Lockdown Diary: It’s Time to Face the Fear – of Frying Pakodas

Filmmaker and writer Arti Jain confronts her biggest fear during the Covid-19 lockdown: frying pakodas in burning hot oil!

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?”

Arti Jain

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.

1 comment on “Lockdown Diary: It’s Time to Face the Fear – of Frying Pakodas

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