Monday, March 24, 2014

The Yellow Pack

Don't know why I remembered this today.
It was 1983.
Digboi, Assam.

My mother came back from school ( she was a teacher in Carmel School) with something wrapped in a brown paper packet.
As my sister and I changed out of our summer blue and white uniform, I remember my mother change faster than usual  and then calling us into the kitchen.

On the kitchen table next to the gas burner was a yellow packet we had never seen before.
It was a Maggi Noodles.
Mother read the instructions carefully.
She said another teacher and her friend had brought this for us from Delhi.

She said we need a saucepan, I reached out for one drying out by the sink.
She then started reading the instructions aloud as she measured out the water in a cup.
My sister and I listened carefully.
Obviously mother wanted to get this right and we had to help her just in case she missed something.

They were ridiculously simple.
Just water, break the cake into four ( or was it two), snip open the masala satchet ( it was chicken).
But to us that day, it seemed like quite a task.

Then to our surprise, mother put the table clock which was usually at her bedside, next to the burner.
That was the day 2 minutes happened in our lives.

The second hand marches its way to  120 seconds. The minute hand glides over 2 small markings.
Gas turned off.
Two bowls out.
Mother ladling out.
We tasting.
Me asking mother to have some as well.
She spooning out whatever is left, onto a small saucer.
We tasting again.
We liking the taste.
Very much.
Wish we had more.

We walked back to the kitchen to put the bowls in the sink.
Mother did not throw the packet away.
In those days, if you cherished something you saved it.

The empty yellow packet stayed with us for many years.
Reminding us of how food ties us together.
With memories that always spring alive whenever we see it again.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The day I sat for the Boards.

It was definitely not a regular day.
In fact, the last three months after the pre-exam tests were not regular.

My mother was determined that I pass the Boards in flying colours.
With merit. Star marks. Letter marks ( above 80%in any subject got us a Letter).
And with the Assam Boards ( High School) being very very stringent on marking, 80 then was today's 95.

The three months therefore were all about preparation.
Mother was working and decided to take leave during and not before my exams.
She changed her mind later and took leave before.

She set question papers, did her research on the probable questions, not so probable questions and improbable questions.
Never left anything to chance.
Brought me papers and threads to stitch the papers exactly like it would be on the D Day.
Set the clock, and ensured that I completed the paper at least 20 minutes before time so that I had enough time left over for two rounds of revision.

So on the Day day, Mother and I were dropped off at T. C School in Guwahati, where my "seat" was, according to my roll number. They would mix up all the students across schools.

Before that, after my revisions since dawn, Mother made a special fish curry and rice.
Fish was supposed to make our brains sharper so she made sure she found time to shop the previous evening, cook it fresh that morning along with steaming hot rice.
She also put a bowl of water and a pot of rice at the front door.
It is superstition that if you leave the house seeing water and rice, it is a good omen.

Mother gave me a hug and a kiss, before escorting me to the room where I would sit.
Though she was not allowed in, she peered through the grimy windows to see where I was sitting and waved again.
I waved back and suddenly tears came into my eyes as she waved one last time and walked away.

My Mother meant the world to me.
With my Father gone two years ago, mother had to work hard to make a living.
And all I wanted was for her to smile.

And good marks, coming out on tops, made her smile. Unfailingly.
For days.

The bell rang.
Answer sheets handed out.
Question papers.
The writing.
The checking.
The thinking.

The months of preparation paid off.
My pen flew over the sheets.
Almost like it had a mind of its own.

And then the first day was over.
The bell rang.
The papers submitted.
Mother was waiting outside- had told her boss that she had to take a quick break to drop me home.

I rushed to her.
Excitedly told her I knew all the answers.
She had wrapped a chicken roll for me as a special treat from Feeds.

I shared half with her.

The Board results were out a few months later.
I did pass with flying colours.
And Star marks. And Letters.

Today, as I look back, I miss my Mother.
Her encouragement.
Her constant  push to me to make sure that I did not lose gold by winning that silver.

But I know that she is around.
In spirit.
Always making me rehearse for the tests Life makes us pass every day.
So that I win that gold.