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Monday, August 12, 2019

100 Rays Of Son - 92


The Noodle Boy

 When I told Rayyan that I am going to write 100 stories from his life, neither he nor I realized what it is going to be. His only request for me to stay close to truth and not to say anything negative about others in my posts. He also asked me not just to talk about his positive aspects, but negativity as well. I have so far tried my best to give respect to his request but at times his whole story looks incomplete without few mentions like the one I am going to write now.
I was a spoilt girl who was not ready to be married off when my parents actually got me married. I could cook fancy dishes I learned in Home Science like cakes, chips, cutlets, jams, salads and biscuits but not regular rice, sambhar or rotis, leave alone the coastal non-veg and fish dishes. I could not even stand non-veg food for two consecutive days. Neither was I trained like the typical housewife to manage household chores and struggled at my in-laws. Since my husband worked in Dubai, I would be back with my parents where life was comfortable for me. My mom never realized that we were grown up even when we sprouted greys in our hairs, especially my brother who was always her little boy. In short all four of us were spoilt children and the worst part of it was that we were very proud of it, though we struggled to manage our lives. Rayyan, when born was welcomed by this mom who was a little bit better at managing her life. Fortunately, both Rayyan and Farheena were trained in all household chores, though Farheena has quit most of it now.
At this stage, when Farheena was born, cancer happened and other problems cropped up, I was busy handling life while the household chores, cooking and cleaning never were my priority. They were also the tasks that I did not like much.
Rayyan was not even 5 when I was diagnosed with cancer. Since then he has tried his best to make life easier for me. I sometimes feel he has overtaken even my mom in spoiling me. From choosing clothes that did not require ironing to slowly taking care of himself like bathing, he made life easier for me. He always put away his toys, books and other things neatly after working on them. I did have much parenting to do. My mom loved cooking for him, though the ghee content would be high which Rayyan did not like. At times she would bring the ghee down or skip it totally to make him happy. I would prepare fancy snacks for him like Alphabet crispies, sandwich with names for him and his little friends, ice-creams, etc.
It was during this period, the sudden shifting to village happened where we did not have basics like running water which made life difficult for us; until we settled down and made changes with few necessary required amenities. Not to say, we loved the rough life as well and enjoyed it like an adventure.
Rayyan’s school was situated 28 km from our home and he had to leave very early in the morning by school bus, thankfully which had a pickup from our village. I had to get used to the different environment there and start cooking on my own which was not easy. Rayyan, naturally guessed my struggle and lent a helping hand in everything I did. He could not eat much breakfast from before. He struggles with the first meal of the day and now he had to eat before 7 a.m. which was not easy for him. I had to pack lunch for him early. Since my mom always prepared anything he liked, I would usually ask him a day before, what he would like for lunch next day. His usual answer was Maggie, the instant noodles. At that time, I had not found any suitable school to send Farheena. So, the lunch would be packed only for Rayyan. Since instant noodles are easy to cook, like any lazy person I fell for it. So, most often his lunch would be instant noodles, that is at least twice a week.
Food was an important part of lives of people there, unlike in Bangalore. They spent 60% percent of their time around the food the family would eat. They were filled with recipes of ground coconuts, fish and sea food dishes, grand non-veg curries and many other fascinating foods. Biryani was a struggling at the lower end of the ladder there. You can imagine how they must have felt about the boy who brought instant noodles for lunch. Slowly some of them nicknamed him Maggie. Rayyan never minded that and neither told me about this. Earlier he had tough time pronouncing the phonetic ‘R’ sound and he was nicknamed Lion the way he pronounced Rayyan by his previous schoolmates. He actually liked the name and had asked whether he can change his name to Lion. I told him the king of Jungle wouldn’t like it, so we have to respect him and let it go.
One day, I got a call from his admin from school who cared a lot about him from day one. After updating me about his progress and adjustment in new school, he casually told me to pack his box with more nutritious food like chapatis and rotis. Somehow, I became more alert and the frequency of instant noodles came down.
