Don't Tell My Father
Don't Tell My Father
Anand was very busy with the recipe he was working on when he got the call. He dropped everything and ran to the bus stop. He got into the bus in a hurry and sat down in a corner seat. The bus started moving and with that, he knew all his dreams going down the drain. Anand was a chef in a big restaurant and he could not afford a break now. But he had to leave without any notice to anyone. The bus after few hours stopped at a roadside Dhaba. Anand was hungry and ordered some lunch. What surprised Anand was a South Indian meal served in that joint. What was more surprising was the Garlic Rasam there was heavenly. He asked the server to pour some of that Rasam into his hands, making a makeshift ladle with his hand. He sipped a little and remembered something. It was exactly how his father likes to have his Rasam. Anand always had his Rasam this way. But till today he did not remember that his father did the same. Maybe he was reminded today as he got the dreaded call. Your father is not feeling well please come right away. He called the waiter to bring the Rasam one more time, had a sip, and told him "Don't tell my father". The server was confused with what Anand said. The involuntary tears started rolling on the cheeks of Anand.
A few years later
Anand was stepping out of the house when Ramanayya has seen him. After initial pleasantries, Ramanayya asked Anand how is his job. Anand replied that he is happy with the work he is doing. Ramanayya replied, yes, job satisfaction is very important. Look at your father, he loved his work. Everyone used to praise him for his work. With these words, Ramanayya said goodbye and left on his way. Anand started to walk and remembered something about his father and his job.
Anand's father Ramiah was a cook in the town's most famous temple. It gave Ramaiah very little money but he was very satisfied. Anand had no clue, why. Anand, on the other hand, wanted to be a chef in a five-star hotel. Today is off day as he had no interviews. Seeing him home, Ramaiah asked Anand to come and assist him in the temple. Anand did not like what his father did but could not say no to him. So, he took a bath and was getting ready for the temple kitchen. His mother was happy to see him doing things the way his father likes. She said to him you can take over soon from your father. Anand did not like the prospect. He replied to her in a loud voice, how can you say that? I did a course to become a chef. Not to be a cook with just three recipes to make all the life. See my father's life for a little bit. He does not even go on to do some private functions and earn money. He is too happy in that meager paying job. I don't know how someone can be so ambitionless. With this Anand starts to walk out and tells the mother don't tell any of this to my father.
Anand comes back to the present from the memory and starts walking hurriedly. Sunder notices Anand and stops him. Sunder asks Anand where he is heading. He continues talking without waiting for a response and asks Anand what is with the new dress. Before Anand could answer anything Sunder continued to talk. Dressing well you inherited that from your father. He used to dress so well that everyone used to fold their hands in respect as he walked the streets. Sunder bid goodbye and left the place before Anand could even open his mouth. Anand did not mind, he does not want to answer that he is on his way to select a bride, for his marriage. However, what caught Anand's attention was the comment about his father's dressing sense. This reminded him of a conversation he had about his father.
One fine morning, Ramaiah sent someone for Anand. He was asked to come and meet his father at the temple. Anand walked into the kitchen to find Ramaiah was busy. It was closing in on Naivedyam time and Ramiah was in a hurry to get the food ready. Ramaiah seeing his son walking in asks him to pick up a ladle and start helping. Anand starts working on Sweet Kesari. He was almost done and was about to take a bite to make sure the taste was all fine. The father's assistant notices and stops him. You cannot taste the food before it is served to god. Anand could not believe how someone can cook that way. Anand tells the assistant, please don't tell my father. Preparation is completed and the Naivedyam is served first to god and then to the devotees. The Kesari that day got the best accolades. Anand was not excited about any of the accolades he got. He never wanted to be a cook like his father. That is when his father walked into the kitchen. He handed Anand a packet and asked him. Even though he was not excited about the Kesari, a pat on the back for a job well done would have lifted Anand's spirits. Not getting any, Anand walked home in disappointment. Anand’s mother noticed the packet in the hands of Anand. She knew it was a new dress his father bought for Anand. She was very excited to see her son in the new dress. She quickly opened it and asked him to try the new dress. Anand said a firm No. The mother was disappointed and asked him to wear the dress, after all, his father bought him a new dress. Anand was angry and started to shout at his mother. He did not buy me any dress, some devotee would have given the dress. See it carefully, it already has some kumkum and turmeric marks. Mother was sad that her kid is disrespecting his father. Anand continued have you ever seen father wearing a decent dress. He always wears someone’s handouts. She with a teary eye told his son, don't ever tell this to your father. What Anand comes to know later was that the dress bought by her father.
