Sant Kabir says “Sai itna dejiye, ja mein kutumbh samaye. Mein bhi bhooka na rahu, sadhu na bhooka jaye.”( Lord kindly ensure that I receive sufficient food to feed my family. Neither should I be starving and nor should be the priest who came for food).
I am not a literature student. These were lines from “Kabir ke dohe”(Kabir’s contemplations) in the eight standard hindi text book. To mention about “dohe” and not to introduce Anitha Philips madam would be like enjoying a tea without “aalo ke pakode”.
Anitha Philips madam was our hindi teacher and fifth standard class teacher. She used to praise me in front of the other students about the fluency in the hindi language I possess and that I being a malayalee does things better than the hindi speaking students. One of the important point that she did not notice was that I being a malayalee was born and brought up in North India. “Ab nepali munna nepali nahi to kaa chaineej bolega?”
I shall discuss about my class teacher in another post. She isnt a “figure” to quote in one or two paragraphs, a complete article is needed to accommodate her. “Guruve Namah”.
So kabir’s specific doha was to insist on the concept of sufficient food aka mass cooking. Let me take you to the days of our hostel life in Ernakulam during 2010. I was staying with Arun, Joy, Melvin, Anup and Sibin. We used to cook together where each member was assigned duties as per their experience level in the kitchen and the designations specific to kitchen.
Entry level candidates were called “paiyans” and they were assigned with the job of cleaning utencils and washing vegetables. As the population consisted of 6 peope, the one assigned with cleaning was provided maximum freedom to burn fat.
Candidates who excel in cleaning utencils within their tenure of 2 months were promoted and given training to cut vegetables. The person at this post had to go through procedures and specifications relevant to each recipe. Size of the cutting, time taken for cutting and cleanliness were the criterion for consideration to move next level.
Only experienced people who understand the difference between salt and sugar were assigned tasks of cooking food. They had to follow the guidelines specified by the chef and act accordingly. As they were the victims for crimes related to stomach explosions, they had to be tough to handle punches and kicks that would be the sideeffects from people consuming food.
I was until then promoted to the post of Chef and was leading the team. Monitoring the perfection of the recipe and taste was part of my job. As I was handling management, consuming a chappati or two while cooking was considered an act of appreciating the cook and lower levels of the food chain rather than showcasing hunger. As paan Singh Thomar says in his movie “ Hamari toh khurak hi jyaada hain… hum kaa kare”.
You believe or not, being a chef was the best means to enjoy food without extra kichen exercises. Now I am alone and cook rarely, however those memories are still there to cherish.