Excuses and a new story! The Kitchen

So its been quite some time since I’ve posted any stories on here, with being a new graduate I felt pretty pressured into spending my time applying for endless job applications. But the holiday season is pretty much here, so I thought I would take some time to just relax, rediscover myself and try and get back into the flow of writing.

This ones a little older but still one of my favourites, and reminds me of the good times with my parents, not too festive but still a nice slice of home! (with some footnotes for assistance!)

‘I have to think of something to do with conflict in the kitchen for this week’s story.’ It wasn’t really what she wanted to be thinking about just before her dinner, but this week’s assignment was proving to be difficult for Sanjana. She was determined to do it. With such a broad subject, she was bound to find some kind of idea. Coming into the kitchen to feed her hunger, she saw her parents putting away the Tesco shopping bags, moving swiftly from one end of the room to the other, their movements almost synchronised like skaters on ice. The low friction between the porcelain tiled floor and their socks helping them sashay effortlessly.

‘Conflict…? Like what? What is that?’ her father didn’t really turn around to look at her, he still had on his green suede coat, and the rain had left traces of splattered dark marks on his shoulders. He opened a cupboard door, above the kettle, and shoved in some Corn Thins, a packet of mixed seeds and some PG Tips. Sanjana’s family had made a recent switch from all things sweet to all things that taste like cardboard. She wasn’t exactly sure whose idea this low calorie switch was as everyone seemed to complain about it.

‘Yeah, you know like a fight or something, but it has to happen in some kind of kitchen and has to have, like, smells or senses incorporated into it.’  She handed her father the milk as he walked over to the fridge.

‘Oh…ask your mum,’ he looked over to his wife and poked her with his toe, ‘eyy Pinkye-eh, what should she do?’

‘Hai! What are you doing? Ghandha![1] Don’t touch me with your foot, Yogesh!’ Pinky moved away instantly as her husband’s foot came close to her again for a tauntingly humorous second poke.

‘Move away from me!’ Pinky’s patience was beginning to wear thin and her husband knew that if he stepped any closer he would come close to losing the whole leg let alone the toe.

Sanjana began to see a scenario developing and said nothing to provoke a change of subject between her parents. This would be perfect for her piece and she knew it. Her father, giving up on putting away the groceries, lifted up the lid of the saucepan on top of the white cooker and looked inside. There was no steam, the dinner had been prepared a while ago, yet there was still the scent cardamom pods and cumin seeds diffusing around the house. Her mother had forgotten to close the door whilst cooking again and the tingle of ginger and garlic could be smelt from the living room.

‘The house smells of turka![2] You didn’t close the door again! Every time I come home from work and I can smell lassan[3] everywhere, bloody hell!’ Her father’s temper was always very extreme and over the top but never lasted too long. His temper was what kept Sanjana and her brothers in line, but it was his ability to cool down so quickly that made him slightly more approachable than her mother.

The cupboard doors above the counter top were still half open and bulging with extra bags of chapatti flour and rice, tins of plum tomatoes and tubes of garlic puree. Between the black granite worktop and mounted oak cupboards was the running seam of splash back tiles; stained yellow from the years of making oily curries and frying countless amounts of samosas and pakoras. She had not had a chance to clear up before her husband’s arrival and was now busy with putting away the frozen garlic cubes in the already over flowing freezer.

“Many times I tell your father buy freezer, buy big fridge, he don’t do!”

“Don’t do nain doesn’t do it hunda ya[4]!” Yogesh corrected his wife, “Ekee sal[5] it’s been since you’ve been in this country, more maybe and you can’t even speak the language properly yet!” Yogesh looked over to Sanjana and winked, “And my food isn’t even gharam![6] What is this?” He took a long sniff of the contents in the saucepan, “Chollay chawal![7] I’ve come home to bloody chollay? I should have gotten married to your sister, she was selling for less goats! And makes at least some decent food.”

‘Um…dad? Maybe this isn’t the best time…’ She tired warning her father, but he was hardly listening, caught up in his own mischief.

‘Your sister makes good food and has managed to keep her figure after bearing three children, what about you toddow?[8] You have three children too.’ Her father looked at Sanjana with triumph and pride over his comment.

Sanjana’s eyes shot straight over to her mother’s face and she analysed it to see the kind of reaction her father would get. From the crimson rising from Pinky’s cheeks to her pale temples, it looked like things were about to go the way of the Mahabharata[9].

“Ja, dafa ho, ja![10] Get out from here! Idiot man!” Pinky grabbed a broom from the corner of the room by the bins and advanced towards her husband.

“Hey, I’m your husband; this is no way to treat me!” Yogesh tried desperately to stop his wife from coming closer, but was met by the end of the broom to his crotch.