Anand continues walking faster as it was already late. He doesn't want any more distractions. Especially the stories about his father. None of the stories were any pleasant to him. But things are not going smoothly that day. Anand was stopped by Sandeep. Sandeep started to praise the food Anand made the previous day. The food you made yesterday was wonderful. Your father's food was of a different level. He, however, used to cater only to a few marriages. For poor people who cannot afford many a time, he spent money from his pocket for the food. The food in those marriages was indescribable and was unbelievably tasty. I remember one of those occasions. We all were searching for the Music band for a long while. We never thought of checking the kitchen. After an hour or so someone decided anyway to go into the kitchen. There we found the music troop. They got a whip of the smell from the food your father was cooking. They could not stop themselves and ran to the kitchen leaving the music.
This conversation brought Anand the conversation he had with his father about his father’s job. Anand was trying to be a chef and attended many interviews without any success. Seeing him home Anand's father asked him to start working with him. He could make some money and slowly can decide what to do. Anand could not say "No" to his father. He followed him to the temple kitchen. As both the father and son walked the kitchen. The father started to speak to his son. Don't consider me your father in this kitchen. You ask any questions you have. You have something to correct in the kitchen don't hesitate to tell me.
Anand and father went to their respective stations and started to cook. He noticed that his father was not measuring or noting down the contents he is using. Anand does not like the father's job he, however, likes to cook professionally. He watches how the chefs are precise about the measurement. He also notices the vessels they were coking are not in very good shape. He enquires about what is this all about. Ramaiah starts telling him about the divinity of the kitchen.
Many, many years ago your grandfather was appointed to help out in the temple. The next day was the biggest festival in the temple. Your grandfather was asked to arrange ingredients for the next day’s cooking. There was not enough money in the coffers of the temple. He roamed all around the city got small and big merchants to donate what is unsold. He collected everything and reached the temple kitchen around 1 AM. As he was dragging the three-wheeler rickshaw with the vegetables into the temple, he noticed the kitchen was open. He was worried, but he thought maybe the cooks have started their preparations. But as he entered he found no one in the kitchen and the utensils used for cooking missing. He started to cry profusely, not because all his work is wasted. He is genuinely worried about how to prepared food the next day. He took a coconut and walked to the temple premise broke it in front of the god. It is your responsibility to make things work out. He walked back with the request to god and started to cut the vegetables with a small knife. Around 5 AM a group of 10 people walk into the kitchen and start working. They even brought a set of kitchen utensils with them. They did not utter a single word for the whole cook. They just cooked for the next 6 hours with your grandfather. At noon your grandfather made sure the Naivedyam is delivered to the temple. When he is back there is no sign of anyone. What they left behind was this set of utensils. From that day onwards for the last hundred plus years, we are the temple cooks and the same utensils are used every day for the cooking. You know one more miracle about these utensils whatever I decide to cook in them is exactly enough. Ten thousand devotees come that day or only a hundred people come that day the food was always just enough for everyone. God has blessed us the devotees and the kitchen that way. In response, Anand had a single line for her father. It gave devotees all that they wanted. But given my father and family always short of what we needed, hinting at relatively their poor life. He promised that day that he will not pick up this job. I will become a cook who earns money to keep my family from turning poor. His father was very disappointed with his son. He always wanted his son to dream big. The outright rejection of his work made the father drop a tear or two. Anand added you are my boss please don't my father about this.
Anand reached the bride-to-be's home. After initial formalities, the girl asked to speak to Anand in private. Anand was also eager to speak to her. They both stepped out into the lawn and started to have a conversation. She asked him why he wanted to be a cook. I always liked the expression on my mother's face when I cooked very well. Even though we are very poor the smile on her face when she had that bite is very satisfying. I wanted to see that in everyone's face. Is satisfaction enough when you make so little money asked the girl? Before my father passed away I was a chef in a big restaurant. The day my father passed away I dropped everything to catch a final glimpse of him. It was too late as it took me 3 days to reach. I could not leave my mother after that for a few months. One fine day I walked into my father's kitchen just to relive his presence one last time and leave the place. As I walked in, the new cook at the place was struggling with something. I picked up and started in the kitchen to help him. Before I knew what was happening I finished 6 years cooking there. Now I know everything divine my father spoke about. My father was never poor he was able to cook for thousands of people and never expected to get rich. If that is not being the greatest man in the world what is. I always believed a cook is the noblest job where you are trying to satisfy someone else’s hunger. Doing the same not expecting anything in return is not short of a miracle. When I have that opportunity in my hands and experienced it once I could not stop myself. The girl knew Anand for a long time, she noticed him in the temple kitchen many times. The questions were just a formality. They both know they were ready for the next step. Leaving to go back and starting to get ready for the marriage Anand said to girl don't tell my father. He would like to see his son's work. He will leave the moksha he attained behind to see his son working in his kitchen.
P.S. Anand may tell everyone he was happy where ever his father is in the afterlife, but what does he not give to have one more day with his father in that kitchen.