It was Sao Paulo. Fifteen hours straight flight from Dubai. I was tired. My knees were swollen. I could walk like a duck...no not walk, more of a waddle! And after a while I needed to visit the washroom. So I waddled my way in the direction that was given to me. Before long there in front of me I saw the door with a wheelchair borne person painted on it. That's it, and I quickened my pace.
When I was a few steps away a tall strapping fellow, strode ahead and got in. This just wasn't done. He didn't need a 'physically challenged' people's washroom.
"Excuse me," I said loud and clear for everyone to hear me fifty paces away. "I need to use this facility right now." And I pointed to my lumbar support and then to my osteoathritic knees. Not that he would have seen them inside my trousers.
The poor guy was startled, which pleased me a great deal. How dare he rush past me.
"Oh, well! If you have to go here it's alright," he said and stepped out.
I got in and as I was about to shut the door, I felt something was wrong. I opened the door wider and looked for the signage. And there it was. The facilities here were for 'hombres.'
I couldn't control my laughter. I called to the fellow and told him I got the wrong place and I was sorry to push him out that way.
"Yeah, your place is the other side. Over there."
I kept giggling all the way to the 'other side' and along with me a row of people sitting on the chairs across the corridor, and who had witnessed my bossiness, had their share of laughs too!
And then we were in Vina; at home and comfy. I decided to cook. Tahiri it was. That's a rice made with potatoes, tomatoes and various spices. A sort of pulao.
I love to cook rice and generally everything in kadhais. The kadhai is my favourite vessel. So everything was done and it was time to cover the rice and allow it to cook. I couldn't find a cover of adequate size. I looked high and low, though not low enough, as I can't stoop too low, and that's an awful pun!
However I found a vessel which was shaped like a bowl which tapered into an elongated bottom. It fitted perfectly over the rice and I thought it was rather cute and it would give a lot of space for dum, or steam. Eight minutes later I had to check on the rice, and using two pan holders I lifted the toupee, it looked like some sort of Arabic hat.
It slipped. I tried to get a firmer hold on it and grabbed the rim. Ow...ow...ow. The steam gushed out onto my fingers. Two fingers were burnt with hot steam and I was in agony. I rushed to the sink closest to me. There are two. I turned it on and ow...ow...ow! Hot water poured out onto my already steaming fingers. I had forgotten to check the lever. It was turned to hot.
Well, with some ointment and many aching minutes later I was able to settle down and slap my head, while I enjoyed a plateful of hot tahiri with an onion-tomato raita.
And then the weirdest thing happened. Goons entered the house. I was with K and two of her friends who were visiting. My room in Vina doesn't have an ensuite bathroom, so I generally have to wrap a towel around myself and walk to the bathroom, owing to problems mentioned earlier, I can't chnage clothes below the belt without being seated.
As I was saying, I was in the house with three young women, and I was busy cooking mutton biryani, and chicken curry, mince koftas and the works. There were three things simmering on the fire, and I dashed to have a bath. I had just wrapped my red towel around my waist, when I heard screaming. I came out to find a scruffy brute of a man tying up K, hands and feet. She was screaming; I was screaming and the goon went beserk. Before he lost his cool and did something vicious I shut up and told K to stop, so we could think properly and find our way out somehow. This seemed to calm him down.
I was wondering where the other two girls were, but didn't venture to find out. If they were hiding or had managed to get out, it was good for them and perhaps for us. I turned to the food on the hub. My mind was working furiously. I was scared. But there had to be some way out of this situation. What was the man after and why on earth had he barged into our house.
He was talking on the phone and from what I could decipher he was calling some other guys. I froze. And stayed frozen. The man was standing next to me.
I looked at him and he was looking at my red towel, which barely covered my knees, I clutched it at the waist. On the spur of the moment I took off the lids on two of the dishes. His attention shifted as I wanted it to. He became interested in the food and wanted to know what I was cooking that had such a delicious aroma.
I didn't waste a moment and took him down the Indian culinary lane. His senses were taken by the aromas and description of what was cooking. That's when a thought struck me; The way to a man's heart must be through his stomach, but the way to befuddle his mind is through his nose! His mind and eyes were no longer interested in the red towel, or K who was tied up and lying helpless on the ground.
On a hunch I asked if his friends were coming and to my dismay he said yes. How many I asked and he confirmed two. Oh then I would need a helping hand I told him and asked for K to be untied. He acquiesced without a murmur. I was getting bolder by the second. I got K to stand with me and pretend to help. She was trembling like a leaf in a storm. The goon stared at the red towel again as he walked away and I whispered to K to see where the other two were without raising the goon's suspicion.
The food was cooked. The goons were seated and served. While they ate like animals, K and the other two girls went to the back balcony and shouted for help. But strangely, everyone on the street vanished into their homes. The men heard the screaming and wanted to check what was happening. I assured them it was the neighbours squabbling as usual.
K returned and told me that we could escape if these men were kept at the table and stuffed with food. So while I kept them supplied with food and cajoled them to have more, K and the two girls slipped out the back door. On the pretense of calling K, I walked out too and bolted...the door before I tottered on my shaky legs, clutching on to my red towel for dear life!
It wasn't long before they were hounding us. We came to a crossroad and there on the opposite side were K's parents in their car, at a red light. We waved, we yelled, we pointed to the goons in the distance. They remained frozen.
"We have to do something aunty," K announced. I agreed.
We must have done something brilliant because I woke up in my bed with a raging fever. It was viral. The red towel was where I had hung it to dry in the morning.
I smiled wanly as I turned on my side; who knew that a red towel would go viral!
Kadhai: It's an Indian wok. It is deeper that a Chinese wok and doesn't flare out too much at the top.