Tanya’s expression looked sadder than the gooey oats porridge that Aniket was picking at. He craved Aloo parathas with dollops of butter for Sunday breakfast, but oats porridge was one of the many perils of marrying a health freak, and that too a nutritionist by profession.

Aniket’s Aunt had invited them for lunch and Tanya dreaded these first meetings with elderly relatives.

Tossing the remaining packets of Biryani from last night’s party into the trash bin, Tanya  eyed the mountain of dishes in the sink with disgust. Dog tired, she had left the messy kitchen untouched and hit the sack at 2 am. Now she wished she hadn’t. The task ahead looked daunting like the climb to the top of Mount Everest.

To worsen things, their maid Ramabai  called in sick. ‘Loose motions, Madam’ she said. It was strange how her organs were tuned to malfunction each time guests came over.

When Tanya finally placed the last of the washed plates on the shelf, she was exhausted like she had indeed scaled the summit.

An hour later Beena Aunty welcomed them, impeccably dressed in grey trousers and an elegant blue shirt.

‘Shit! I shouldn’t  have worn this Salwar Kameez, I look like I belong with the antiques on her shelf,’ Tanya mumbled to herself,  then flashed her 100 watt smile, specially reserved for occasions like these.

Tanya was impressed with the spotless two- storeyed mansion which was a sharp contrast to her chaotic apartment.

‘Your maid must be fantastic, Aunty, she does a fabulous job, I can see,’ Tanya said, taking a second helping of the delicious butter chicken.

‘I do the cooking and cleaning myself, it keeps me engaged,’ Aunty said without a trace of tiredness on her sixty-year-old face that looked a decade younger. Tanya’s eyes met Aniket’s as Aunty served herself leftover, reheated dal. He gestured her to not start  her expert lecture on nutrition again.

‘She’s actually nice,’ Tanya said as they drove back home.

‘She didn’t ask about “good news” like they all do, and man! She doesn’t have a maid. I can’t imagine being like her, hats off !’

Old habits die hard, babe. She didn’t have it easy at first. Uncle worked for a meagre salary when they got married. Aunty  supported him, saving every rupee to help him set up his business.’

‘But leftovers, seriously?  Why didn’t you let me tell her that reheated food is zero in nutritional value? And how does passing yesterday’s food through her digestive tract add to her already abundant wealth? ‘

‘She wouldn’t understand. Wasting food is blasphemous to her. And if you haven’t noticed, in spite of eating leftovers, she doesn’t deflate like a balloon after washing a few extra dishes.’

Tanya had nothing to say.

‘End this conversation, Tanya.

If you dig deeper, you might have to close down your practice, looks like you’ve been preaching a bunch of fat lies,’  she chided herself.

Nutritional science or any freaking science had no explanation for such things.

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Shailaja Pai
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