There has been no power since morning, and no water. It is Saturday, and she has a late class to teach. But how is she to make lunch with no running water, with just one bottle of drinking water in the fridge?
She rummages in the kitchen cupboard for ideas. She is hungry: all she had for breakfast was a cup of strong tea and a biscuit. She pushes aside a bag of salt and comes across a bag of penne.
It has been a long time since she cooked pasta. It has been a long time since she cooked anything not Indian: dal, rice, and a healthy, usually green, vegetable dish. Sometimes paneer or rajma, to break the monotony. She had stopped buying noodles and pasta and packs of soup powder since her son went off to college. This bag of pasta must be a remnant of his last visit.
Pasta doesn’t take as much water to cook, for one thing. Especially as she will not add vegetables and so doesn’t need to wash them.
She stirs and adds spices without measuring them. She does it all without pausing to think. It’s surprising that it all comes back to her so easily.
Her son loves pasta: she used to cook it for him at least once a week. Macaroni and cheese. Spaghetti with mushrooms. Lasagna. But what he liked best was penne, put together haphazardly, as she usually did it, but always coming out of the pan aromatic and delectable.
She sniffs now, catching the aroma rising up from the pan. She turns off the gas and ladles the food out on her plate. There was a lot of it – she was used to cooking for two – but she ladles it all out. She’s hungry.
As an afterthought, she decorates the dish with a sprig of coriander.
She wishes she had some wine to go with it. What decadence – wine at a solitary lunch! She rarely has wine now, except when she is at one of the parties her colleagues sometimes invite her to, and which she usually declines to attend except when she is afraid of giving offence. She pours out some orange juice into a tall glass.
Maybe I’ll buy some wine, she thinks. Why not? She was entitled to indulge herself. She had become too much of an ascetic. Maybe it was time to live for herself again, to put her memories behind her.
She takes the first forkful of pasta in her mouth, anticipating the satisfaction. She is sitting by the window, where the slight breeze makes the heat more bearable.
She hastily takes a gulp of orange juice. Something is wrong. She tastes a little more pasta, chewing it slowly.
There’s too much salt. She had forgotten she was cooking for one. She had forgotten how the salt would interact with the butter and cheese and spices.
It looks so inviting – cream in colour, with a sprinkle of green and red. The sprig of coriander on the side.
She takes a few more mouthfuls, washing it down with the juice.
She has forgotten how to cook pasta.
She puts the fork down. She gulps down the juice. She gets up, places the empty glass in the sink and forks the pasta from her plate to the garbage bin.
She reaches for the bread-box, realises she has lost her appetite and puts it away again. She gathers her things and leaves for work, even though it’s too early.