Updated: Dec 2, 2020
Anushka let herself through the main door. She jiggled her car keys in her hand, humming to herself, and hung them on the key holder by the front door. She dumped her purse and lunch basket on the dining table and called out to her go-to person, “Dadhi, I’m home. Where are you?”
“Oh! You’re back early from work today,” said Dadhi excitedly and walked out of her room wearing a light pink cotton saree with her long thick grey hair tied in a bun.
“Yeah! Earlier than usual, but it seemed like such a long day at work,” Anushka complained and hugged her.
“Oh dear, some days can tend to be stressful,” Dadhi said with concern.
“It’s not just my job Dadhi, I have such a long to-do list for the wedding,” she cribbed.
“Yes. Beta. Soon you will be married and start a new phase of womanhood,” said Dadhi. “I’ll tell you what, let’s have a cup of tea and chat. I’m sure that should make you feel better, my dear.”
“Sounds terrific! I’ll be right back with two cups of tea,” said Anushka as she headed to the kitchen.”
“Don’t forget to add some ginger and cardamom,” Dadhi called out from her room.
“I know Dadhi. I’m on it,” she replied.
Anushka came back with two cups of tea brewed to perfection. Dadhi took a sip of tea and let out a sigh of relief. “I’m going to miss your cup of tea. Vikas is a fortunate man to marry a woman like you,” Dadhi chucked.
“Oh, Dadhi,” Anushka chuckled. “You’re already making me smile.”
“So, what’s left on the to-do list for the wedding preparations?” questioned Dadhi.
Anushka took out her scribbling pad from her purse and rambled on about the never-ending list of things that needed to be done.
It was not long before grandmother and granddaughter got interrupted by the rest of the family members. Anushka’s mother entered the house after a long day at work. She peeped in Dadhi’s room and saw the two of them gossiping. Mummy freshened up and made herself comfortable amongst the two, accompanied by a strong cup of coffee before hitting the kitchen for dinner preparations. Dadhi’s room was the meeting den. You would always find someone or the other sitting with Dadhi and whiling away their time.
About half an hour later, Rita, Anushka’s younger sister, barged in Dadhi’s room, drenched in sweat as she just got back from a game of basketball. She gave Dadhi a sweaty kiss on her cheek. ‘This family has gone nuts! They only keep talking about the wedding,’ she thought to herself and went for a quick shower.
Soon enough, Dad arrived. “I’m home,” he’d call out every time he stepped foot in the house.
Having all the family members under one roof, one by one, they got together in the dining room as the cheer and laughter spread, lightening their spirits.
Soon, it was time for dinner. The daughters helped their mother set the table as Dad and Dadhi made themselves comfortable at the dining table.
This was the only meal of the day the whole family ate together. No one was allowed to make an excuse to skip dinner. It was their family time that was usually spent well together.
During dinner, Raju, the cook, served them hot rotis to eat. “This roti isn’t cooked properly,” complained Dadhi as she took the first bite of her dinner.
Mummy promptly jumped off her chair and said, “Leave that roti, Mummyji. I’ll make you another one.”
Seconds later, Mummy walked out of the kitchen and served a not too crisp, not too soft roti dabbed with ghee.
Dadhi rubbed her thumb and index finger together after trying to break a piece of roti since it was piping hot. She cooled it down for a second by blowing on it and tore a piece of roti, dipped it in the dal, and took a bite.
“Now, this is what I call a roti,” she said and smiled lovingly at her bahu.
“I’ll get you another, give me a second,” said Mummy and silently let out a sigh of relief.
“Anushka, let me tell you something I learned from my mother-in-law. The secret to a successful, happy marriage?” asked Dadhi grinning.
Anushka was silent and took her eyes off her plate, and looked at Dadhi, who was sitting at the head of the table.
“If you want a happy marriage, you need to win your man’s heart. And the secret to man’s heart is through his stomach!” she explained with a grin plastered on her face.
Rita rolled her eyes as she wanted to add so much more to the conversation, but she felt it might be a little inappropriate. So she decided to stay shut for the time being.
“You need to learn how to cook good food, Anushka,” Dadhi insisted. “Slow down all the wedding preparations and learn how to cook first.”
“But Dadhi, these days every house has a cook to prepare food for the entire family,” said Anushka. “I’ll learn after I get married.”
Dadhi’s eyes widened. “See what type of roti Raju bhaiya made for me? I couldn’t even chew it properly.”
The dinner ended with Dadhi’s never-ending advice as everyone quietly ate their food, cleared up the table, and went to their respective rooms to sleep.
The next day, Anushka came back from work and called out for Dadhi like every day. To her surprise, she found her in the kitchen preparing homemade mathis.
“Come, come. Have a bite and tell me how it tastes,” said Dadhi excitedly.
