Six months after I turned 18, my mother asked me my definition of being independent.
"Doing things on my own," I said. "In my own way."
Does that include, she wanted to know, learning to look after your own tummy?
She had tried to teach me to cook a thousand times before, in vain. But the way she put it this time, I couldn't just dismiss it.
Yes, I decided, if I were to be truly independent -- and turning 18 was all about independence, wasn't it? -- I needed to learn this art of pots and pans.
Momma had to go out to visit someone. The vegetables, rice and dal were all done. Only chapattis remained.
"I will make the chapattis," I volunteered.
Momma was surprised. "Are you sure?"
Of course, I was. But momma was not convinced.
"Don't worry," I told her firmly, "I will manage."
She was finally persuaded. She left soon.
I entered the kitchen. The utensils, cereals, maize and vegetables there seemed to mock me. This is not for you, friend, they seemed to say. I ignored them.
I lit the stove and placed the pan over it. Then I started rolling out the dough. Slowly, my first-ever chapatti started taking shape. Hmm, it is not so difficult, I thought.
A few minutes, and out came a map of Lanka. I consoled myself it is the chapatti that matters not the shape. Now to roast it!
I picked it up like I had seen momma do, placed it on the pan. After a couple of minutes, I picked it up to turn it over -- and promptly burnt my fingers on the just-too-hot metal.
I rushed out for first aid. After applying Burnol liberally, I returned. The pan was smoking. As for my chapatti, well, it was a piece of charred history.
Happens, I said to myself. I began the construction of another chapatti. This time it came out better, resembling a cloud.
Just as I placed it on the pan, the phone rang. It was my friend. Would I like to come for a movie? Can't, I told her. Oh, okay -- so how was I doing? Fine, I said.
We talked on, till I smelt something burning. "Oh, my chapatti!" I screamed.
I rushed to the kitchen. My second chapatti was beyond salvage. A tear dropped.
There was dough for another one. I decided to give it all I had.
I rolled it out with infinite care. It didn't come out exactly round, but it resembled a chapatti.
I ensured the stove was turned down before placing it on the pan. Fearing it would get burnt too, I took it off very fast.
It was only half-cooked. But half-cooked is better than fully burnt. I ate it with relish.
I was finally an independent adult.
Illustration: Lynette Menezes
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