One of my friends broke up this week. I got a tearful call from her on Wednesday evening. “It’s over,” she sniffled.
That’s the 19th time in the last two months you’ve told me that, I pointed out. “This time,” she sharply drew in a short sniffle, “it’s for real.”
What’s happened now?“It’s all because I live alone,” she was beginning to sound dangerously close to sobbing now. “I expect this guy (boyfriend) to be with me every evening. So whenever he goes off on his boys’ nights out, I get damn pissed off. He called me just now to say that he won’t be able to spend the evening with me. Guess why?”
“Because he’s going out with the boys?”
“Yes. I’ve asked him to take a walk. Let him figure out (while he’s walking) how much he needs me.”
“It’s not really over then?”
“No, no, this time I’m determined to call it off... I want to be strong and independent, it’s Women’s Day on 8 March.”
Good luck, I said.
She called back 15 minutes later.
“I’m feeling lonely, can you come over and give me company? I’ve made dal-chawal for dinner.”
Oh, all right, I said, pulling out my running shoes. “You won’t believe the amount of money we were blowing up everyday,” she continued while I tied my laces. “While we were together, I mean.”
Dinner, for instance, she was sniffling again, was always in some fancy restaurant. It was also something, she added, that was on him.
He pays all the time?
Well, ummm, yes.
“So the break-up is not really going to help you,” I was being really mean. “But it’s going to help him lots. Okay babe, I’m on my way.”
Before hopping across to her pad, I made a quick call to Tiger— to ask him if he insists on paying every time he takes his girlfriend out to fancy restaurants.
“Bollocks,” he growled. “No way. We share an equitable relationship.”
In my friend’s kitchen, there was some slightly overcooked rice and several litres of tempting looking dal in a kadai. I had the perfect entrée: “Let me make some mamlets to go with the dal-chawal,”I offered.
How does one make a mamlet? It’s basically an omelette, flush with lots and lots of chatpata stuff like onions, ginger, green chillies, coriander leaves, tomatoes — but fried in mustard oil. I suspect that’s how Indian-ised omelettes get made in most parts of the country, but the word mamlet is a Bengali coinage.
Years ago, we had a full-time maid called Shanti-di in Calcutta, who used to ask me every morning if I wanted to have ‘mamlet-toast’ for breakfast. But Shanti-di’s mamlets were actually regulation omelettes since my mother wouldn’t hear of bastardised mustard-oil version in her household.
Getting back to the mamlet that I cooked up on Wednesday night for my weepy friend, the mustard oil gave it a strong punch. Just the way I like it. “You’re weird,” my mother would have told me I know. “Such bad taste you have.”
Twenty-four hours later, on Thursday evening, after coming home from work, I realised it’s been months since I listened to music. I switched on the music system, and out wafted Neil Diamond’s Love on the rocks (the CD was lying inside for the last couple of months) in his inimitable baritone.
Love on the rocks Ain’t no surprise Pour me a drink And I’ll tell you some lies Got nothing to lose So you just sing the blues all the time…
I called up my friend. I just had to. “How’re you coping with love on the rocks?”
“Guess what?” she trilled excitedly. “We made up — he told me that he needs me the way fish need water to survive, and that he’s never going to go out with his friends.”
Pause. “Hmmm, I know he’ll probably be out with his friends next week again — but we’ll cross the bridge when we get to it.”
“Are you making dal-chawal for the two of you now?”
“Nahin yaar,” she said. “We’re going out for dinner.”