As the pitter-patter of the raindrops hit the tin roof, Gopal glanced at the sombre clouds rapidly covering the blue expanse overhead. His nostrils flared at the sizzle of the hot oil as the pakoras were dropped in, the aroma filling his senses. This was his favourite pastime. Every evening, Malati, his wife, would create delicious little roundels, along with her famed green chutney. They would sit together, sipping at their ginger tea, as each pakora found its spot of ecstasy in his tastebuds.

Today Malati was taking longer than usual. As the rain slashed against the window, each droplet scurrying down the sill, pearl-like in its translucence, Gopal mused over the night before. Had he been too harsh on Malati? He had caught her out in a lie and his famed temper had taken over.

“How dare you lie to me, woman? Who were you with yesterday? Shankar told me that he saw you talking to a strange man.” 

“Is that a sin? Is Shankar your helper or your spy?”

Gopal looked at her flushed face. Was it an admission of guilt?

The evening had ended badly. The bruises on Malati’s face and body spoke volumes. 

The pakodas were almost done, golden and crisp, just the way Gopal loved them. Malati had started later than usual. The batter had swallowed the powdered drug that she had whisked into it. Of course, it was only a tiny dose, but it was enough to render Gopal irritable, maybe even keep him awake at night. The quack doctor had spelt out all the side effects – restlessness, nausea, anxiety and finally, that terrible craving that would turn him from man to addict.

The wind whistled, slamming the raindrops against the glass, almost akin to little palms entreating the man within to beware of the fate about to overwhelm him.

Gopal’s eyes gleamed with greed as he grabbed the first piping hot pakoda and bit into it. It was crisp and he smiled at Malati.

“Sit down beside me, love!” he said. 

Malati sat down, the bruise on her face stark violet. Gopal gently touched it, saying. “I am sorry I hit you. But you do provoke me so.”

 Mere words of apology with no feeling behind them!

Malati watched him eat the whole plate of pakodas, savouring every morsel. He did not ask her if she wanted even one. He never did, which was why she knew her long-term plan would succeed.

As she gazed at the raindrops on the glass, her mind dwelt on the face of the new tenant who had come next door. He was good looking, and he seemed very intrigued by her. Maybe they could be together, one day. She needed a man who would cherish her the way she deserved to be cherished. A man who would not hurt or browbeat her! She would be his mistress of spices, the love of his life.

If not, she could always make her crisp and tempting pakodas again.


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Deepti Menon
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