Reena, The Chef
Reena, The Chef
Let me introduce you to our Chef, Reena Singh. Mind you I might not call her a cook, a Thakurani, or a Lady Khansama (if there are any!) The word Chef has recently assumed great dignity, and sanctity, so whoever can wield a ladle, is called a Chef!
The lady has seen forty summers in India, has never been in France, as from where the word originated. Our family was frantically in need of a trained, skilled worker who could turn out a piping hot lunch,(which was to be packed up for later consumption) at eight-thirty in the morning, for two Doctors who were perennially in a hurry to attend to an emergency case, or could not waste a single minute, ‘ for the patient was already on the table, waiting to be operated!’
Such being the need, a ‘Made- to -Order- Cook’ was a dire necessity. The interview lasted a full ten minutes. Within that span of time, her multi-faceted qualifications were enumerated by her very assiduously. She could cook international cuisine in a jiffy. Roasting chicken, making Chinese Chopswey, or cooking Biryani like the type Nawab Wajid Ali Shah would have liked, was no problem at all. But she was very particular that her salary had to be comparable with her capabilities, which was double the market rate. The Doctors have received their degrees from foreign Universities, blessed their stars that they were fortunate enough to have come upon such a chef! She even demanded annual Bonus, like the commercial establishments, which they happily consented to give.
Reena joined the Paul family on the 26th of May, which must have been a very auspicious day because Reena got a new appointment and Pauls got a Dream Chef!
The Prize Chef arrived the next day punctually at six in the morning. She was a personification of neatness. Her sari was adeptly wrapped around her, every pleat in its place. Her hair was neatly combed, and tied in a bun at the back, with not a stray hair peeping out from its prescribed limits. She had a pleasant smile, and spoke courteously, in a modulated tone. What more could an employer want? She managed to pack up a four-course lunch by the dead-line, Eight-thirty in the morning, and the Doctors were happy.
As time went by, the family gradually got disillusioned, for at first, their happiness knew no bounds on getting such a perfect chef, who was just what they needed.
When they ordered baked potatoes, she literally made a ‘hash’ of it! When they ordered Vindaloo, she actually filled up the pot with potatoes ( ‘aloo’ being the Bengali for potatoes), and for Sweet and Sour Prawn, she poured in it a bottle of vinegar. The unfortunate doctors had to use Sensodyne Toothpaste for sensitive teeth, for a week! The lady gynecologist also being of a delicate constitution; broke out into red inflamed Hives. This would happen if the prawns were not cleaned properly, and the black string not taken out. When Reena was asked why she had not done the needful, the Prize Chef replied that her job was to cook only, the family members should have done it, if required. Then again some guests had turned up from America. The Doctors with all love and affection called them over for lunch. But they felt that in India they should partake of Indian delicacies. So the lady of the house went and bought a banana flower or ‘ mocha‘ to make ‘mocha chops’ with it, and serve them for dinner. But at this critical moment when guests would be over any moment, the chef announced that the banana flower should have been cut and chopped up in the market. She was not going to do it, as it was not her job. The problem arose again when the Pauls wanted to invite a few friends for their son, who had come home for a few days from the hostel. The Chef, looking straight into her employer’s eyes, and that too without flinching, declared brazenly that according to the terms and conditions of her appointment, she was meant to cook for a family of four. If she was required to cook for more people, they would have to pay extra. Nonetheless, as now she had become indispensable, she was able to call the shots.
The Pauls took it in their stride when they discovered that their Double-toned milk, by some weird formula of chemistry became treble- toned, as soon as it reached her vicinity. As for meat and fish, they also took it for granted that the cook had to taste a reasonable amount, to see whether they were well-cooked! (as befits the duty of a trained chef).
The doctors, too involved in their career, could not afford to lose such a precious gem. They believed in the dictum “a happy worker is a good worker”. So the lady gifted her with expensive saris which she had bought for herself. But Reena accepted them as normal perquisites, without an iota of gratitude. However, that did not stop the continuous flow of gifts. She had also come to realize that the Pauls could not do without her. So whenever she wanted to have the upper hand, she would threaten to leave the job. Reena knew that she would always be able to hold on to the job, as long as she could serve the four-course- lunch, at eight-thirty in the morning!
But despite her complacency, and her confidence that she was indispensable, she was faced with a staggering shock, and a blow which was hard for her to counter. What the Pauls could never have done, COVID -19 did! Coronavirus had the door shut on her, and she was barred from entering the premises. The Pauls now managed quite well without her, and she was disillusioned. She pleaded with the Pauls and wanted to join, but God had His way to show her that ‘Pride goeth before a fall’!