Not Much Maggie

Maggie, cooked to a deep yellowish hue, when its strands are not too plump but just soft enough, when the spices aren’t floating about in the water in which it has been cooked but have made their way deep into every strand of this Indian noodle, coating it with a flavour that explodes hot and tangy on your tongue, is the ideal way to devour it–if, of course, you happen to ask me. Eating it is a celebration, something I wait for in anticipation and something that leaves me with a feeling of sadness, as once again now there is a wait.

As a child, I wasn’t allowed to eat Maggie more than once a week. “Please, please, please Ma”, I had to beg until my mother would finally part with a soft, grimy, brown ten-rupee note that had been folded again and gain, and then off I went on my bike to the market to buy a tiny packet of Maggie. With the packet of Maggie, carelessly shoved inside a pale transparent pink toxic looking polythene bag, which swung gaily from the handle of my bike, I soared back home in uncontrollable excitement. The next part, however, was tricky.

You had to carefully slide open and close the wrought iron gate guarding my home without making the tiniest sound. Once inside, the packet of Maggie had to be kept hidden, as you locked away the bike in the verandah. Then, dash. You had to dash into the kitchen stealthily. Panting, you would realise, no one has spotted you or your prized possession. Now, the crucial moments begin.

Burner lighted. One and half cups of water carefully measured and poured into the pan and set to boil. Ah! Bubbles visible at the bottom of the pan (That is how you know, Ma says, the water has boiled). Maggie noodle brick snapped into two and plunged into the boiling water. Struggle with blunt kitchen scissor to rip open the tiny packet with spice mix. Failure! My canines to the rescue. Spice mix added to boiling noodles with shaky hands and stirred in with a deformed spoon. An irresistible aroma wafts up, ears straining, scrutinising the environment for footsteps. It’s done!

Diligently scraping off every bit of Maggie on a quarter plate, I would emerge out of the kitchen, take a sharp left and then a sharp right turn, avoiding the monstrously long dining table, heading straight for the door out of the dining room and into the drawing room. Yes, safe territory close by. One step and into the drawing room to peacefully sit and have the Maggie unnoticed.

“Khoki!”

My mouth would open in horror, my heart would skip a beat and then I would turn around and find my grandfather standing outside his bedroom, right by the sharp right turn, smiling at me.

“Having Maggie?” he would ask.

Reluctantly, I would reply, “Will you have some,” hoping every time he would say no.

Every time he said, “Mmmmm…okay just a little. Don’t give me much.”

Exhausted, feeling defeated, I would slouch away to the kitchen, find the tiniest plate in our house, the one of the size of a coaster, spoon in just enough Maggie such that the base of the plate was covered and hand it over to my grandfather.

We would then sit on opposite sides of that monstrous dining table and have our portions in silence.

Despite the fact that I had had to let go of a considerable portion, eating it was a thrill.

Bah! Khoob bhalo hoyechilo (Very well made)” he would say.

I–I would smile back gleefully, all animosity forgotten, and then lick the plate clean annoying him immensely.

It has been years, since we had the last Maggie together. Leaving home and going off to work in another city, I kept up the habit of not having Maggie more than once a week. It assumed the status of the special Saturday morning breakfast. It became even more important when I left India. Eating Maggie in Japan meant going to this shady Indian store that curiously sold most of its products without the manufacturing and expiry date printed on it. In Edinburgh, eating Maggie meant shelling out one pound for three packets, almost a little more than thirty rupees for a packet, which to me, as a student seemed exorbitant, an outrage, and an injustice!

Now, living in Abu Dhabi, having unlimited access to Maggie, I can have as much of it as I want. I still prepare it with as much care as I did as a child. Having it still excites and thrills me. I still lick my plate after I finish eating. The only change is, there is no one now who smilingly asks me for just a little bit of Maggie–not much. Now that he is no more, sometimes I wonder, would it have been too bad if I had given my grandfather, just a little too much, of that steaming Maggie he obviously cherished as I did.

In fond remembrance,
Trishna

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