Come the fifteenth of December, there are aromas that waft downhill on, I kid you not, High Street. It’s in a lovely tree-lined, park-filled secret neighbourhood in Bangalore where people can freely take their nightly constitutional, in short-shorts (men or women), at 10 pm, without fear of reprisal. It could be on account of the abundance of churches in the area, or the over-protective patrolling street dog. Either way, I’m not complaining.
We take our bliss however we can.
I’ve stood under a certain building on said street, nose twitching, trying to identify the smell of freshly roasting beef while separating it from the distinct scent of home-made, goose liver pate. The sweet perfume of ham that has been boiled lovingly in milk for days so it falls off the bone and on to the tongue like a dewdrop off a leaf.
Because when these bouquets start to fill the air, it means only one thing. It’s Christmas time at the home of my friend Arshia.
All year long she is busy organising literary festivals, translating tomes, lecturing at foreign universities and spending her time in lofty pursuits that nourish her brain.
Towards the end of November, her stomach starts protesting. It can take being sidelined, undermined and negated only so much.
She gives in. She pats her tummy lovingly and smiling at her pots and pans, she begins cooking. In earnest. And for several weeks. No one can talk to her or distract her from purpose.
At the end of it all, when finally the roast beef can be sliced paper thin. When the paté is butter-soft and so delicately flavourful that the very gastronomic heritage of Gaul is threatened. When the pork can be picked off with bare fingers, why, she throws a party.
Oh, she tosses in seasonal grapes, stone crackers, fresh carrots, celery, mulled wine, potato chips and other sides to distract from the main attraction. But it doesn’t fool anyone.
I’ve been to Arshia’s Christmas dinner two years in a row. This year, I asked her if I could bring anything, say a roast chicken. It sounded tame and lame even as I said it. She declined politely saying she’d covered the animal kingdom quite nicely, thank-you-very-much. I took some wine.
I climbed up two flights of stairs on my crutches even though the doctor clearly told me I’d be pushing recovery back a week if I did something at stupid as that.
But I was willing to risk life and limb to eat at A’s Christmas dinner. Which is why I can’t wait for the next eleven months to fly by.