Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Lessons from a Pickle Jar

It was a late Sunday afternoon when in the midst of sautéing my vegetables (I say “sauté” because it sounds and spells fanciful, although I was only chopping my potatoes) my Tambrahm cells kicked in and a vision of curd rice and pickle popped in my head, because any afternoon meal of a Tambrahm’s palate is incomplete if it didn’t end with curd rice and mango pickle. So, I plugged my earphones, put my clothes on, tied my shoes, and turned off the stove (yes, exactly in that order) and walked all the way to the nearest supermarket salivating at the prospect of tasting steaming rice lathered with curd bathed in a sprinkling of hot spices that envelope the mango pickle--a holy matrimony of curd rice and spicy mango pickle that only ones from Chennai could understand (I am not sure about you, but I am smacking my lips as I am typing this).

I entered the supermarket vowing not to listen to the calls of a plethora of food items that looked tempting and mouth-watering, but of which I had no idea how to use in my novice-level cooking. From Mexico to Italy to China, the shelves were filled with ingredients from all over the world, calling out to me, Use me! I taste delicious! You won’t regret it! They said. One day, when I have enough money to experiment with, I’ll buy some exotic sounding items and create a fusion of ingredients from different corners of the globe and make my own World Cuisine, but for now, I am going to buy that bottle of curd and that jar of pickle, I told myself.

I walked out of the supermarket with a bottle of curd, a jar of pickle (which was a vadu maanga at that) and a satisfaction of knowing I had not wasted money on any fancy-sounding food products.

I reached home and spent the next one hour cooking my lunch all the while dreaming about the curd rice and mango pickle that I will be devouring after my main course. Once the time came for me to open the bottle, imagine my surprise when the lid wouldn’t come off. The downside of living in a rented apartment is that you cannot let off steam by smashing a bottle against the floor or by punching a hole in the wall, which is how I used to approach any crisis when I was living in my own home.

However, I did fret and fume while trying to open the lid with my bare hands, I quit when I realized that I wasn’t covered with any health insurance just yet, and ran the risk of cutting my hands. The image of eating curd rice mixed with my blood wasn’t appealing. I heaved a sigh of despair and left the pickle jar hidden away from my sight so that it wouldn’t remind me of my shattered dreams, like how bumping into your ex would bring back all these memories of a blissful life that you had planned with her/him.

The next few days I’d walk to the kitchen every morning with a faint hope that maybe, just maybe, the lid would budge if I tried a little harder. I tried, I twisted, I contorted my face in several angles exerting energy that ran through my nerves to my face, reddening and molding my features, wishing the jar would open. But it would not move an inch. I gave up all hope and cursed the manufacturers for making such an impenetrable fortress of a pickle jar.

A few weeks passed and I went on pretending that I was better off eating plain curd rice. But who was I kidding? Curd rice without pickle is as incomplete as French fries minus ketchup, Fourth of July without any fireworks, a marriage sans intimacy. The more I was deprived of that elusive combination, the more I yearend for it. What made it worse was the pickle jar was lying in my shelf, and I, who used to unseal the hardest of jars for my mother with just a flick of my wrists and chided her thereafter, was unable to summon all my strength to open a jar when it mattered the most.

And one fine day, it opened, and I did not know how. I trundled into the kitchen like a boy who walks into the schoolyard knowing well he’s about to be beaten up by bullies. I opened the shelf and took out the jar of pickle; hope was replaced with a resignation to my fate. And then with a drawn-out sigh, I twisted the lid ever so slightly, like I were cracking a safe, and click! I could not believe my ears, it was the faintest of sounds and yet it got my heart racing as if I had heard Beethoven’s symphony. I imagined this was a dream, and I twisted the lid a little more, and it loosened a bit more. With every turn of the lid, the jar opened, and as I unscrewed and removed the top with disbelief, I looked in to see the contents of it. And there it was, resting there in all its glory. Red, slick, and so spicy that you could feel its taste on your tongue just by looking at it. Vadumaanga, my own elixir.

I had read about it in self-help books, and on the Internet, but it was then when I was staring into my pickle jar with a “did-I-really-open-it” look that I truly acknowledged it, that persistence is a virtue. It kicks down the hardest of doors when you least expect to, it moves mountain when it seems impossible, it wins you games when all seems lost. I realized the importance of trying everyday, to just show up and do your thing. Things may not go our way, results won’t be delivered the very next moment, but if you truly want something, you just got to push through, inch-by-inch. It would be a long and slow journey to your destination, it will be trying, you will sweat it out, you will question your judgment, but you will be there someday. 

And it will feel worth it.

Persistence, it helped me open my jar of pickle, it will help you open yours too.

Image Credit:


VK said...

Great read! :)

Anuraag Seshadri said...

Thank you, VK :)

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