“You think I’m your naukrani[11]? Make the food, put away the food, and clean up the food! Now you make your own food! Ghando sala![12]” Pinky managed to sweep her daughter and husband into the hallway and held onto the heavy fire door to make sure they could not re-enter her territory. And with a final stab at her husband’s arrogance, yelled “Ja, buddhay ma dhey cucher wich bhet ja[13], I know she is your first wife and your only love!” and slammed the white door shut.

Sanjana was never really astonished or shocked at her parents’ behaviour. It was only when she saw other couples their age acting sane and conservative that she felt that there was something not quite ordinary about her own mother and father. She knew from a very young age that their relationship was one that was constructed by her grandparents, an arranged marriage. She understood that without her grandparents’ help, her parents would never in a million years have dated or even married and in turn she would not even exist. Sanjana loved that even though her parents didn’t know very much about each other before they married; they had blossomed into a relationship where it was acceptable for Pinky to drive Yogesh out of the kitchen with a broom.

She looked up at her father, he was grinning because he had enjoyed annoying his wife, he seemed happy with the fact that he was able to wind his wife up to the extent that she would lose her temper. For him it was a kind of triumph.

‘Why do you annoy her so much? You do it on purpose, I know.’ Sanjana quizzically looked at her father.

‘Of course I do it on purpose! She’s chucked me out of the kitchen, now I can relax while she warms up my food for me. She doesn’t understand jokes; she’s a very gullible person… Any films on tonight?’

‘You have no shame, dad.’

‘Ey Pinky-eh! Make sure you bring my food to the table, and make sure its gharam![14]

Sanjana could hear her mother from inside the kitchen but could not understand half the obscenities that were being yelled over the banging of the steel pots and pans. She heard a plate being violently lifted from the shelf and dropped onto the granite counter top. She then heard it a few moments later being thrown into the microwave oven with the miniature door being slammed shut. A few buttons were pressed and the hum of the machine began.

Sanjana gripped the door handle and opened the door. It was a risky move, but she went in for the purpose of her work, she needed to see her mother’s actions, she needed to remember every part of this argument for her assignment. Pinky turned her head away from the silver sink for a second to see her daughter enter, gestured her over and turned back around to continue washing the dishes. As Sanjana moved closer her mother began to speak loud and clear so that her father could hear.

‘Does that man seem crazy to you? He is making me so crazy, summaj dah ki apna ap nu?[15]’ Her mother seemed to be a little calmer now than before. Her ponytail was becoming loose and some stray hairs from her head were sticking up, but she didn’t seem to care. Her beige Marks and Spencer t-shirt was wet from washing the dishes and little stains could be seen from where the oil spat up at her while she was cooking. The suds had made her hands look like prunes and the gold from her rings shone in the fluorescent lighting.

‘Have I told you what your grandfather said to me about my husband?’ Not this old story again, thought Sanjana. Every time her parents had an argument, her mother would tell her the same tale over and over.

‘Your grandfather, my father, was psychic. He spoke truths about people that no one even knew about. He was having argument with me one night and he said to me my husband would be a monkey who loved his mother more than me. And look what I got? A monkey who just sits with his mother all day long after work.’ Pinky turned away and started to put dishes back into their places in the cupboards mounted above the counter. ‘You choose your husband properly; make sure he doesn’t live with his mother.’

Sanjana wasn’t too sure about the story her mother told her, she knew her grandfather was an amazing man, but a psychic? Perhaps Yogesh was right, perhaps her mother was just a very gullible person.

‘Take this food to your father’, Pinky opened the microwave, ‘tell him if it isn’t hot enough he can warm himself! I don’t want to see his butha[16]. I’m going upstairs to sleep.’

‘Right, okay.’ Sanjana held the plate at the edges and walked out of the kitchen and into the living room where her father was waiting for his meal.

‘Where’s Pinky? She’s gone ruskeh?[17]

‘I did warn you’, Sanjana could see that he was sorry for winding Pinky up and she could see that he was a lot more loving than Pinky gave him credit for.

‘You know I was thinking,’ her father’s guilt seemed to wash away within a few seconds, ‘you can use your mother’s argument as your homework, sorted.’

‘Yeah. Thanks, dad’, Sanjana sighed, emotionally exhausted.


[1] Dirty (masculine- to a male)

[2] Cooking/masala smell

[3] garlic

[4] It’s not ‘don’t do’ its ‘doesn’t do it’

[5] Twenty one years

[6] Hot

[7] Chickpeas and rice

[8] Someone who waddles

[9] Hindu Poem about an epic war

[10] Go, get lost, go

[11] Slave girls/servant

[12] Stupid idiot

[13] Go, old man, and sit in your mother’s lap!

[14] hot

[15] What/who does he think he is?

[16] Ugly face

[17] To sulk