Sita Sai



Sita Sai


The Perfect Gulab Jamun

The Perfect Gulab Jamun

4 mins

The walls of the Orphanage were ripped off its paint by time resembled open wounds. Its hurried white wash was a precursor of an inspection. Funded by a trust of a benevolent man Mr. Patel who had passed, his name lived on, on a sheet of rusted metal in faded blue paint.

Shri Motilal Natwarlal Patel Anarthalay. 1964.

Dharavi, MUMBAI

Its fragile dynamics could die of a common cold , and it would have if not for Niludidi. She had a compassionate side that leapt out when she could unleash it but not without a struggle. It was as though she constantly battled with good and evil within her. The reins of the orphanage was in the grip of Mr. Patels nephew Chandanlal. It provided a roof of dread and horror. It housed thirty children at a time. The trust carried surprise inspections twice a year, yet it was never a surprise. It only took a thousand rupees for the leak each time. Children were prepared to look happy, given clean clothes and real food. Yet it was not only these two days in a year they had full tummies. Food offerings believed to be a pre-requisite for a dead persons soul to achieve salvation, found its way to appease the children. There were two types of soul sanctifiers. Those who write cheques and those who personally see to it the children were fed with delicacies their beloved departed person fancied. The second one rarely occurred.

Suman and Shankar were brought in a gap of a week. Suman from the local train, found wrapped in a cotton cloth on the floor of the Gents compartment and Shankar, all bare and amongst a heap of garbage. Both in their infancy, Shankar three months older. Two lost souls wafted towards each other.

Time limped and lingered bringing good days when they were beaten and kicked just once in a day and bad days. There was no clemency only punishment. That morning Suman stood by the window looking out. Ten years back this day she was brought to the ashram, a hundred years of dread behind her. The sun shone on her face, her brown eyes filled with darkness. Shankar took her hand and led her out.

Where are we going?

For a treat.

Where did you get the money?

Its not for you to worry about.

He detached her hand from his as they entered a restaurant . It was on the main road just outside the slums. They sat at the only vacant table far end beside the kitchen. They were looked at as though a couple of mice had crept in. Suman gleamed in awe, the darkness in her eyes replaced by a twinkle.

This really looks like a very expensive place Shankar' she whispered lowering her head, pulling in her snot. She was aware of Shankar's shallow pocket. They waited for some time without been attended to and Shankar finally decided to head to the counter to order for a plate of Gulab Jamuns. The manager sat indolently behind the counter , a tooth pick balancing between lips. Above him hung a couple to frames , one of Ganesh, the elephant God and the other of Laxmi, the Goddess of Wealth. Strong incense of Jasmine clouded the counter and blurred the Gods.

Gulab jamun? Do you have the money? , he inquired condescendingly. Shankar displayed the ten rupee note rolled up in his palm.

Maybe he has nicked it or begged for it, He whispered to the disinterested waiter before signalling him to get it.

Shankar watched the plate on which two golden brown delights sat, drawing towards him. The gentle steam oozing out. He slavered as the distance between them narrowed.

Wait!, the manager said with a hateful glare at his seemingly unworthy customer.

Shankar felt a lump in his throat as he turned to him.

Take it back, give the ones from yesterday's lot ' he ordered. Shankar looked at the manager powerlessly then walked away to his table.

Soon the waiter arrived with the plate and placed it on the table. They were replaced by a dead cold pair, one divided by a deep split in the middle. They were still Gulab Jamuns. The cracked one on Suman's side of the plate.

“This is so exciting Shankar, Majja ,and these Gulab jamuns look irresistible!' she jumped on her seat and clapped her hands.

Oh look, we have a similar painting at the ashram. He said pointing out to the wall behind her.

She grudgingly turned taking eyes off the plate.

This is Lord Shiva stupid, the one we have is of Lord Krishna she said returning her attention to the delights .Two pairs of eyes fixed on them , the perfect Gulab Jamun was on her side of the plate.

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