“Thatha used to take your mother out to eat Masala Thosai every time she came first in class!” Akansha looked at her Patti with curiosity. “What is Masala Thosai? “It was Patti’s turn to look astonished. “Sumi, haven’t you made one for Aku?”
Sumi protested. “Amma, they are hard to make. Aku, they are crepes with potato stuffing in them!” “Crepes? Your mother has become a foreigner after going to the States! Please take Aku to Jyothi Bhavan tomorrow to taste Masala Thosai,” insisted Patti.
“Will you come too?” asked Sumi. Her mother shook her head. “Aiyo! When have I ever eaten out? Only home-cooked food for me, that too without onion and garlic. You youngsters go!”
That night, Sumi reflected on a memory.
“Appa! Here is my report card! You know what that means!” twelve-year-old Sumi exclaimed. “Of course! We will go to Jyothi Bhavan.” “You spoil her rotten!” complained Sumi’s mother. “I have one daughter. Who else will I spoil?” Appa protested.
Sumi held onto her Appa as he navigated through the potholes and bumps on their rundown scooter. The building came into sight with its peeling yellow paint and signage, ‘Jyothi Bhavan’, and a picture of a banana leaf feast below it.
“Appa! What if they don’t have free seats there? What if they don’t have Masala Thosai on the menu today?” Sumi would panic. “We will always find a way, princess.” Appa would assure her.
Being regulars, the waiters knew their order by heart. Two crunchy crispy Masala Thosais with scrumptious potato filling. Accompanied by delectable chutney and hot sambar. Washed down with sweet pink rose milk, as sweet as the memory itself.
Her Appa never got a chance to meet his granddaughter. He was gone too soon. Aku would have loved him. Sumi said to herself, “Appa, you were there for me every time. Yet, when you were on your death bed, I couldn’t make it on time.” Memories and regrets. That’s all we are left with. Sleep overpowered her soon.
The next morning, Sumi and Aku set off to Jyothi Bhavan. Sumi applied mosquito repellent on her daughter and packed mineral water. One had to be careful. This was India. They hailed an auto. It chugged along meandering roads. “41 Selvamurugan Street.” They alighted.
Sumi frowned. In front of them, was a shiny, sleek mall. “I need to go to Jyothi Bhavan.” The auto-driver just shrugged. “They demolished it a year ago. The mall came up in its place.” Sumi stood numb. A tear rolled down her cheek. This was one of his precious memories she had clung to. The hotel had reduced to dust, just like him.
“Mom, are you OK?” Sumi wiped away her tears. In Aku, she saw her Appa’s face. His lopsided grin. The way he crinkled his nose. She was his living monument.
“Mom! Won’t we get to eat Masala Thosai today?” “We will always find a way, princess,” Sumi assured Aku. She was her Appa’s girl after all.
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