Queen of in­no­va­tion

She used to cook desi food in the US.

Alive - - Content - by Bra­jen­dra Singh

Manorma was highly ex­cited. She could hardly wait to tell the world all about her pro­posed trip. Whom should she break the news to first? It would have to be Veena, her clos­est friend. Hur­riedly, she punched in Veena’s num­ber on her cell-phone, only to hear a recorded voice in­form­ing her that the num­ber was busy and that she should ring again after some time.

‘Damn it!’ Manorma’s im­pa­tience had got the bet­ter of her good man­ners. ‘Did her num­ber have to be busy right at this time?’

Two min­utes later Manorma tried again and this time she was re­warded by hear­ing the bha­jan that Veena used as her caller tone.

“Hi, Manno! How is life?” Veena’s fa­mil­iar voice came on the line.

“Hi, Veena!” Manorma an­swered. “I have some won­der­ful news for you. Guess what?”

“Don’t tell me that you have lost an­other two ki­los in weight or has your hus­band’s pro­mo­tion fi­nally come through?” Veena haz­arded.

“No, no! It is noth­ing of the sort.” Manorma couldn’t con­tain her­self any longer. “I am go­ing to the USA. I am go­ing to meet my son Mo­han after five years.”

“Con­grat­u­la­tions!”

Veena said en­thu­si­as­ti­cally. “I am glad that your hus­band. Varun, has man­aged to get some leave.”

“Ac­tu­ally, Varun did not even ap­ply for leave.” Manorma ex­plained. “His pro­mo­tion is likely to be an­nounced any day now and it is im­por­tant that he should be here when it comes. So, I am go­ing alone.”

“Alone?” Veena sounded sur­prised. “Will you be able to un­der­take such a long jour­ney on your own?”

“Of course!” Manorma replied con­fi­dently. “It is not that I am new to trav­el­ling by air or to in­ter­na­tional travel. I have flown at least 10 times within the coun­try and, as you may re­call, last year Varun took me on a tour of Sin­ga­pore and Malaysia. I agree that this is the first time I will be fly­ing alone, but I have trav­elled many times all by my­self, in trains and long-dis­tance buses. So, I don’t think I will have any prob­lems.”

“But what is the hurry to go to the USA?” Veena asked cu­ri­ously. “I agree that Mo­han is your only child and you have not met him for five years. But you talk reg­u­larly on the phone with him. So, why can’t you wait for a few more months, so that both of you can go and meet him to­gether? I am sure that Mo­han will also feel hap­pier to see both his fa­ther and mother.”

agree that Mo­han would have been hap­pier if we could both have gone,” ac­cepted Manorma. “But Varun can’t go and it is im­por­tant that at least one of us is there.”

“Why? What’s the oc­ca­sion?” Veena’s cu­rios­ity was piqued.

“Be­cause Mo­han is get­ting en­gaged.” Manorma burst her bomb­shell.

For a mo­ment Veena was stunned into si­lence. Then, she found her voice. “Mo­han is get­ting en­gaged? This is won­der­ful news in­deed. Con­grat­u­la­tions, Manno! Who is the lucky girl?”

The first prob­lem Manorma faced go­ing to meet her son, was ob­tain­ing a US visa. She de­posited the fees, filled the forms, at­tached her pho­tos and fi­nally en­tered the con­sulate build­ing. When her turn came, she stood in front of a visa of­fi­cial, her heart beat­ing a lit­tle faster than nor­mal. He looked at her with a stern ex­pres­sion.

“Her name is An­gela.” Manorma replied.

“An­gela?” Veena sounded shocked. “Don’t tell me that Mo­han has fallen for a gori maim

(white lady). Couldn’t he have found an In­dian girl to marry?”

“Ac­tu­ally she is halfIn­dian.” Manorma ex­plained. “Her full name is An­gela Rao. Her fa­ther is an In­dian set­tled in the US and her mother is of Ger­man ori­gin, whose fam­ily be­came Amer­i­can cit­i­zens some time in the early 1930s. An­gela and Mo­han were col­leagues, work­ing in the same of­fice. They fell in love and now want to get mar­ried.”

“Well, it’s up to Mo­han, as to which girl he wants as a life part­ner.” Con­ceded Veena. “But, I don’t un­der­stand why they can’t post­pone the en­gage­ment for a cou­ple of months or so, till Varun is free to travel.”

“The fact is,” Manorma ex­plained, “An­gela’s nani (ma­ter­nal grand­mother) is se­ri­ously ill. She is 87 years old and is not likely to live much longer. Her fer­vent wish is to see

An­gela, if not mar­ried, then at least en­gaged, be­fore she dies. That is why the en­gage­ment can­not be de­layed.”

Veena then con­grat­u­lated

Manorma once more and wished her bon voy­age. Manorma im­me­di­ately there­after started phon­ing her other friends and rel­a­tives to give them the happy news.

The first prob­lem Manorma faced go­ing to meet her son, was ob­tain­ing a US visa. She de­posited the fees, filled the forms, at­tached her pho­tos and fi­nally en­tered the con­sulate build­ing. When her turn came, she stood in front of a visa of­fi­cial, her heart beat­ing a lit­tle faster than nor­mal. He looked at her with a stern ex­pres­sion.

“Is this the first time you are trav­el­ling to the United States?” he asked.

“Yes, sir!” Manorma replied.

The of­fi­cial glanced through her papers, then ques­tioned her again. “I see that you are trav­el­ling to visit your only child, your son. How do I know that you will not set­tle down there with him, in­stead of re­turn­ing to In­dia?”

Manorma, who was fairly quick on the up­take, promptly replied, “I have to come back be­cause I’m leav­ing my hus­band be­hind.”

