Pressure Cooker5 mins 505 5 mins 505
Globally, husbands have always been a frustrated lot. There could be many reasons for this, but one of the major reasons is that they are all married and have wives. Now, this is not an outpouring of a frustrated husband against women and wives. This is a bitter truth.
My father (God bless his soul), was one such husband. While he was admired and respected by all outside his domestic life, within the walls of his house, he was a mere husband. My mother (God bless her with good health), though an intelligent lady and hard working (all wives are), was never happy with my father. She loathed his indifferent and indolent attitude and made no bones to express her views about him. We were children then and not mature enough to understand the dynamics between the husband and wife. We pitied our father (after becoming a husband myself, I admired his equanimity in the face of dire challenges).
The main grouse my mother had against her husband was that he was lazy, did nothing at home, could not even make a cup of tea for himself, and wasted time reading newspapers and magazines. I know many of the married male readers will be smiling and saying “this fits my description”. My mother, like all wives, had a magic mirror which my father dreaded. When she turned this mirror on him he could somehow see only a monster instead of a true image of himself. My mother would ruthlessly keep the mirror to his face even as he squirmed and struggled to escape.
One day, my mother had gone out to purchase vegetables from the market which was a two-mile walk. I was playing out glad that there was none to call me back into the house. My elder sister too was not home. Only the twins were at home with their father. They were under five years of age then.
As it was getting late, my father somehow felt inspired to help a tired wife decided to cook food for the family. He must have felt proud of himself for taking the decision as this would definitely go a long way to redeem his image.
He went into the kitchen with a spring in steps and a prayer on his lips. He searched around and found the pressure cooker. After further search, he could locate rice. He measured the right quantity of rice and put it in the cooker. It was then that doubt crept into his mind. What was the next step? He knew of course, but to be doubly sure, he decided to take expert advice.
My little sister was probably asleep and my kid brother was the only person who could help my father.
“Kanna (a fond way of talking to kids), do you know how to cook rice in the cooker?”
“Of course Appa. I have seen Amma do it so many times!”
“Come here and tell me how your Amma does it.”
My kid brother must have been thrilled for it was the first time that an elder wanted his help.
“How much rice have you put Appa?”
“Two tumblers, why, is it too little?”
“ No Appa, that is good. Now, just close the pressure cooker lid like this and put the weight here, like this. Easy na Appa?”
“That’s it? Nothing else?”
“No Appa. You have to put it on the gas. Here is the matchbox. Just light the stove and put the cooker on it. It should be done in ten minutes.”
“So simple? I should have learnt this before.”
My father returned to his newspaper waiting for the rice to be cooked and the cooker whistle to blow. Before ten minutes there was a loud blast, and an explosion like a bomb had gone off somewhere.
I could hear it from outside and rushed towards my house. My sister had already returned. My little sister who was sleeping had woken up in alarm. When I reached, my father and the kids were standing outside, alarm and fear written all over their faces. My father was scolding my brother blaming the blast on him.
As if on cue, my mother returned to find a crowd in front of our house. She hurried into the kitchen to find the lid of the cooker blown off and a mess all around.
“What did you do?” She asked my elder sister.
“Who, me? No, Appa was cooking.”
“Appa? Cooking? What were you cooking?”
“Rice.” My father was bracing himself.
“Rice? What happened to the cooker?”
“I did everything right. Ask Kasturi. Kanna, tell her.”
“Yes, Amma. I told Appa how you cook rice. But something must be wrong with the cooker.”
“Did you put water in the cooker?”
“Water? Kanna, you did not tell me about water.”
After that fateful explosion, I have never again seen my father in the kitchen. I don’t blame him. In fact, my own experiences have been far worse! But that’s another story or stories?