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Chapter 69: Lessons in the Kitchen
Gayatri Juneja patiently waited for her husband to come out of the bathroom. During the ride home she had been relatively silent as Lalit ranted about Vinay and the type of business man he was. She wanted to know what exactly it was that Lalit was so up in arms about. After hearing his so called reasons which were really petty and childish, she decided to wait for the right time to convey her thoughts. The children along with Balraaj and Teji were surprised to see them back home so early. Gayatri made up some excuse that the restaurant was packed because of a special party and they had decided to come home instead. Teji seemed to have sensed something was wrong and quietly probed her in the kitchen while they were heating up the leftovers from dinner. Teji gave her full support to Harman and Maya. After what she had gone through with Heer she strongly believed that their children knew what was best for themselves especially in their love lives. She hoped extremes wouldn't have to be done for Lalit and Vinay to see the error of their ways.
As the bathroom door swung open and Lalit emerged in a fresh pajama kurta Gayatri prepared herself for the impending argument. "Lalit..."
"Yes, Gayatri?" he asked unaware of what was to befall on him.
"I just wanted to say some things. First, Harman is absolutely right that you are picking favorites. How can you dismiss Maya just because you have had some unpleasant business experiences with her father? You should learn to separate business from personal matters. What Harman is going though is a personal matter it has nothing to do with business. I am utterly ashamed that you could be this uncaring and frankly stupid."
Lalit stared at his wife a bit taken back at her outburst. "Gayatri...I'm not doing things to hurt him. This is for his own good...Harman---"
"His own good? Your son is in love with the girl and you're telling him to stay away from her. You have disappointed me so much tonight. I don't even know where to begin. That behavior at the restaurant was unacceptable---"
"Unacceptable?! What about Vinay...are you telling me his was perfect?" Lalit argued.
"No, but neither was yours. You two are simply ridiculous...yes, I think that fits both of you perfectly. Maya is a sweet girl'she's learned how to clean and is working on her cooking skills. I don't see why you can't see the amount of effort she is putting in just to try to impress you," Gayatri replied. "She is also a very smart and capable girl. I've seen some of her business plans about opening up a boutique with Veera."
"So I'm just supposed to be bow my head at cleaning, cooking, and business plans?" Lalit asked.
Gayatri tightened her jaw at how stubborn her husband was being. "Don't let your personal feelings get in the way of this. Business is business and personal is personal...do not mix them together. Maya is her own person and I would think after tonight you would have seen that she is very serious about her relationship with Harman. Both of them refused to listen to either one of you and I for one am proud of them."
"Proud of them? To disrespect their father's feelings? Where is their duty, loyalty, and respect to us? They just decided to throw that to the side this evening and you want me to celebrate that? So when something happens and I give my advice and they push me aside...I should to be thankful for that?" Lalit inquired.
Gayatri sighed, "You are simply not listening to what I'm saying. I've had enough. Goodnight!" Lalit frowned at his wife's behavior but walked towards the bed anyways. "What do you think you're doing?"
"What do you mean what do I think I'm doing. I'm going to bed. You said you wanted to go to bed," Lalit replied.
Gayatri tossed him his pillow and sternly said, "You're not sleeping here tonight. Since the pool house is taken you can sleep on the couch, the office, or one of the other bedrooms in this house. But you are not allowed in this bed. And don't go sleeping in Prem's room either. I want it nice and clean they way they had left it before they come home"
"I don't care. You are not to touch my son and daughter-in-law's room. There are plenty of bedrooms up on the third floor. Go find one and live there for all I care. Please turn off the lights on your way out. Goodnight," she replied and rolled to her side with her back facing him.
Lalit held the pillow in his hand and realized he was in big trouble. He had no choice but to leave otherwise there would be no hope of him pacifying her later. He sighed with a grumble and turned the light off as he made his way out of the bedroom.
