Five whistles. Six, at the most.
One more whistle,
And it will lose consistency.
You stand there, by the stove.
Waiting for the first whistle.
Wondering what could be
Happening inside the pressure cooker.
To start with,
You need to be sure that
The meat is cut from the softest region.
Rub salt to the cut pieces.
Nothing cleanses like pain.
Spices are added with precision.
There seems to be some unwritten measure
For every scoop added.
Chopped onion. Sautéed to the right shade of brown.
A slice of green chilli. Crushed ginger.
Unwritten rules of taste.
It takes a long, very long time for the first whistle.
One has to wait patiently.
Once the first whistle happens, rest follows.
But the wait for the first one is long,
And special too.
That’s when you get a whiff of things to come.
A train of thoughts
Filled with dead bodies,
Some cut, some charred,
Always precedes the first whistle.
There is an unsettling silence before that.
In that silence, you try to forget
The fact that the train exists.
But it invariably comes.
From a long dark past
Stretching endlessly behind you,
It will come anyway.
Like that proverbial light in the tunnel
The whistle announces the train.
It comes from across the border of logic.
Driven by the desire for good taste.
Then, it starts.
Once you have crossed the border
With the first whistle,
The distance to the second whistle is short.
You can measure it, brick by brick,
Spoon by spoon.
The dish is still half-cooked, yet
The smell is so tempting.
It will drive you up domes of fantasy
And put your flags up there.
You start getting visuals, smell and
Feel the touch of soft, cooked meat.
You refer back to cookbooks at this point.
Just to make sure, spices were added
In right measures.
From those pages, letters come out in hordes,
Marching along with chants,
With malice and hatred,
Determined to cook the raw cuts.
That’s when you realise
That the secret of a good recipe
Is in the unwritten measures of ingredients.
There will be a reluctance in letting go
The third whistle.
A slight hesitance.
As if giving a second thought on
Whether you really wanted to cook this meat.
Is this the dish that you look forward to?
You cannot take it out now,
You cannot have it as it is now.
You are neither there, nor anywhere.
The third whistle will then sound like
‘Where were you, when the first one went off?’
‘What did you do when the second whistle was on?’
‘Why are you now thinking about this?’
‘Who are you?’
The third whistle is when the meat
Starts to get the heat.
From all sides.
By now, the aroma of the meat
Is swirling around you.
You are drooling.
You lie to yourself
That this meal is good for you.
You list out the good qualities
Of this freshly cut meat
Cooked in the perfect manner.
You keep repeating the same lies
Again, and again.
You are desperate to taste it now.
You recall all the best moments
You have had before this.
And assure yourself that
This one is going to be special.
Better than anything that happened
The pressure of repeated lies adds that
Extra flavour to the meat being cooked.
You close your eyes.
You have almost lost count.
All you see now is the meat
Well-settled to its edible best
Bubbling within the cooker.
You can see those brown bulbs
Popping up on the top of gravy,
And then vanishing.
The symphony of a spicy meal.
Half A Whistle More
Just when you are about to
Turn the stove off,
You hear half a whistle.
It is not the sixth one.
Neither is it the fifth.
Something happened after that.
Or was it before that?
You wonder, did you really hear it?
It does not matter now.
The cut pieces have been cooked.
To the best of culinary standards.
They are no longer wounds that bled once.
Spices added in specific measures
Have done their magic.
Those pieces are meant to be eaten.
They await garnishing now.
You switch off the stove.