The Food Culture — Story form
The climate is amazingly cool. My mood is refusing to drive with windows blocking it. So, it is half closed with a pace maintained. It’s my first ever drive to Tanjore.
I’m taking the ECR road via Pondicherry. My classmate “Layinai Alli” from 6th till 12th grade is joining me in Pondicherry. Now she’s a Siddha Doctor and still my crush.
It has been 2 years since I started my long drives on the weekends. The main reason is to get a calm, not-so-rushing time, running for deadlines. That’s attainable only if I go by myself. Since it’s initiated, I tried every possibility to accompany someone to make the trip more enthusiastic. The only help everyone has done is, pushing me away from that thought.
Going alone is not fun like what someone sees in movies and Advertisements. Yes, I get me time, thinking about a lot, and planning for the future. But that’s not versatile. Also, nothing gives a feeling of completeness.
Every time I go for a drive, the destinations are designed by the Boredom and Stress I undergo. If I see beautiful scenery, the intimidation to take a picture urges than refreshing the mood. As those are not for me but my profiles. When I look back at the pictures, the sense of regret fills the brain for hard returns to what I have spent.
The good part, only I know about this meaninglessness. To find a meaning to be more enthusiastic, I tried a few things I had an interest in. Of all the things, looking for different types of specialty foods kept me engaged. This didn’t affect the posh attitude of going out and getting likes. So, I stick with it.
Every city has its taste. I find different experiences from one point to another. This helped me to reconnect with many schools and college friends as I involved in referring to specialties in their city (if I visit them).
Recently, whenever I have food, I’m facing struggles. The heaviness and digestion problems apart, it is disturbing my mental health and sleep. To maintain my image (which I hardly have), I couldn’t reveal this to anyone and take medications. So, I brought in another posh habit, Diet. Getting big is shown as the reason.
Anyhow, I’m going to meet with a doctor and it’s one of the main reasons I called her to join my drive. As she’s nowhere related to my regular lifestyle and it’ll be more valuable to hear from a doctor than a dietician. It all started after her reply, “Nice destination”, to my Instagram story about my next plan. Being a severe theist, she agreed.
I soulfully wanted to visit “Periya-Kovil” after going through “Ponniyin Selvan”. While looking for Tanjore specialties, I found a list of spicy foods too. I’m longing for a spicy country chicken since I’m into the diet for a month. Everything synced with the flow, fortunately.
It’s around a 6–7-hour drive from Sholinganallur. As she couldn’t stay at nights (being typical Thamizh Family girl), I planned to pick her up at 6:30 AM and decided to keep it a single-day drive.
To match the timing, I started by 3:15 from my house. As planned, I reached her by 6:30 and I’m already late by 10 mins.
I: (with an apologizing face) Hi Balli! How are you? (Balli (Lizard) is her nickname in our school)
Alli: seriously? After all these years?
I: That’s your name, right? For 7 straight years!
She: After 8 straight years?
I: Doesn’t matter. Even if it’s 80 years, you are our “Balli”.
Smiley laugh had us both. Starting with regular wellness questions, moments shared, but nothing mattered much. I don’t want to be obvious about my troubles with questions, as it could/might add sympathy, dominance, or advice rain. I’m not in a mood for any of it.
Even though she has quite a good bond with me, it’s so long since we met in person and the regret, I went with co-travelers in my previous drives restricted me to put forth deep questions and indulging. To avoid the awkward silence by that, I hum along the songs played whenever silence popped up. The situation prevailed until we reach “Neyveli” for breakfast.
We end up in a small hotel after her “only Idlies for breakfast”. It’s time for me to skip the diet as well.
I had special Sambar Vada with Pongal and a Puri set. She had 5 Idlies. Even though it isn’t a date, I end up paying while she went to wash her hands.
We came out and waited for my coffee to arrive at the coffee table. I sense her smile while I look at the coffee being prepared. She does this while I’m eating too. I would like to ask her the reason but didn’t.
After that, it’s just one break in Kumbakonam and then we hit Tanjore. Meanwhile, in the break, I went for Kumbakonam special coffee, whereas she went for “Kelvaragu Kool (millet pulp)”. Her attitude puzzled me for not going after most favorites.
We reached Tanjore by 11:40. It’s just a temple visit. I’d go around places if I accompany none. There’s no chance for that today. In the temple’s Pooja counter, she just went with her family members. In India, no girl in love would do that. They’ll pray for her boyfriend too. I don’t know her current status. But I’m sure she’s single.
I shouldn’t think about it much, as it would bring back my feelings for her. It was controlled earlier in the name of her boyfriend, who’s from her locality. Things are different now. 7-years long crush is once again stimulating feelings in me. Also, I’m feeling happy about what could have happened in her life.
After darshan, we went to a Chettinadu restaurant to have some spicy, orgasmic Country Chicken. I end the meal with an Ice-cream and her with a Coconut.
Since I have to drop her in her house before 10, we just roam around the local bazaar and headed back.
The talks are finally going in a great direction for the first time in my experience. After sometimes, she starts unfolding my mentality when I told her “there’s a change in your attitude”.
She: What makes you think that way?
I: You used to be talkative earlier. Now you are keeping yourself in the reserve zone.
She: That’s what you want from a Co-traveller right?
I almost stopped the car. With a puzzled face, I asked her “What?”, thinking how did she know that.
She: You heard me right (telling this, she turned away smiling)
I don’t have any options to neglect that. And I’m quite curious to know how I’m that obvious in her eyes. with a pause, I admitted with ‘how did you found?’
