‘Mummy… can I cook some chicken tonight?’ Roma asked as she took a sip of her hot masala chai.
‘How can you already think about dinner?’ Mummy frowned. ‘We’ve just finished eating breakfast and cooking lunch!’
‘Well, it’s been a long time since I ate some good homemade chicken curry,’ Roma sighed. ‘And I hope you don’t mind.’
‘Why would I mind? Because I’m a vegetarian? Oh my dear, it’s nothing like that! Sameer used to cook chicken every second day before marrying you. He went through this crazy phase of cooking all sorts of dishes.’
‘Yes! Not like I didn’t appreciate his efforts, and I don’t mind non-vegetarian dishes, But… oh dear,’ Mummy rolled her eyes. ‘The state of the kitchen afterward was not a very pretty sight!’
Roma giggled, ‘I can imagine.’
Later that night, Roma lovingly prepared her all-time favorite chicken curry. She ate till her jeans got tight but missed Sameer’s presence at the dinner table. He came home later that night but had no appetite to eat a second round of dinner.
Sameer and Roma were a newly married couple. They had connected through a common friend at a wedding and had just clicked. The more time they spent with each other, the more they realized they were meant to be together. There was something about Roma’s personality that caught Sameer’s attention. She was kind and loving but, at the same time, bold and loud. Her laugh was enough to lighten the mood of a sad, dull party. Sameer, on the other hand, was more on the quiet side—family-oriented, a dedicated son, and of course, Mumma’s boy.
The following morning, Sameer’s father couldn’t stop talking about Roma’s delicious chicken curry at the breakfast table. Mummy was impressed with her daughter-in-law's knack for cooking but still refused even to taste it.
‘What special ingredient did you add to your chicken curry that Dad can’t stop talking about?’ Sameer asked Roma as he jammed a bite of hot spicy aloo parathas into his mouth.
‘Nothing. I just cooked it the way I always cook it,’ Roma replied. ‘I’ve saved some for you. You can have it for lunch.’
‘Oh! Sameer. You’re going to love it!’ Dad added. ‘It was cooked with such perfection. Really! Absolutely delicious Roma!’
‘Ok. Listen up! This weekend, Mamaji and family are coming home for dinner.’ Mummy announced. ‘I’m requesting you both be home and available. Please don’t make any other plans.’
Sameer gawked at his father and then his better half paying a deaf ear to his mother. Hearing such good compliments for chicken dishes were usually meant only for him. This was new to him. And very unusual.
‘Should I pack some in your tiffin?’ Roma interrupted.
Sameer was deep in thought.
‘Sameer…. Where are you lost? Sameer!’
‘What? Nothing,’ Sameer replied, clearing his throat.
‘Are you okay?’ Mummy interrupted.
‘Yes, of course. Roma, save me some chicken. I’ll have it for dinner tonight. I want to eat garam garam chapatis with it. Let me also have a taste and see what’s so great about it!’
‘Okaaay,’ Roma said slowly. ‘You know other people can also cook good chicken. It doesn’t always have to be just you!’
Sameer listened and murmured to himself while he finished his breakfast.
‘Are you jealous?’ Roma asked. ’
‘Jealous?!? I’m not jealous!’ Sameer frowned. ‘Why would I be jealous?’
‘You’ve not even tasted my chicken curry. Why are you getting your shorts in a knot?’ Roma replied.
‘Who says I’m getting my shorts in a knot?’ Sameer answered.
‘Okay! Okay! Both of you… Calm down!’ Dad exclaimed.
‘Oh, come on, Dad. I’m sure my chicken curry is better than hers. I’m the one who always cooks the best chicken. Right?’
The parents exchanged looks and rolled their eyes.
Mummy sighed a long sigh.
‘Let’s settle down here, shall we? I have a fantastic idea. Let’s have a cooking competition. Anyways the fam jam is coming on Saturday. Both of you will cook your chicken dish separately,’ Dad said.
‘And don’t tell us who has cooked which dish,’ Mummy added. ‘And we shall vote on whose dish is the best.’
The young couple glanced at each other and tried to maintain their calm.
‘You’re going down!’ Sameer murmured.
‘Oh, please. You don’t need to brag!!’
Finally, the long-awaited weekend arrived. The extended family was not expected until late evening. Roma decided to hit the kitchen by late afternoon. She knew that her husband would soon take over, turning it into a disaster area. As well, the last thing she wanted was for him to discover her secret ingredient. Roma had carefully reviewed her special recipe.
By and by, Sameer entered the kitchen where Roma was just finishing cooking her mum’s special butter chicken. It was made with perfection. She looked at her hubby, winked at him, and gave him a peck on his cheek.
‘Good luck!’ she whispered, leaving the kitchen feeling content and confident.
Just then, the doorbell rang. It was the rest of the fam jam. After rounds of greetings, hi’s, hellos, and warm hugs, they all sat themselves down in the drawing room. They sipped on fresh lemonade and chitter-chatted about the latest developments in their lives. Each had lots to say.
As the chatty banter continued, Sameer was in the kitchen trying his best to prepare his special chicken curry to perfection.
Soon it was time for dinner. The family gathered around the dinner table, each member taking a seat and wondering why there were two different types of chicken dishes. Roma and Sameer stood by with their fingers crossed.
‘What’s going on? Why are there….’ Mamaji asked.
‘Just eat and enjoy,’ Mummy interrupted. Whichever chicken dish is the best wins!’
‘Oh my!’ Mamaji continued.
‘Roma and Sameer are the contestants,’ Dad said.
‘Just don’t look at our faces when you serve yourselves,’ Roma giggled.
After they chomped their chicken and slurped their fingers, Roma and Sameer stood patiently, waiting for the final verdict.
‘So…. say something,’ Sameer said impatiently.
‘Ok. Let’s make this easy. Who votes for butter chicken? Raise your hand.’ Dad announced.
The family looked at each other and then at the restless couple.
‘Don’t look at us,’ Sameer said.
‘Yes, you people need to be fair!’ Roma added.
One by one the hands were raised. And almost every single one of them voted for butter chicken.
Roma jumped, clapped her hands together, and waved them in the air. ‘Butter chicken it is!’
The family applauded Roma’s mum’s special recipe, and Dad handed her a winning cash envelope of ten thousand rupees. He gave her a big bear hug and whispered, ‘Don’t give it to Sameer. He will end up spending it all.’
Sameer gave Roma a tight hug and said, ‘I knew you would win.’
‘I had already tasted your chicken when you left the kitchen. I knew there was no way in hell I could match up to your standards.’ Sameer said good-naturedly.
‘Oh, Darling…. don’t worry. I’ll teach you how to cook the best chicken ever!’
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