Harman and Maya sat in the car quietly eating ice cream. They tried their best to not think about what had happened at the restaurant a few hours ago but it was hard. They had stood up for themselves in their relationship but at what cost? They didn't like how their fathers had treated them but they were still their fathers. As much as they were frustrated they still loved them which made what they did even harder for them.
"I'm sorry," Harman said finally breaking the silence.
"Don't say that. I'm sorry too. I just can't believe how pigheaded they both are," Maya replied.
"Yeah, they are. But I want you to know what I said I meant it. I have two more years of law school and that internship I have may turn into a real position. Management has been talking to me a lot lately...I'll be able to support us," Harman said.
Maya's eyes widen at his words. "Are you serious? I mean...leave the house?"
"If they can't accept us then I have no problems leaving home."
"But Harman it's your family...your brothers, sisters, your Mom, your Dad...it may seem easy in the beginning but later on you're going to miss them. I don't like the situation either but I can't make you do that," Maya said.
"You're not making me. I'm doing it because I want to and it's for us. Ma and my brothers and sisters will understand and support us. I don't care what Bauji thinks."
"Don't say that Harman...you know it still matters," Maya replied. "To tell you the truth if this had happened a few years ago I wouldn't have cared. I mean I loved my family but thought they were so controlling at times but when Mom passed away...I really realized the meaning of family. Daddy's been working so hard to take care of me...he doesn't let me do a thing...wants me to concentrate on my studies so I can have a good career. He's pampered me for sure but I realize after meeting your family there is something about working together and doing things for each other...it makes me miss my Mom in a way. I don't want to separate you from your family...I know how important they are to you. And quite honestly meeting them has made me love you even more."
Harman gave a tender smile as he wiped a lone tear that had escaped her eyes. "I love you. We'll make it work. We'll find a way. I sort of wish Prem Bhaiya was here...he always had a way to talk to Bauji and make him understand. Kulraj Di is the eldest but I guess cause she's his daughter he sometimes doesn't take her seriously...I guess that's his own chauvinism," he sighed. "Don't give up on me."
"I won't," Maya said as she held his hand. "It's getting late I should go home."
Harman glanced up at the Bindar mansion and nodded, "Yeah..."
Maya gave him a quick kiss on the cheek and exited out of the car. Their hands slowly parted in a loving way neither one of them really wanted to let go but knowing they had to. "Call me when get home?"
"I will. Goodnight," Harman replied and started the car.
Maya walked to her front steps glad that her father hadn't come home yet. She watched as Harman slowly pulled the car away. She gave a final wave and then entered her house feeling emotionally drained.
Prem sat in the sitting area of their room listening to what his sister was telling him on the cell phone. Heer was busy unpacking their things in their new hotel room as they had just arrived in Venice, Italy. Heer was completely excited as she couldn't wait to see the sights such as the Piazza San Marco, Caffe Florian, the Basilica di San Marco, and the Lido di Venezia. Prem had used some of the money his parents had given him to move them to a hotel on the Grand Canal. Heer protested when she found out because she didn't want him to spend all that money on such a trivial thing such as a hotel room. He had spent enough money on their luxurious suite in Switzerland. She was perfectly fine with the original hotel he had booked in Venice but her husband refused to listen to her. When they arrived at the Hotel Canal Grande she couldn't help but feel slightly happy that they were staying there. They were right on the water and it was by far the most romantic room she'd ever stayed in.
As she moved about the room putting things away she realized the tone in Prem's voice had suddenly turned from playful to serious. She glanced over at him sitting there rubbing the side of his forehead with his finger as he listened to what was being said over the phone. "Haa, Kulraj Di...okay...I know...no, it's okay I'm glad you told me. Yes, they need our support now. I know...Bauji is Bauji...he can be a bit stubborn sometimes...okay. You guys take care. I will...I'll tell her. Bye."
"Everything all right back home?" Heer asked with concern.
"Bauji and Maya's father had a confrontation at a restaurant last night. Apparently Harman told Bauji that he's marrying Maya with or without his support. Ma has kicked Bauji out of their room. He's sleeping in one of the guest rooms on the third floor. It seems like she's also giving him the silent treatment."
