This article is part of our series ‘Lockdown Diary’, where we invite women in the creative fields to share their experiences at home during the COVID-19 nationwide lockdown in India.
By Arti Jain
Who is tired of being afraid? I am!
Of Corona? Heck, no. I am still afraid of that. And since it looks like Corona is here to stay like the drunk uncle on the dance floor at your wedding, I decided to confront my fears in another, totally unrelated area: food.
I am a pretty good cook, especially if I don’t have to do it every day. I saute like a pro, when I flip stuff on a pan, the world switches to slow motion. When I grill, the marks are so clean, you can play tic-tac-toe along the grooves. Masterchefs phone me secretly in the dark of the night, begging for my recipes. You get the picture.
Yet, there’s one thing I cannot do: fry.
You see, I suffer from a mortal fear of frying.
Which is why I decide to make kadhi (my eight-year-old daughter’s favourite) without pakodi. My mother is appalled when I mention this to her on the phone. She casually remarks, in a way only mothers can “casually” remark – and I loosely paraphrase her here – “You want to feed her kadhi without pakodi, what kind of mother are you?”
Enough was enough! The papa was on a work call, so I pass him a chit: “Wish me luck. Goodbye. P.S. Come to help if I scream.” Used to my daughter (‘little mighty one’ or LMO) and me passing him chits, he gives me a thumbs up, then shoves the chit under his laptop without reading it. So much for an opportunity to be my knight in shining armour!
In the kitchen, I make batter, heat up oil in a kadhai and think of an appropriate prayer. Nothing comes to mind. There’s no God for fryers. Not one. Regardless of the divine disinterest in my situation, I decide to go forth.
I drop a drop of batter in the kadhai to test the oil. Just as it sizzles, I spy from the corner of my eye, LMO coming towards me, a book in hand. She is looking at the book, not where she is going.
“No! No! Not here… oil… frying. Go! Save yourself!” I lunge at her and shove her out of the kitchen. I turn back, take a deep breath and steady my nerves and hands. I drop the batter in puddles in the oil and watch it magically cook.
The first batch is meh, but by now it’s a do-or-die situation. Preferably do. The batter is too thin, I conclude, so I add more besan and the next set comes out looking remarkably and unbelievably like how a pakoda should look.
Ten minutes later, having saved some for the kadhi, I proudly put a plate of pakodas on the dining table. LMO is still walking around with a book in hand. She comes and grabs one, then another. A second later, the papa comes out from his room, earphones attached to his mobile phone, picks up a pakoda, takes a bite and says, “hmm”, then turns around and goes back.
I am standing there thinking, some battles are conquered silently and alone.
Fear is one of them.
Arti Jain is a Delhi-based award-winning filmmaker, writer, entrepreneur and mother. That she manages to do all four without collapsing in a heap is a testament to her superb survival skills.