Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Reminiscing good old school

The day had nothing unusual for a standard twelve student to offer, the week before had just seen the conclusion of a series of model exams; modeled for breaking hands, torture the brain into submission and waste reams and reams of school stationery as any student’s shrewd educated guess would be

The English teacher, a very kind hearted soul by the name of Mrs. Meenakshi ambled into the classroom with an air of condescension, jaw grimly set and steely eyes that would have hacked through hordes of Persian invaders; if they ever were to make another attempt at this inappropriate moment. The steely eyes seemed to bore through me as if I was Mahmud Ghazni who had already committed the sin. I went back to do what I did best at school, dawdling on the back pages, humming ‘Riders on the Storm’ and alternately thinking about some odd bit of trivia; shrugging off that there just might be so many other Mahmud Ghazni’s and aides lurking in the other seats.

The answers of the previous week’s model exams were being given back after evaluation for keeps, to be left behind in desks or bags or carried back home dutifully to be shown to parents eager to ascertain of any last split second miracle in their cub’s progress before the much awaited Boards. I continued with what I was doing till I realized that there was a deep hush that followed after I was summoned. The deep hush was due to the sudden change in the disposition of the tutor. The steely eyes steeled even more to rip through the unfortunate solitary Mahmud Ghazni who was standing in front of her. Unaware of my latest folly I went up to see the front page of my answer sheet swathed in red. I was quite sure that I’d used a blue pen and not a crimson red one. I was also quite sure that only I had written my paper and was fully conscious at that point of time. I leaned forward a bit to notice that the handwriting in red was of the tutor and not mine. Before realization chose to hit my brain, a voice ripped through the savage silence in the classroom ‘Is this what you write one week before the Boards?’ My already confused mind never had the chance to think beyond ‘what?’ The question still hung about like the uneasy calm before the proverbial storm.

The proverbial storm lasted for what seemed like an eternity, but when it ended (saved by the siren whose sound still rings through mine ears) I found out that the cause for this catastrophe was a recipe which I had written in the exam, being the inventive genius of a cook that I was, inspired by Sanjeev Kapoor’s ‘Khana Khazana’. A wry smile crossed my face as I went back to my seat with the answer sheet clutched like a trophy after a hunt. The storm abated as Ma’m left the class in a huff. The paper went about the class as if the last Dodo just sprang up from its grave and ended up with the usual reviews and criticisms of friends.

Five years after this incident I managed to track down Ma’m’s number to get in touch with her. She was the first to remember the recipe to the last detail and had a grand laugh about the whole incident, which she claims she’ll never forget for the rest of her life. Here’s hoping that it stays that way.

The infamous recipe for ‘A Witches’ Soup for the Soul’
This recipe has been painstakingly re-constructed after a lot of fruitless search for that masterpiece of an answer paper that was stored carefully for more than three years and finally found its way out of the house.

Dirty muddy water- 01 ltr
Rotten eggs – 04
Dirty muddy socks – 02 pairs
Rotten Tomatoes- 01 dozen finely chopped
Onions – 04 finely chopped
Dead cockroaches- as many as you can catch
Rats’ tails- 04 finely roasted
Lizard’s tails – 03 of fully grown adult
Cobwebs – handful
Dead spiders - 04
Dirty finger nails- two handful
Beans –half kg finely chopped
Carrots – half kg finely chopped
Salt, pepper- to taste
Garam masala- also to taste
Broomstick – 01 to stir
Cauldron – 01 only

Please boil dirty muddy water and add onions, tomatoes, beans, carrots, cockroaches, spiders, rats’ tails, fingernails and spiders. Break the eggs and beat it to a smooth consistency and add to the concoction. Add salt, pepper and garam masala to taste, stir with broomstick to add flavour. Add the socks and cobwebs as garnish. Remove when completely cooked.

Nota Bene
I know after seven years it is not possible to remember the catastrophic recipe in great detail. However this is broadly what the soup had save a few minor missing ingredients.

Meenakshi Ma’m if you ever get to see this recipe (not again!) please tell me if I’ve omitted anything as you remember notorious affairs (and this one at that) more vividly than me.

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