"Oh no," Heer gasped. "How is Harman doing in all of this?"
"Kulraj Di says that Harman and Bauji are not talking to each other. Ma has told Harman to continue seeing Maya and eventually Bauji will understand," Prem replied.
"This is so horrible. I can relate to how they must feel...I mean we were lucky they accepted us but to deal with this obstacle..." Heer said sadly shaking her head. "I wish we can do something for them. They were so supportive of us and our situation."
Prem nodded, "Yeah, I know. I don't know...if we can find a something that Bauji and Mr. Bindar can be on common ground on it could help improve relations. Maybe when they go camping...they should have dinner together and properly talk."
"Camping?" Heer inquired.
"Oh, yeah Preet and Meher wanted to go camping so they are planning this big trip with Harman, Maya, Ashlesha, Sang, Kunal, Veera, and I think they've invited Nihaal too," Prem replied.
"Wow, that sounds like a lot of fun. Too bad we can't join them..." Heer frowned. "I've never been camping before."
"Rather go camping instead of spend time here?" Prem teased.
"No," Heer said as she wrapped her hands around his arm and leaned into him. "This place is beautiful. I'd rather spend my time with you, my husband." Prem grinned at her words and held her hand. "I think your idea of a dinner sounds good. They should talk things out."
Prem sighed, "Yeah, but I don't know if it will really work. From what Didi told me they are like oil and water...they can't seem to get along...they minute they see each other they start fighting. I don't even know if Mr. Bindar would agree to come over and have dinner. They can't have dinner in a restaurant...they would probably cause a scene like they did last time."
"I'm sure Mr. Bindar would come for Maya. I mean no matter what how he may feel about this...Maya is still his daughter and I'm sure he'll make the effort for her," Heer said.
"I certainly hope so. I'll call later tonight and talk to Ma about this plan and we'll go from there I guess." Prem then looked over by the suitcase. "You almost done with the unpacking?"
"Yup," Heer smiled brightly. "Just a few more things and then we can go."
"I'll help you do the rest. Where do you want to go today?" Prem asked as he got up and went to their suitcases.
"Hmmm...since we only have a half day why don't we just go on a tour of the Grand Canal?" Heer suggested.
"We'll take one of the regular boats...a vaporetto...I think it's called. And then have dinner on the riverside? Then take a romantic gondola ride home?"
"I love that idea," Heer gushed and kissed his cheek.
Prem grinned and started to quickly put the rest of the things in the suitcase away causing Heer to giggle. "The sooner we get out of here the more time we get to spend out there," he explained.
"You usually don't want to go anywhere...I have to push you out the door," Heer replied.
"That's not true. I want to see the sights as much as you do," Prem retorted.
"Riiight..." Heer smirked. "If we didn't have that SRK tour that forced us out the door by 8am...you'd still be in bed."
"You have to rest some time. After all the walking and viewing...you get tired. And I carry my camera pack with me all the time. Do you know how heavy that thing is? I take all these pictures for you and post them on Facebook so your sister can see them. I do a lot," Prem pouted.
"All right...I'm sorry...don't get all mad," Heer said and hooked her arm with his. "Let's go." Prem grabbed his camera pack and handed her traveling purse to her before they left their room.
Veera stared through the peep hole and gave a pondering look as she opened the front door. "Hey," she greeted. Sang and Kunal smiled brightly back at her with their own greetings.
"So, has it started yet?" Sang inquired.
Kunal sniffed the air, "Nope, I don't think so...don't smell anything yet."
"What are you two talking about?" Veera asked as the boys strolled into the house.
"Cooking lesson of course," Kunal replied.
"How did you know about that...who invited you two?"
"It was me," Ashlesha answered as she walked into the foyer.
"Thanks for inviting us Ash," Sang grinned. "I can't wait to try some food."
"Don't know how great it will be," she replied.