Raju stood there waiting for Anushka’s reaction as he helped Dadhi through the entire process.
“Oh, Dadhi, these are delicious. Even better than what we get at the market,” expressed Anushka.
“Raju, Anushka will knead the dough for dinner tonight,” ordered Dadhi.
“Seriously?” said Anushka. “What if I mess up? I’ve never done it before.”
“Oh! Don't worry. Until you don't try, how would you learn?” said Dadhi and patted her on her shoulder.
“Go freshen up and make me one of your special cups of tea.” Dadhi requested lovingly. “I’ve been waiting for you to come home.”
Later that evening, Anushka kneaded the dough with great difficulty. She ended up making a huge mess in the kitchen as she couldn’t follow Dadhi’s instructions. Dadhi couldn’t stand the mess and took over. She kneaded the dough with her frail old hands as her golden bangles were pushed up above her wrist to prevent it from touching the paraant. After Dadhi finished, she showed Anushka the paraant and said, “See, no atta left behind in the paraant. The atta needs to be firm. Not too soft, not too hard.”
This was not the last time Dadhi tried to get Anushka to learn something new in the kitchen. Dadhi was determined to teach Anushka everything she knew. Starting from the secret ingredients to make delicious dal to kneading the perfect dough, cooking the best paneer and the tastiest mutton biryani. Dadhi wanted her to know it all. But it was a little too much to expect from Anushka.
“What will your in-laws think? That we haven’t taught you anything?” said Dadhi another evening when she was teaching her how to make pakoras. Dadhi pressured Anushka to do better, but it just gave her the jitters.
“This is your time, beta. You know your mother-in-law also would be pleased,” expressed Dadhi trying her best to give her granddaughter some sound advice.
As time went by, every evening, Dadhi taught her granddaughter something new. Anushka eventually picked up quickly. Dadhi was sort of pleased with her performance. “Tomorrow you will prepare dinner for the entire family all by yourself,” said Dadhi.
The following evening Anushka did as Dadhi said. She prepared an entire meal for her family except for making rotis. They all ate but found something or the other missing in the food. Either it was less salt or too much spice. Anushka’s parents were thrilled, but Dadhi said, “It’s not up to the mark. You need to try harder next time.” Feeling low and unmotivated, Anushka was expecting a little more from Dadhi.
It was not long before the pre-wedding function went by with a breeze. At the wedding, the gorgeous bride and handsome groom took seven pheras in the wee hours of the morning.
Anushka took a deep breath as it was time to bid farewell to her family and be welcomed by her new family members. With tears filled in her eyes, she hugged her Dadhi tight and touched her feet for her blessings. She was going to miss her the most.
As time passed, Anushka settled down in her new family. Her mother-in-law was a kind, loving lady who was delighted with her only daughter-in-law. They loved the little tit-bits Anushka would prepare for everybody and not to mention her special cup of tea.
It so happened that one fine day, the cook was on leave, and her mother-in-law hadn’t come back from her shopping spree. Anushka prepared a perfect homemade dinner and kneaded the dough. She set aside the dough to rest for some time. Unfortunately, Anushka got nervous as she had learned so much from her Dadhi but wasn’t an expert at making rotis.
Luckily, her husband came home early. She welcomed him with a hot cup of tea and confessed that she didn’t know how to make round rotis. Vikas had a good laugh. “Stop worrying yourself. Mummy will be back by then,” he said and left the room. But the clock was ticking, and dinner needed to be served to the rest of the family. Anushka felt helpless as her roti weren’t round in shape.
“Beta, we are ready to eat dinner,” said her father-in-law.
Anushka nodded and nervously ignited the stove. She started to roll the roti, which didn’t turn out to be round in shape. But still, she tried her best and made her first roti, which did not fluff up either. The first person she thought of was Dadhi. ‘I wish I listened to her more,’ she grumbled to herself. She understood that her Dadhi only meant good for her. She only wanted to push her harder, so Anushka would not feel helpless or suppressed.
Anushka called out for her husband, who was seated at the dinner table, “I can’t make round rotis Vikas. They look like the map of Africa or India. What the hell do I do now?” she whispered to him in the kitchen with a worried look on her face. She was getting finicky.
Vikas felt helpless. There was no way in hell; Vikas could have done a better job. It just so happened that the doorbell rang seconds later. “Oh, please tell me Mummy ji is back,” hoped Anushka nervously.
And she was. Mummy ji was to the rescue. She not only made rotis for the entire family but also taught Anushka how to make round rotis. “It will come with practice. From tomorrow you’re in charge of making rotis for everyone,” suggested Mummy ji. “That’s the only way to learn.”
From that day onwards, every day, Anushka practiced making rotis. And it was not long before she became a perfectionist, just like her Dadhi.