The anniversary of my grandfather’s death is coming up and to lighten the inevitable sadness of that day, I thought I’d post one of his more amusing articles which brought a smile to my face and a greater appreciation for my eyezbowz.
Our Kitchen Prayer
By N.A. Bhatti
November 29, 1998
I don’t know from where the Begum [wife] picked it up but it was quite appealing so I had it framed and hung in the kitchen.
MY KITCHEN PRAYER
Bless my pretty kitchen, Lord,
And light it with Thy Love,
Help me plan and cook my meals
From Thy Heavenly home above.
Bless our meals with Thy presence
And warm them with Thy Grace;
Watch over me as I do my work,
Washing pots and pans and plates.
The service I am trying to do
Is to make my family content.
So bless my eager efforts, Lord,
And make them Heaven sent.
The contented burps I emitted after every meal bore testimony to the fact that He must have heard her prayer and blessed her eager efforts. Then came the day when the family had to be away for the whole day and night and I had to hold the fort solo. How fussy she was just before leaving the house. What a sermon delivered at lightening speed in one breath.
The eggs and butter are here in the frig; the tea in this tin; the sugar in that; on Fridays the doodhwala [milkman] comes after breakfast so only use the powdered milk; only one half litre, remember; don’t forget to lock the rear gate after sunset; remember to call J and tell her I’ll be away for the day; and don’t forget … and don’t forget and don’t forget … Allah Hafiz!
I promptly forgot the whole text of the sermon the moment the car turned the corner, locked everything and turned in with a copy of MAD.
The next morning I rolled lazily in bed, thinking about the low estimate Begmaat [wives] had about men invading their exclusive domain, the kitchen. They don’t think for a moment that the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Police don’t employ women cooks. Those jawaans are equally expert in using kitchen utensils and groceries as they are in wilding Kalashnikovs, grenades and even nuclear weapons. What the heck! If they shout from the housetops that they can do everything their menfolk can, are we going to chicken out from doing what they normally do? No damn way! I rolled up my sleeves, tied an apron hanging from the kitchen door, spat symbolically on my palms and plunged into action. I whipped out half the contents on to the kitchen table and started thinking what I should prepare. As in learning any skill, always proceed from the simple to the complicated, from the known to the unknown, we had been taught. What was simpler than preparing a couple of eggs for breakfast? Or so I thought.
Say, what do you do first, light the stove or crack open the eggs? I tried hard to remember what she did. Ah, I think she had the stove going first. I experienced a slight hitch here. The gas-range knobs, staring at me like ugly black warts, seemed unresponsive to my pulling, pushing, twisting and plain cursing. All I could hear was a faint hiss. My fifteenth matchstick didn’t bend and break. I brought it close to the source of the hissing sound.
There was a loud PHOOOOFF as a large blue flame erupted and scared the wits out of me. Then a peculiar odour assailed my nostrils and I instinctively ran to the kitchen mirror. Never mind, they’ll grow again, I thought as I regretfully surveyed my burned eyebrows. The stove flame was now normal, so now for the eggs. But first, the cooking oil into the frying pan.
And now for the eggs. I could swear I had seen eggs being broken for years and years but now when I had to break them myself, the whole thing blacked out. I gripped an egg between my thumb and forefinger and tapped the big end gingerly on the edge of the frying pan. Nothing happened, so I tried the small end. Still nothing. Then I remembered Nature’s design to protect the egg against attacks and I tapped it on the side. Harder, harder, harder.
With a squish, my thumb rammed into the heart of the egg, driving in half the pieces of the shell that got inseparably mixed with the yolk. That’s OK, eggshell was just calcium. It would simply fortify the yolk or whatever was left of it. The remainder had splashed on to the frying pan and the stove.
I sprang for a rag to mop up the mess on the stove but by the time I found one, almost everything appeared to be on fire. The egg debris, the oil, the frying pan, the knobs, all started giving out an acrid odour. My knowledge of fire fighting was limited to a few theoretical lectures and two demonstrations by our Air Force firefighter instructor fifty years ago. He told us how to tackle wood, petrol, oil, aircraft and electrical fires but as far as I remember he hadn’t said anything about fires in frying pans with eggs in them, resting on gas stoves, nor did anyone of us recruits have the foresight to bring the matter up during question hour.
There being no one around, it was in any case useless to take Step No. 1 we had been taught: “Shout fire! Fire!” so I promptly took Step No. 2 in the Fire Drill Manual: “Try to control it yourself.” Seizing a jug, I hurriedly filled it with water from the kitchen tap and hurled it on the site of the blaze. A geyser of sizzling superheated oil shot ceiling-ward and showered down again. I ducked in time and quickly tried to recollected Step No. 3 when the door bell rang, announcing that the family was back prematurely.
The expected civil war was averted in the nick of time. Her “pretty kitchen” was cleaned up but the ceiling and the wall behind the gas range will have to be distempered. Last but not least, a slight amendment will have to be made in the wording of the delightful poem. Henceforth it will not be “my” but “our” kitchen prayer. After all, there may arise more occasions when I too need the Lord to bless my efforts in the kitchen.
Oh yes, and I withdraw my earlier remarks that rather smell of male chauvinism.