"I'm sure it will taste fine. You have Gayatri Auntie and Teji Auntie teaching you girls," Kunal said. "And they are awesome cooks."
"So, to the kitchen?" Sang suggested.
"Haa, to the kitchen Sang...by the way did you talk to Yuri about going camping with us?" Ashlesha asked.
"She's going back to Korea to visit family so she won't be able to come. But I think it's a good thing. She's not exactly the outdoorsy type of person if you get what I mean. She'd be complaining to go back," Sang replied. "So, I think it's a good thing she's not coming."
"Outdoorsy? Veera is coming," Kunal joked.
"Hey! I'm not as bad as you think I am," she huffed.
"They have a cabin in the woods...do you really think it will just be some tiny hut...hello look at their home," Ashlesha replied.
"I know I've been there once. It's gorgeous...all the amenities...nothing like what you would expect," Kunal sighed. "Yuri missed out."
"I guess I have something to rub in her face while she talks about everything she did back home in Korea...eating the food...going out...everything," Sang said with a smirk.
"Hello...so we have some new tasters today I see," Gayatri greeted as the group walked into the kitchen.
"Hi Auntie," Kunal and Sang automatically replied.
"More pressure for us to learn the recipe right," Maya sighed.
"You'll do fine," Meher encouraged.
"All right girls...last week we learned to make and chapatti...today's lesson is Chole Batura..." Gayatri announced.
Sang and Kunal's eyes bulged at the sound of what the lesson was going to be. "I love chole batura..." Sang said salivating.
"I can't wait to taste," Kunal replied licking his lips.
"Okay boys...here you go," Teji said as she handed them aprons.
"What's this for?" Kunal asked inspecting the black apron in his hand.
"You really think you will get to sit there and just watch as the girls cook?" Teji replied.
"Um what are we doing Auntie?" Sang inquired.
"Cleaning of course. You will help the girls clean their station. See how they have a bowel at their stations...when they get full you have help them by throwing it in the trash. Metal cans have to be rinsed and placed in the recycling bin," Teji instructed.
"Wait a second...Ash, you didn't say anything about this," Kunal protested.
"Nothing comes for free," she simply replied.
"That's not fair...where's Preet and Harman?" Sang complained as he put on his apron.
"They ran off before we could catch them," Meher replied with annoyance in her voice.
"Okay girls...have your notes pads ready?" Gayatri asked. They all nodded their heads and got ready for the lesson to begin.
A few minutes later Kunal and Sang was going around the room picking up the trash bowls. Each girl had her own portable burner and the ingredients needed to make the chole and batura. Kunal stared suspiciously at what Veera was stirring in her pot. "Is it suppose to be that color?"
"Go away Kunal," Veera yelled feeling embarrassed at how dark her chole was looking.
"That's way light," Sang said staring at Ashlesha's dish.
"I think I put too much cream," she sighed.
"Can you dump more ketchup?" Sang suggested.
"Ketchup? Tomato puree Sang," she corrected.
"Whatever it's like the same...no difference," he replied.
"I think if I did it will mess it up even more," Ashlesha replied.
"Don't worry...I'm sure it tastes great," Sang encouraged.
"Wow, Meher that looks great...just like Aunties," Maya said looking to her left.
"Yours doesn't look that bad either," Meher complimented. "You're doing a great job. You'll be cooking like a pro in no time."
"Thanks. Oh, thanks for letting me slide on the cleaning exam," Maya whispered.
"You cleaned the entire townhouse and it was spotless. How could I ask you take the cleaning test again?" Meher replied.
"What are you going to do about Veera?" she inquired.
"Well, since the townhouse is super clean now. I was thinking of just making Veera clean the house," Meher said. "It's a great way for her to learn."
"The entire house?!" Maya gasped. "But this place is huge...she'll die."
"I'll make her clean the kitchen...I'm sure Auntie would appreciate that...and the pool house...and her parent's room...I have a heart too you know."
