What's For Dinner?

  • 04 Nov - 10 Nov, 2017
  • Ayesha Adil
  • Fiction

Fawad: So what’s for dinner tonight?

Saima: Poulet au Paprika.

Fawad: Huh?

Saima: Nigella Lawson taught me.

Fawad: Nigella who?

Saima: You know I’ve been following these cooking shows on YouTube. Some of them are really good. Nigella is my all-time favourite.

Fawad: (Scowling) Because she manages to make her dishes sound like medical conditions that have not been cured?

Saima: Don’t be mean; its food that we are talking about.

Fawad: Yes, but lately that’s all you’ve been doing; treating me like a lab animal, testing your new recipes with names that I can’t even pronounce; let alone remember, and definitely cannot savour.

Saima: But I thought you enjoyed yesterday’s Manousheh?

Fawad: When you eventually called it a kebab roll. I could never enjoy a Manousheh in my life even if it came wrapped up in a towel.

Saima: Oh, ok. Then from tomorrow I will just make your favourite regular food.

Fawad: There really isn’t anything wrong with that you know.

Saima: No. Nothing at all. But when you sit at the office with your friends and they are all talking about how inventive and creative their wives are you can tell them that your wife makes daal chawal – the kind that would make any Mughal emperor drool. (Can you see me drool in sarcasm?)

Fawad: Why are you getting so upset? What’s the big deal about? You are making the things that I like to eat. What’s the issue here?

Saima: Nothing. Forget it.

Gets up. Walks away. Goes into the room. Door slams.

(Why is he so frustrating??)

Fawad: What happened here? Hey?

It all started about a fortnight ago. Saima’s holidays from school were about to begin.

She works at a school as the academic director and teacher. Her subjects are English Literature, Sociology and Psychology. A deadly combination I thought when I met her for the first time, but when I got to know her better I realised that the world needed more people like her – emotionally intelligent and kind, a deep thinker who worried about the fate of her students and the general population at the same time.

I often wonder what I did right to have her in my life. I must have pleased God at least once for Him to bless me with her. Caring and loving, she soon made a place in my heart and my family’s.

“All summer long,” she said, “I have an entire summer to spoil you with my love.”

She planned an extensive array of indoor and outdoor activities and I was at the centre of them all. She often used to tell me how guilty she felt when she neglected me, as she put it. The pressure of work kept her from pampering me properly.

I always told her how I was more than fine, more than happy that she enjoyed her work and how we always managed.

But this was her summer project.

So she began watching a long list of cooking shows on YouTube. Chefs like Lawson, Jamie Oliver, Matt Moran and others became household names.

Every evening was different. Every dinner was a surprise. Initially I enjoyed the attention and the pampering as she put it. In fact, after a long time I felt like we were back in the honeymoon phase – perhaps a better version of it. We were like two friends catching up. The weekends were spent outdoors – going out, picnicking, and shopping – it was very nice.

Up until…

The activities became more detailed, the plans more extensive. I felt like I was living under the watchful eye of a drill sergeant.

Our spontaneous nashtas became well-organised breakfast dates. On any typical working day I would go to work after having a three-course meal of grilled fruit, tea and scones followed by Spanish omelettes with cheese and mushrooms.

Now many of you would say that I was being picky and mean; that anyone would die for this sort of attention.

But you see I fell in love with my girl. I fell in love with the ‘I love daal-chawal and achar’ kind of girl. Who was this Coco Chanel usurper? Because along with the change in our culinary habits and our general updated lifestyle, she was also bringing up her style in fashion and home décor.

The house is our place of comfort. I want to be able to put up my feet on the coffee table and not worry about ruining the polish or staining the rugs if I wore my slippers while I treaded on them.

The thing that endeared me the most to her was how she managed to work full-time and run the house, and me, and make it all seem so effortless. Also, how we would sit back and relax on the couch each evening after having a great home-cooked meal, the warmth of all that love around us and watch a movie without any worries.

Her new and updated lifestyle was slowly robbing us of all that. It’s good to read about the lives of the rich and famous, but it is equally good to realise that behind all that glitz and glamour are some very unhappy individuals who, inside all the lap of luxury use sedatives to sleep, or abuse drugs, self-harm or worse commit suicide.

She was in a pathway of destruction and I had to intervene.

I walked into the room.

I saw that she had been crying.

Saima: I only want us to be happy.

Fawad: I am happy. I am happy with you – the everyday you.

Saima: You never encourage me when I try new things.

Fawad: That’s not true. I am always there for you. I always support your ideas for your classroom. I help and encourage you with your new presentations. I listen to your wonderful student stories – your kids as you call them. I feel like a grandad by now by being the pseudo dad for some many children for so many years.

(She chuckled. How much I missed that laughter. How much I loved her.)

Saima: I just want to prove my love to you.

Fawad: Prove your love? Are you silly? It’s not a competition or a test. You just need to be you. You don’t have to prove anything. I know you love me.

(Why would you tolerate my tantrums, my mood swings, the house chores I mete out to you all the time if you did not love me?)

Fawad: I was looking forward to spending more quality time with you during the summer break – time with you – not with Lawson or Oliver.

(She smiled again.)

Saima: Hmm…

Fawad: You know we still haven’t eaten? Are you up for some dinner?

Saima: Yes. After you.

Over dinner we decided that for the next six weeks we would return back to the normal way of life that we both had built for ourselves. In fact, I pushed Saima into spending more time reading and resting and catching up on her sleep, a notion which was near to impossible on regular days due to her hectic schedule. It’s more important to be happy than to be rich and famous. It’s more important to love the simpler things in life and the people that make the day worth it. •