We spent a brief year in the little flat in Lake Gardens. You have met this flat ( apartment, if American ) before. This is the same flat that saw us beat off the Cantankerous Cat. You know also, by now, that we had to contend with Peeping Toms. And, of course there were neighbour. Some were Nosy Neighbours. Other neighbours, though, were quite confused.
Just like we were. We’d moved in with two suitcases and a can of beans. The next morning, however, we realized that we had no can opener. So we ended up buying tea and dry biscuits from the guy selling tea on the sidewalk 30 yards away. I don’t think we ever managed to open that can of beans…. We were 25 years old, had good jobs as software types in good computer companies and we spent a lot of time at clients’ locations. In my case, I spent a lot of time outside the city. Either I was across the River Hooghly out in the outer suburbs or I was completely out of the city for days on end. We both got back pretty late in the evening, tired from the taxis, trains, buses and other modes of transportation and hours spent showing customers how to use the expensive machines they had bought.
Dinner was an impromptu affair. Fatigue and lack of experience gave birth to unconventional foods. Fried eggplant with quick noodles, soup and sandwiches, daal and bread. Very little time and energy was exerted and a mixed, relaxed cuisine was developed. Very often we had to go out and shop for the basic ingredients before we could cook it. Since we came home well past 8 or 9 in the evening, this often meant that we did not start cooking until 11pm or so. Luckily our metabolism and pace of life meant we had no issues with this. Due to the lateness of the hour, we often used a pressure cooker, which let off steam in a piercing hiss as it cooked our dinner.
About 3 or 3 weeks after we moved in, our landlord who occupied the two floors above us, invited us upstairs for dinner. The occasion was his son’s poite, “sacred thread ceremony”, a sort of Hindu Brahmin Bar Mitzvah…. We went up politely, sat down politely in among other guests. Next door to us lived our landlords’ brother-in-law and his family. They had renters, too, on the first floor, more about them some other time…
Our host’s wife ushered us in and then disappeared to look after other guests. We knew nobody and so we found a place to sit and sat there, quietly. The older gentleman next to me was talking to a group of other guests. We gathered that he was at the end of a very funny story about “midnight cooking”. The guests listening to the story were much amused by this. We also tried to figure out what the joke was but we gathered only that he was entertaining his audience by tales of some couple, with very strange habits.
About 2 minutes later, our host was able to get away from across the room and came over to welcome. He introduced us to the group next to us. The older gentleman, the teller of the amusing tale, turned out to be his brother-in-law from the house next door. We were introduced as the young couple who had just moved into the flat below. The story-teller’s eyes widened and he clapped his hand to his mouth, eyebrows raised in embarrassed horror.
“You”, he gasped, “midnight cooking? You??”