singapore or fine city, there was very limited knowledge of this art. Mother had instructed me how to do the simple sambar and rice. D-day minus 1 on ground zero, I had cooked that day instead of mother and we all sat for the last but one dinner.
Mother said she will eat at end as usual and escaped. Father had no such excuses. He had to eat with me. Finally after 10 minutes, he said “poor guy.. Don’t know how he can survive this kind of food”.
Even though i was very afraid about flying you can read my apprehensions about the same here.
The flight was very un eventfull except for a drunken person who was singing. The hostess moved him near the rest rooms and solved the dual problem of singing and long queue at the rest rooms. 🙂
The touch down was announced and myself already a hero of take off, just could hear some bang sound and that should be the wheels. I kept watching outside and the ground kept coming near by like I was on a giant wheel. With a thud, It landed. Now I too can become a phoren return ..Hope I return to my mother land!
Having no other options regarding food, I landed in Singapore Changi airport with a brand new pressure cooker. This was a strange country. Every damn piece of place was clean like an operation theatre and I was scared even to step on it. Venkat – my fellow body err another human being programmer who joined me at Madras airport was to be my roommate for the next whole year. Venkat was already boasting he knows cooking etc. Little did he know about my culinary delights!.
Good old Asha at Bangalore had told that there are free coin boxes just before you cross to immigration and had given us a number. A chap by name shiek would take the call on hand phone and escort us to heaven. I was wondering how he could carry a big telephone wherever he went – India had not heard of mobile phones yet – little mercies.
We instantly knew that we had to queue up before those free phones – courtesy the Indian flight where every body yakked to their near and dear ones in Singapore free of cost. Habits never will change I suppose.
Sheik smiled at us and took us to Deli shop, brought sandwich and coffee. I had the first taste of the brown liquid, which was to torment me for the next 3 odd years. After pleasantries we took a cab to our abode as a paying guest.
After that was a quick tour to our clients place, office – I was in dream world seeing all those posh cars, trains and thankful our office was just a walking distance from our house lest I got lost and nobody to even miss me.
We unpacked for the day as client asked us to report to work next day. I set shop with my vessels and venkat was my first patient. A few weeks passed by without any major incidents. Venkat was no mean cook but he used to literally cry when I did the rasam as he had a tough time distinguishing between the hand bowl and the dish.
Meanwhile to boost my chances of tasty tongue survival, I had started postal coaching with my mother on new dishes. She used to send me out simple recipes and Saturday being half day I would try my experiments. Normally the landlady would be away on those days meant we could fumigate all unwanted pests with our cooking.
On that particular bright Saturday of 1995, as per mothers written instructions, I took the dal, Rice mixed it with water and put the things in the cooker. I declared to the landlady who was a good friend by now since I would listen to all her stories, that I was making pongal that day.
The cooker sounded the normal 3 whistles. I got the fellow down the stove and waited for the cooling period. After 35 mandatory minutes, opened the cooker to find the mix still not cooked.
Thinking the dal would take more time to cook. Kept it on the burner and started listening to some light carnatic music. The 3 whistles repeated with 35 minutes waiting. Still the thing was little soggy but not edible. Cursing luck and rechecking the recipe, I put the cooker back in its place.
4 such trials occurred and by 5.30 PM the landlady was wondering what the gas bill would be, I was panicking as the stomach was grumbling and decided to eat it out at any cost on the 5th attempt.
So like a hero I ate it all. Venkat had an immediate stomach pain and left to Little India – a place which has many Indian Restaurants to have sumptuous lunch including pongal. I threatened venkat that his portion would be served in the evening. He retailiated with the statement “he is off to bedok to stay with his friend for the week end”. Some room mate he was!
I reported back to mother my attempts and wrote about the problems and waited for the next snail mail to tell me what had gone wrong in the operation.
The landlady’s elder son called me in the evening and said “uncle, you have post”. Quickly I opened the note. I skipped all the cursory statements including we all are fine and jumped to the feedback part.
Alas! The damn Ghee was the culprit.
I had added the Ghee before cooking which should have been done after cooking. That was a costly lesson as Ghee was quite expensive in Singapore and could be made out only by its label – no smell or delight as you have it back home.
Am cooking Bisi Bele Bhat. Any takers?