Abu was married for 22 years. To the same woman, as many teenagers today would have been perplexed to know. His wife of 22 years was unlettered, but now modern. Najma wanted to spend a Vollenteen’s Day with her man, in a speshal way, haan!
As Abu chewed distractedly at the rump end of a soggy cigar, scratching his hairless brainshell, he saw his wife looking at him with aggressive eyebrows. “ I want you to take off on the 14th, and don’t make excuses!” she pouted half-seriously.
Abu couldn’t fathom any reason for his wife’s sudden estrogenic surge. Was it some form of competitive modern feminism, he wondered.
The boy in Abu was tickled at this middle age foolishness. Suddenly, he wanted to surprise his wife with something. Buying a ring was too expensive. Buying anything was too typical. What then could he do for her?
The answer came out like a cockroach from chow mein. “I will cook something truly divine for her!” he decided. The more he thought about it, the better it smelled to him. In more than 7000 days of cohabitation with this woman, he had not cooked one, yes one, meal for himself or for her. He decided to google his way into his new goal. “Real Men Cook” and “Valentine’s Day” gave him few attractive gastronomic entries. For the life of him, he couldn’t make sense out of sweet potato cake, Cajun spices, and smoked catfish, among others. He decided to make the ordinary his precious offering to an oaken romance.
Many monsoons back, a young Abu had married a pretty girl with a boundless spirit and no background. The years had, predictably, dulled the lustful ardor of youth that had overcome the shyness of middle class femininity. But the feelings embered on with scant regard to the changing calendars on the pallid walls of his home.
Today, Abu woke up from his memories to the sound of his wife’s gentle snoring.
On this morning of the 14th of February, he crept out of bed and entered the kitchen. He didn’t even know how to turn the gas on, he realized. Ah, the microwave! The savior of his surprise! His menu was small but assertive. Salad (starring modern Shitake mushrooms from Japan, bell peppers from some exotic South American state, and julienned Arabian dates) was easy. He managed to rustle it up in 10 minutes, bullying a chaotic spill of 5 bowls, 2 plates and 3 spoons. Job done, he started with increasing confidence at his next items. Rice, dal and fried potatoes.
His printout for the Urad dal recipe in hand, he assembled the pulses, ginger, curry leaves, oil, etc. and got ready to start. His mind hiccupped on seeing the first instruction:
“ Soak urad dal for two hours”
“I don’t have the damn time!” he chided his virtual instructor. He decided to improvise the way he had done for most of his life. He doubled the boiling time for the dal from 9 minutes to 18. Job done, he smirked in a short while. He then stroked some oil on a glass casserole and added the spices and cumin seeds to fry them. 5 minutes later, the microwave now looked like the inside of a tandoor. He mixed the dal and the mishmash of spices and stirred them, still afraid to turn on the gas oven. He got the rice from last night’s leftovers and heated it up. On the verge of creative exhaustion, Abu finished his gastronomic adventure by sprinkling some coriander leaves on the rice and dal to give color to his masterpiece. He decided to imagine that there were fried potatoes on the side or, at least, add some chips.
Najma, by now aware of an abnormal phenomenon this morning, was stunned by her husband scooping her up and taking her to the dining table. Plunking her on a chair, the romantic baldie said grandly, “Happy Valentine’s Day, jaan!”
Sleep evaporating from her mind, she stared crazily at her husband. She whispered, “You cooked rice, dal and salad for breakfast? Allah!”
Tears choking her lips, she lifted a frail hand and daintily placed a blob of unsalted dal and rice inside her mouth. She closed her eyes and gulped. The salad is divine, she breathed with emotion. Abu stood by proudly, staring at his mate of long years. He then turned away to blink down a pair of teardrops, looking at a framed photograph of two boys and their parents. Six years away in the past, he remembered a hospital ward and the lifeless bodies of his sons, run over by madness. His wife? She lived, but was perennially in need of physical support from a lack of lower limbs.
Abu lived too. As he saw his pretty wife eating her breakfast, he felt all was not lost. True love was microwave-proof, he thought.

10 responses to “MICROVALENTINE’S DAY

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