She: Behavioural Analysis (she replied facing window)
Facing me, she started, ‘Your Questions and Answers don’t lead to continuing the talk for the next minute. Your answers are just one word, and anyone interested in a talk to get continued won’t do this. your questions are of that kind as well. whenever you wanted to ask something or listen, you lowered the volume. you specifically avoided asking questions about explaining myself as such, you don’t need to know your companion more. And I remember your status quotes about “how it is good to travel alone”, often’. she completed with a sour touch.
I: I… I jus… (i don’t have words as I’m guilty as accused)
She: You don’t have to tell anything. I can understand from your point of view. Might have been fed up with companions on your travels it seems.
I: Don’t get offended if say, “Absolutely”.
She: today too?
I: For that, Not absolutely.
She: ok, I don’t want to know where I lagged but, I do want to what you want to come up with?
I: after a quizzed look, ‘couldn’t get you’
She: Since we completed our lunch, you didn’t play songs. What’s going on in your mind?’ (she asked straight)
Now I have to admit that she had me with her brilliance. Pitty me!
I: Initially I had 1. Now 2.
She: Is the new about me?
I: You are a genius.
She: Sorry, I can’t answer the new one now. You can go ahead with the old one.
Since the beginning, I had only one reason to like her that, she being my crush. Now, understanding my mentality with her brilliance, and let me have my me time though she’s with me. I started liking her again. For a second, I lowered my head and smiled at that. Sensed the exact reaction from her as well.
While I started with, ‘Doc, I’m having…’, she interfered with saying, ‘digestion problems?’.
I: How can you?
She: Noticed you starting with “doc”. So, you have a medical problem. And your movements and burps don’t seem to be good. Especially before and after taking foods.
I: No doubt. You a Genius.
She: What are you looking for?
I: It’s you, who’s Genius. Please…
She: You should control your food habit
I: I’m already on Diet. Today I just broke for your presence
She: non-sympathetic behavior?
I: come to the point.
She: No carbs. Meats, and Oats?
She: Then you won’t run out of this problem.
I: ‘What do you mean?’ (now I stopped the car in a shock).
She: View is good. Park it on the side.
After parking it in the shade, she lowered her window. So did I, and killed the engine.
She: Nice evening breeze (rested her head and closed her eyes).
I: Please explain.
She: The breeze?
I: The run-out part!
She: What you feel about this wind?
I: ‘nice. clam. Fresh’ (hoping that it has relation to what I’ve asked)
She: Yeah, you are on point. What do you think about the condition we were in till now?
I: Condition…? well, Car A.C. Chemical, and what not?
She: Again, on point. what’s the difference?
I: It’s natural and that’s Artificial.
She: What has features?
She nods and started, ‘It’s not just wind. It has sunlight and a touch of many things like water vapor, and mineral particles it has come across. this plays a vital role in every living organism, especially in the cellular regeneration in the outer skin. But the A.C won’t do such things.
it justs maintain temperature and that’s not even good for the skin. then think about the condition a body suffers’.
I: I’m not the genius here. Please relate it with the Food part, diet, and others.
She: Natural food (the one that’s growing in your region) is like the wind. Every ingredient depends upon the climate. it has its nature, which will help you in your nurturing. Processed food is like the A.C. It won’t help you in gaining anything, but the chemicals in that will cause side effects.
I: Taking diet foods too?
She: what they are prescribing as diet foods are not generally of Indian origin. food is designed by nature to one organism in that region. since early times, people eat what’s available and what they can cultivate in their locality. if the landmass doesn’t support the cultivation of crops, then they go for the animals in that location. if you eat what’s been cultivated (which crop your soil supports), none needs any diet. because nature is designed in such a way.
I: if I start eating what’s originated here, can I keep my body fit?
She: gaining weight and maintaining it is another rule. if you take hard substances like kambu (pearl millet), ragi (finger millet), and meat, it will be hard for your body to breakdown. so, it will take longer than usual to digest that so, you won’t be hungry for a long time after these foods.
for software engineers like you, take lite substances which get easily digested as you won’t do many physical activities. all you need is high water content foods. And coming to the weight management part, if you take more calories than you burn, you’ll put on weight. if you take less, you will lose weight. it’s not that complicated.
I: if it’s that much simple, why everyone is complicating it?
She: Marketing. it lies only in the place of high profits. food imports are one such industry so, you’ll be hearing what the investors want you to hear.
I didn’t ask anything later. after a few minutes of silence when I sensed her falling asleep, I started the car and moved (obviously with the windows down). I felt like, I finally had a solution to my problem and it seemed so so simple.
she got up while we are nearing Neyveli. as we had tight meat for our lunch, we didn’t seem to be hungry. if she’s not there, maybe I’ve gone for a meal or some Neyveli special. Luckily she and her piece of mind are with me. So, it’s just a cup of jaggery milk and 2 bananas for our dinner.
and while coming back, I forgot that I have an audio system in my car. we dwelled in a pleasantly long ride that I’ve experienced the first time in my life. group rides are not bad though. it just gets worse with wrong companions. Balli is not one among them.
it’s almost 10:30 and she has received her first alarm from her house. so, without a proper sendoff, I reached her house to drop her off.
I: hey, you said you can’t answer the new one *now*. Then when?
She: if you enjoyed my company and would like to take me on your next trip, I might answer
I: I smiled biting both my lips. and while she closes the door I replied, ‘ i did’
both had one thing to say in common which we conveyed each other with a nod. That’s “Thank you”.