At my mother’s, we live on the second floor while there is a quiet hardly-there Maharashtrian family that lives on the 6th floor. The apartments are placed such that their kitchen and ours are facing each other, albeit at different levels.
Uncle, Aunty, a son and a daughter make their family. Their children are both married and have kids.They always smile and acknowledge us whenever we cross paths but I don’t remember them mingling with anyone.
It has been quite some time, in fact many years, since I have seen Aunty. I can, in all probability, even mistake her for someone else now. But, old habits and old memories die hard, don’t they?
This Aunty had a habit. She sneezed a lot, and very loudly at that! She might be allergic to smoke or some smell for all I know, but her loud sneeze was audible very clearly in our kitchen, every time she did it.
I was just learning the ropes of cooking that time and felt guilty of being responsible for it at times. Is my cooking smelling so bad, does it bother others too, or, was I not supposed to put chilly powder in hot oil….were some common concerns I had.
I was a
lazy regular engg student and had no option but to burn midnight oil during exams just to make sure I didn’t flunk. It was the ultimate sacrifice for me to leave the comfort of my bed and sit upright at the dining table to study (Umm, my study table put me to sleep too 🙁 ).
There, at odd hours, along with the heaps of papers strewn all over the table, the string of unwashed coffee cups lying somewhere under them, the tired scientific calculator, and the reluctant and bored Varsh, was the familiar sneeze, always. Sometimes she would be wrapping up her kitchen late or sometimes getting up early for someone’s tiffin.
It had almost become a ritual for me. So much so, that I looked forward to it! My breakfast wasn’t complete without her sneeze for company. I even wondered why Aunty is always in the kitchen even at this age. Didn’t her daughter-in-law cook?
If I was visiting and didn’t get to listen to her, I would enquire with Mom about her. Her sneeze had somehow become a part of my kitchen adventures. This time around when I went home, Mom wasn’t there, but sneezing Aunty was, and somehow the familiarity, although far-fetched, seemed a bit comforting to me.