The rays of the sun peeked through a gap in the curtains, perfectly casting its shadows across the room. My alarm blared, disturbing the quiet aesthetic of this visual. I groaned, wishing more than anything that I didn’t have to go to school. I would have honestly much rather just cozied up in my blanket and fallen into deep slumber.
I jolted awake hearing whistles and clanking of vessels in the kitchen. It was Acha at it again. Amma was off on one of her work trips, Japan, if I remember correctly. Now it was Acha’s responsibility to make me my school lunch.
Ammachi, my grandmother, was a brilliant cook. The thing I really liked about her was the fact that she loved cooking almost as much as I loved eating. But when Amma was away, Acha took it as an opportunity to take the lead in upsetting gender roles. He would always insist on making me my lunch instead of letting Ammachi do it. I’m not sure what his thoughts really were, but I strongly believe this is one of his ways of showing me his love. Acha and I may disagree on many things but food was our common ground.
I wasn’t sure what exactly was in store for today. I forced myself out of bed feeling somewhat weary, I don’t think I had slept well that night. As I got dressed up, it started to rain. September weather in Kerala is just as unpredictable as my mood.
Acha had this peculiar habit of trying new things whenever he found himself as head chef for the day. There was something he seemed to enjoy about experimenting in the kitchen.
I trudged down the stairs, still wishing that I could run back to bed, curl up into a ball and visit my favourite world of dreams. Ammachi smiled at me and then rushed inside the kitchen, busy making me a dosa for breakfast. I am a big foodie but a rather slow eater. So Ammachi fed me while Acha was still quite seriously whipping something up.
“What’s today’s special?” I asked Ammachi while pointing at Acha.
“I don’t know, pah, this is too much!” she heaved, breathing out a heavy sigh and nodding her head as if done with her son.
Thud! The sound rang out as Acha so-called gently placed my lunch bag on our glass dining table. I looked up at him, expecting some sort of reveal for today’s lunch. All I got in return was a sheepish smile which told me all that I needed to know. Something had gone completely wrong! All I had to do now was find out what. Before I could ask Acha more about this, the bus honked as it reached my house. As I got up, picking up my lunch bag, Acha shouted behind me that he made a terrible mistake and had put milkmaid in my spaghetti instead of cheese.
I froze in my tracks. Lucky for me, we stay towards the outskirts of the town thereby having almost no traffic on the road. Milkmaid? In my spaghetti? WHAT. THE. HELL. My bus honked so loud, making me jump out of my skin. I ran inside not wanting to cause any further delays.
My mind was somewhere else though. I knew Acha experimented with food, but this was no experiment. It was a sad and unfortunate mistake, which I was bound to end up eating. Thinking about it was horrifying. I mean who in their right mind would have ever heard of Milkmaid Spaghetti? I have never wished harder to have lost my sense of hearing.
I don’t think I’ve missed my mother as much as I did at that moment. She was the best cook I knew, other than Ammachi. This was one of the times my sister wasn’t here either. She was usually the one put off by Acha’s cooking experiments among the two of us. I, on the other hand, encouraged him. Little did I know that it would bite me back like this. I dreaded my lunch throughout the day, until it was time. Usually lunch breaks were when my half-pig, half-human friends would finish off most of my lunch by the time I made it back from washing my hands. Though I don’t look like it with my petite figure, I am always hungry and always looking for any opportunity to stuff my face with food.
But today, more than any other day, I wished, harder than ever, that no one would touch my lunch box before I did. Simply because I did not feel ready to face such humiliation. I warned them all that this was Acha’s cooking and not Amma’s. But that didn’t matter. Many of them absolutely loved Acha’s cooking, his sandwiches, bruschettas and many other such experiments. But today, I was most definitely not taking such a risk. In order to be the first one to taste this extremely humorous dish, as ridiculous as it sounds, I walked with my lunch bag to the washroom, washed my hands and came back.
Spaghetti was usually a roar among us friends. It was one of our common favourites. I carefully, very slowly opened the lid of my lunch box. Oh god, is all I thought. Before I could take the first bite of my spaghetti, my lunch was attacked. There were around six pairs of hands attacking my spaghetti. I almost felt bad for the food and more than them. I had no idea what they were in for and neither did they. At that moment, I wished I knew. One bite was taken, and all eyes landed on me. I squirmed. So uncomfortable. So awkward. Wishing no more than to melt away. Right then and right there.
“What is this spaghetti?” S asked me. I just looked at them with the best puppy dog eyes I could manage. My eyes were almost in slits, begging them silently, not to say or do anything more.
“Why are you looking at us like that? It’s absolutely yummy!” echoed A with all others nodding in agreement.
I couldn’t believe my ears. I felt deceived by my eyes. No way in hell did milkmaid spaghetti, nothing but a mistake, actually taste good. I just stared at them, wide eyed and blank. After a few seconds, a weird strangled sound escaped me.
“Go on, eat it and see before going all wild,” D nudged me.
I took my fork very slowly, wanting to delay knowing the taste of Milkmaid Spaghetti. I opened my mouth, shut my eyes tight and with extreme difficulty, took a bite. As soon as it was inside my mouth, my eyes widened, jumping out of their sockets.