"Okay, that sounds a bit more reasonable," Maya replied.
Kunal and Sang finished their duties and then sat back on a couple of stools waiting for the food to be done. They secretly whispered back and forth betting on who's chole and batura would come out right. They grinned when they saw Preet and Harman came walking into the kitchen and greeted them fondly.
"So, what is on the menu today?" Harman asked with interest.
"Chole Burta," Sang replied.
"Oh, it's nice to see you two finally showing up," Meher said through her tight jaw.
"All they care about is eating," Maya added with narrowed eyes.
Preet ignored their words and handed Kunal and Sang a little round tablet that looked like piece of candy. "You'll need it...trust me...sometimes things go down well but don't come out so well if you get what I'm saying."
"What are you doing?" Veera snapped.
"Nothing," Preet answered as he drank from his water bottle.
"Lair," she replied as she saw Harman quickly stick a bottle into his pocket. "I'm not the one who gave you diarrhea."
"I didn't say you did."
"Something did last time that was for sure," Harman said under his breath.
"Ma, they are making fun of me," Veera whined.
"Diarrhea? Nobody said anything about that," Sang squeaked nervously.
"This idea is starting to sound...not so great," Kunal replied swallowing hard.
"If I knew this was the risk I wouldn't have come," Sang said.
"Eating from them...there is always a risk. If it's not diarrhea it's heartburn. One of them puts way too much masala and red pepper," Harman said.
"Now I see why you guys ran off," Kunal replied. "But why are you back?"
"You think our girlfriends would let us do that...eventually we have to come back," Harman answered.
"Yeah and face the horrible music," Preet grumbled as he rubbed his stomach.
"I thought Meher can cook," Sang inquired.
"She's okay on some things...and others..." Preet paused noticing how Meher was eyeing him, "um...yeah others..."
"So where did you guys run off to?" Maya asked.
"Oh, we went by the cabin to check things out. We wanted to make sure everything is in working order. It's been a long time since we used it," Harman replied.
"Camping in the woods...that sound so much fun," Teji said.
"Yes, Lalit and I use to take the kids up to the cabin every summer. But then once they started high school it was a bit harder since they wanted to start doing their own things...and never mind college. I think it's been about three years since we've been. The place must be so dusty," Gayatri said.
"It's not too bad Ma because most of the things have been covered with sheets...I mean the kitchen and bathrooms are probably the areas that need the most cleaning. We're going to call the pest control guy to come over and spray it down before we go," Preet said. "And then if we can borrow Anjali for a day Harman, Veera, and I will go and clean the place.
"Sounds like you've boys have everything planned out," Gayatri beamed.
"What? Why am I cleaning with you guys? You're going to be mean and make me and Anjali clean the entire place by ourselves," Veera protested.
"It's either that or the cleaning exam from Meher," Harman warned causing Veera to shut her mouth.
"You guys are cleaning?" Meher asked with wonder.
"Why not...it's the least we can do since you girls will be cooking for us," Preet smartly replied.
"I knew there was a catch," Maya mumbled.
"There is always a catch with one of his plans," Meher whispered back.
"Okay, I think it's tasting time...girls make your baturas..." Gayatri instructed. "Preet and Harman you boys know what to do."
They nodded and dragged Sang and Kunal out of the kitchen and into the living room. "What's going on? They said the food is ready...what are we doing out here?" Kunal asked with confusion.
"It's a blind taste test...this way we don't know who's food we are eating and they can be properly judged," Harman explained. "They will call us when it's ready."
Several minutes later, the boys were all blind folded and sitting at the dining room table. There were five bowls of chole sitting in the middle with their accompanying baturas. Each dish was labeled with a letter of the alphabet except for one which was Gayatri's dish. The dish was being used as a control dish so the boys knew what the chole batura was suppose to taste like. Teji smiled and began serving them a piece of batura and a spoonful of chole on a paper plate. "Okay, please taste...this is what the other remaining dishes are suppose to taste like. Once you are finished drink a glass of water to cleanse your palate and I'll serve you rest of the food."
