Togetherness

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Mr. & Mrs. Sharma in Mumbai

Trying to finally wake up, still in the bed, I inhaled jolting flavour of black coffee without sugar. It took few minutes to persuade myself to make a call. I dialled the number when confidence in my voice increased. Mother-in-law picked up the phone in a while.

“Happy Anniversary!” – I exclaimed.
“Thank you! To you too.” – she uttered cheerfully in Hindi, and abruptly hung up the phone amidst my “Will see you tonight!”.

I quickly dressed up, packed Tiramisu, that was resting in the fridge, and left for office, foretasting this day, when parents celebrate 55th marriage anniversary. After work me, Seema, my sister-in-law, and her daughter headed to Balaji bakery en route to parents’ place. Two young men looked at us incredulously, when Purnima placed our cake on the top of the glass counter, requesting to write “Happy Anniversary”. One of them waveringly agreed, looking for cake decorating bag. The cream in it was bright pink. Unsure of correct spelling, timidly with shaking hand he copied A-n-n-i-v-e-r-s-a from plastic cake topper. Out of place, tiny r and y were hanging below the line. We purchased music candle and some wafers to justify their effort and left for the party place.

Me and Seema rang the bell, Purnima was lurking at the stairs with the cake. I heard mom clearing the throat behind the door, the sound of her approaching steps guised unsteady gait.

“Where is the surprise?” – she asked straight-up, looking out into corridor.
“Hiding” – Seema replied, leading her back inside the house.
We asked them to wait in the bedroom till surprise is getting ready.

“I know you were here to pick up Ira on Sunday, but you never came to see me.” – mom reprimanded me lovingly.

“Chai?” – I blushed, hoping to divert her attention.

“You should have taken me with you!” – she adhered pretentiously, and then added with a soft smile, “Just half a cup.”

I didn’t know what to tell her without conveying a secret. That’s what it supposed to be till cake is cut. It was just Tramisu, with unevenly written fluorescent pink ‘happy anniversary’. We made it together on Sunday, – Seema, Purnima, Ira and me.

I knew Mr. Sharma would be traveling on the day of anniversary, so family party will get postponed till he’s back. Contemplating a surprise, me and Seema were thinking how to make their special day special. “What can be better than family together to wish them”, – we decided. And of course, there should be a cake. We surfed through the recipes during office tea breaks, and decided to make Tiramisu. Recipe called for Mascarpone. I ordered local version of it on BigBasket, and picked up the rest of ingredients in Uttam, the new convenience store next door.

Sunday, when we were planning to bake, was busy. All the morning Sudhir was packing, while I juggled between last minute shopping and making breakfast and lunch side-by-side. Back from the airport, I got into baking sponge cakes, leaving cream preparation for the evening, when girls would come. I gently stirred maida mixed with dry ingredients into soft and stiff peaks of egg whites, beaten with the blender. First layer of batter poured into buttered form was ready to go into the stove. In twenty minutes gooey sweet mass rose and slowly transformed into spongy sheet. Pure magic!

Seema, Ira, Purnima & Simba

I sorted the rest of the ingredients on the kitchen countertop and went to pick up Ira from her home. Sudhir’s daughter wasn’t coming alone, but with the special guest. I saw her running behind Simba, pulling on the leash. This grown up golden retriever was wagging silk-coated furry tail, excitingly expecting the drive. Once in the car, he happily stretched on his blanket, occupying full length of the backseat. The thrill of exploring new territory was quickly over, – at my place Simba was clinging to Ira wherever she was. When Seema and Purnima joined, he mostly relaxed on the kitchen white-tiled floor between us, till we assembled the cake layer by layer.

I was preparing custard, slowly stirring the sugar and egg yolk in double boiler; girls were making whipped cream. Blending both with mascarpone and black coffee, we got a bowl of beautiful beige mass. Then the pieces of sponge cake, dipped into coffee concoction, were arranged in the glass square form, alternating with generous layer of cream and cocoa powder. Tempted to try, Purnima munched tiny pieces of sponge cakes, and even I dipped finger into cheesy sweet substance. Amidst this creative chaos with Sharma girls I was smitten with a subtle feeling of family bond, a pristine energy flawing through our bustling. I was happy. Once the rim of the cake dish was clean, we placed it into the fridge. Overnight it would be ready to eat. Sipping coffee with milk, we relaxed in the living room with Simba in between, overwhelmed with so much attention. Then Ira told him, “Chalo!”, and the dog sat straight up, ready to go home.

Family selfie. Celebrating parents’ 55th marriage anniversary
Cutting cake

 

Happy and embarrassed, parents blushed when we asked them to pose for pictures, pretending to cut the cake. Surrounded by family, they were glowing with inexpressible joy. Devouring slices of Tiramisu, we ordered dinner. Father-in-law asked Karan, his grandson, to go and get chocolate ice cream from neighbouring kirana store. Children were allowed to ride his all new Activa for the first time. “Cheers!” – we exclaimed, clinking the glasses. I felt all of us grown up, children and parents, beyond the boundaries of age, roles, traditions and relations. Few generations in one house, we were celebrating anniversary of our parents, – the origin and the anchor of togetherness for years.

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