Later, one of his classmates informed me that the guys at school had nicknamed Rayyan ‘Maggie’ and were making fun of him. He wanted me to make complaint to the school admin since Rayyan was not willing to do it. Honestly, Rayyan will never know how infuriated I was at this revelation. It was almost a year since this was going on and I was getting to know about this now, that too from his friend. Rayyan was not home when the news came by. As soon as Rayyan came, I asked him, “Is it true that they have nicknamed you Maggie?” Without a twitch of change in expression he answered, “Yes”. With my anger shooting up I asked, “Why didn’t you tell me this?” “What is so important about it to tell you Maa. They are only calling me Maggie, they are not cooking me in two minutes and eating me”. I gave up because I realized there is no use talking to him about it. I was not even sure whether he was bothered or enjoying the nickname like previously he did.
As much as Rayyan was unaffected by the whole episode, it was not the same for me. I was angry, irritated, annoyed, cross, livid and many other of such emotions. As I did not understand why Rayyan was unaffected he did not understand why I was affected. I started doubting that may be he was saying he loved noodles for lunch because he did not want me to cook anything much early in the morning. He has never accepted that.
Rayyan will now realize while reading this post that it was one of the biggest changing phase of my life. After that I worked hard to learn good recipes, coastal cooking, and also recipes of different regions. In few months’ time, I became an expert chef. From various cakes, puddings and fancy foods, I was cooking great regular food as well. I think I had some knack for cooking because when I experimented with changes, it turned out great. I tried various biryanis and local traditional recipes and they all turned out great. Soon, I was inviting many children for snacks and dinner and feeding them with vengeance. I wanted them to realize that Rayyan’s mom was not just the Maggie lady but could cook great food. The cutlets, bread pudding, milk shakes, ice-creams, kheer and other dishes were loved by all. I continued feeding all the children who were coming to me for tuitions. At times I would throw parties to feed them. Even when Rayyan was in Arena Animation, his friends would be invited just to have food. I still remember how much one of his friend, Diya had loved the chicken curry.
Not stopping at feeding the children, I started cooking food for my husband as well. I would cook rava laddoos, pickles and many other food that would last him for few months in gulf and pack it off for him. They became a craze in his work place as well. Though he is not easy to praise me, he still recollects the taste of the pickle I used to make. The frenzy that started with his nickname lasted for almost 12 years before it died down.
All those children who made fun of him may not have known how much he has made adjustments so that his mom would not have to struggle. Most of them may refuse to eat something they did not like, wear something that is not neatly ironed, and made life difficult for their moms. I still feel very emotional about that nickname because no one realized here was a child who did not want his mom to struggle but would be ok being called Maggie. I am not sure why, but it still makes me sad to know that no one actually appreciated him for this.
Now, it is very rare that I invite his friends to eat with us, but I do cook very special sandwiches, pastas, or even recently lasagne for him. Farheena loves the food I cook, but the taste of that particular dish I make only for Rayyan is always special. It is not like I am partial, but it just happens. Anyway, Farheena will never even look at the new dishes I prepare. So it is only for Rayyan that cook something very special occasionally.
Rayyan will be shocked reading this post, because he may have never realized how much the nickname had its impact on me because for him it meant nothing. For me, it was the flow of all the adjustments he had made from the tender of five, pampering his maa, ensuring that I get enough rest, never letting me overdo things or stress myself and asking for instant noodles for lunch so that I did not have to cook much in the morning. It is very emotional for me to the extent of extracting tears. But then on the bright side of it, he has tasted food that may be not many have tasted because they are my own creations. Along with him, so many other people like my husband, my family and his friends also enjoyed the great dishes I cooked. My own adjustment to the bread pudding is something my family always fights over, no matter how much I prepare it. So, all those who enjoyed my cooking, owe it to Rayyan’s nickname.

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