The boys were carefully guided by Gayatri and Teji to eat from their plates. They all had smiles on their faces as they ate Gayatri's food. "Ma, you have out done yourself this time'this is fantastic," Preet complimented.
"I agree...this is so good Auntie," Sang raved.
"Boys, you are too kind but please you're going make the girls feel bad. They have made some really tasty dishes too," Gayatri replied being modest.
"Okay here is A," Teji said as she got a clean plate and served the boys. They all quietly chewed and swallowed.
"It's fine but it has this strange after taste to it," Harman said.
"I thought it was just me...yeah I taste it too," Sang replied.
"It's okay..." Preet said. "But something seems to be missing."
"I agree," Kunal rated.
"Okay this is C," Teji said as she gave them new plates.
"Wow! Someone burnt this...you can smell it even before you eat it," Preet grimaced.
"Burnt all right," Kunal replied.
"But I like the batura," Sang said. "I think this batura is better than the last one we ate." The rest of the boys nodded their head in agreement to his statement.
"Okay this C."
"I like this one," Kunal said. "It's got a nice balance."
"I agree," Harman replied.
"The batura to this one is pretty good too," Sang said.
"It is good but not as good as the batura from B," Preet said.
"Okay this is D."
All of the boys quickly grabbed their waters and began gulping furiously. "Oh My God...too much red pepper or masala...ahhhh," Sang heaved.
"I think I lost all sense of taste," Preet replied.
"Wow, I like spicy but this is waaaay too much," Kunal said.
"Can I have some yogurt or milk?" Harman asked. "This water is just spreading the spicy everywhere..."
"I'm sweating like crazy," Preet complained. "Veera, what did you do...did you dump the whole jar of red pepper to get back at us?"
"What?! Hey, I didn't do anything," Veera fumed.
"All right children," Gayatri said stepping in trying to stop them from fighting.
"You boys can take off your masks now," Teji instructed. "So it seems like everyone liked C and the best batura belonged to B. Agreed?" The boys nodded their head in agreement. "So congratulations to Maya for overall best dish and Veera for making the best batura!"
Preet's jaw dropped as he looked at his sister's smiling face. "You and the batura? No way! After the mess you made with your chapatti...you actually made something right." Veera just stuck her tongue out at him in response.
"Way to go Maya!" Kunal cheered.
"That was really good," Sang complimented. He then slapped Harman on the back. "You lucky dog!"
"Great job Maya...it's really good," Harman said.
"Thank you," she replied smiling brightly at him.
"I'm so sorry Mama," Meher apologized.
"Why are you sorry?" Teji asked looking at her daughter. "I'm very proud of you. Practice makes perfect and besides everyone has a dish they excel in making...don't worry. You use to make fun of Heer when she was cooking...she didn't learn overnight but she kept at it. I'm just happy you're taking the time to learn.
"Thanks," Meher said as she gave her mother a sideways hug.
"She's right Meher. Last time you had the best dish," Preet said. Teji smiled at him patted his cheek.
"So we can eat the rest right?" Sang asked. "Of Auntie's and Maya's right?"
"Yes, go ahead," Gayatri chuckled as he took a fresh plate and started serving himself.
"Hey, don't hog everything I want some too!" Kunal barked.
"Save some for me...my girlfriend made that," Harman said.
"Wow, I'm going to get another Bhabhi who can cook," Preet grinned.
Maya smiled shyly as Gayatri walked over and patted her cheek, "Excellent job today."
"Thank you Auntie," she replied.
"Don't worry about anything, okay? I'm here with you." Maya nodded her head appreciative of the support.
"I guess I have to watch my spices," Ashlesha frowned.
"Well, at least you didn't burn yours," Veera sighed.
"Cheer up you two, keep working at it and you'll have it down in no time," Kunal encouraged.
"Thanks," Ashlesha and Veera both replied.
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I loved the update...
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