The mo­ment the words es­caped her lips, Manorma re­gret­ted them. What if the of­fi­cial de­nied her visa on the grounds that she was try­ing to be funny? But the lat­ter ev­i­dently had a sense of hu­mour, for he smiled, said “Ac­cepted, madam!” and stamped her ap­pli­ca­tion.

Manorma’s long flight to the USA via Europe, though te­dious and un­com­fort­able, went off smoothly. Mo­han met her at the air­port and after a tear­ful re­u­nion, drove her to his two-room apart­ment. He in­formed her that the en­gage­ment would be held five days later.

Early next morn­ing, An­gela ar­rived to go to of­fice with Mo­han. Manorma ap­praised her care­fully, and liked what she saw. An­gela looked like a sim­ple girl, who, though not re­ally pretty, had reg­u­lar fea­tures. From the 20-minute con­ver­sa­tion Manorma had with her, she seemed to be a down-to-

earth, de­pend­able type of per­son. Mo­han ev­i­dently had good judge­ment, in se­lect­ing her to be his wife.

That evening, when he re­turned from work, Mo­han spoke to Manorma.

“Mom, can you do me a favour?”

“Of course, beta!” Manorma replied. “What do you want me to do?”

“It is like this,” Mo­han ex­plained. “An­gela has eaten In­dian food, but it has all been South In­dian stuff, like dosas, idlis and vadas. You may re­mem­ber that when I was at home, my favourite dish was aloo-puri. I told An­gela about it, so she wants to try it, but we have never been able to find a res­tau­rant that had aloop­uri on its menu. To­mor­row is a hol­i­day. I want to call An­gela over for lunch. Can you make a meal of aloop­uri for us? I have got pota­toes, maida and spices.”

“I sure can, beta.” replied Manorma. “How spicy do you want me to make the aloo curry?”

“Well, An­gela has eaten Mex­i­can food sev­eral times, which is al­most as spicy as In­dian food,” Mo­han ex­plained. “But she has al­ways had the mildest ver­sion. So, don’t make the aloo curry too hot.”

“I won’t,” replied Manorma. “Con­sider your aloo-puri lunch as made.” Lit­tle did she re­alise what was in store for her on the mor­row.

Next morn­ing, after a leisurely break­fast, Manorma pre­pared the aloo curry, en­sur­ing that it was only mildly spicy. She, then, kneaded the dough for the puris, and di­vided it into small pats.

“Where is your be­lan (rolling pin), beta?” she asked Mo­han.

“What be­lan, mom?” he en­quired.

“Your rolling pin.” clar­i­fied Manorma. “I need it to roll out the puris.”

“I don’t have one, mom.” Mo­han replied. “I nor­mally eat piz­zas, noo­dles and mi­cro-waved frozen food. If re­quired, I take bread or buns with my meals. So I have never needed a rolling pin. I can­not knead dough, nor roll out cha­p­at­tis. Hence, I never thought of get­ting one.”

Manorma was baf­fled. What was she to do now? She could never make puris with­out a be­lan.

In­dian house­wives are, how­ever, in­no­va­tive per­son­al­i­ties. They spe­cialise in ju­gaad (im­pro­vi­sa­tion), es­pe­cially in emer­gen­cies. Manorma hunted around and fi­nally lo­cated an empty whiskey bot­tle. She de­cided that it would do, as a tem­po­rary rolling pin – a special type with a han­dle only on one side.

“How about the oil for fry­ing the puris?” she then asked Mo­han.

He du­ti­fully pro­duced a spray can, with which he used to squirt minis­cule quan­ti­ties of oil onto non­stick pans, when­ever he wanted to fry an egg or any­thing else.

“No! No! This will not do.” Manorma protested in de­spair. “I need lots of oil. I have to deep-fry the puris.”

“No prob­lem, mom” Mo­han re­as­sured her. “I’ll just be back.”

He, then, went out and re­turned 15 min­utes later, with a full bot­tle of corn oil. Manorma nearly wept with re­lief.

Lunch was a great suc­cess, with both An­gela and Mo­han eat­ing six puris each. Manorma had wisely pat­ted each puri on a pa­per nap­kin to get rid of the ex­cess oil, be­fore serv­ing them freshly fried and pip­ing hot.

After the meal, An­gela thanked Manorma pro­fusely. Then she and Mo­han sat down separately and started dis­cussing some­thing. As­sum­ing that they were talk­ing about their forth­com­ing en­gage­ment, Manorma ig­nored them and went about her work. At the end of their con­ver­sa­tion, An­gela rose, stat­ing “Don’t worry Mo­han, I will do ev­ery­thing. After all, I too can in­no­vate.”

She thanked Manorma again and left.

Next morn­ing, she ar­rived at their place a lit­tle early. Apart from her usual brief­case, she car­ried a round box. Mo­han opened its lid slightly, peeped in and smiled. Then, he and An­gela went up to Manorma. “We are both very im­pressed with the way you man­aged to make aloo-puri yes­ter­day, de­spite all the prob­lems.” he said, “So, we de­cided to crown you” Ju­gaad Queen’ or ‘Queen of In­no­va­tion’.”

Say­ing this, he opened the box, from which An­gela took out a card-board crown, cov­ered with gold pa­per, and put it on Manorma’s head.

It was with dif­fi­culty that Manorma held back her tears of joy.

Lunch was a great suc­cess, with both An­gela and Mo­han eat­ing six puris each. Manorma had wisely pat­ted each puri on a pa­per nap­kin to get rid of the ex­cess oil, be­fore serv­ing them freshly fried and pip­ing hot.

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