Thursday, September 8, 2011

UMAMI


UMAMI
Short Fiction - A Delicious Love Story
By  
VIKRAM KARVE  

SPDP.

That’s right – SPDP...!
 
You know what SPDP is, don’t you...?
 
You don’t? Don’t tell me you don’t know what SPDP is...!
 
Oh. I’m sorry.

Maybe you are not a Punekar.

And if you do live in Pune and still don’t even know what SPDP is, it’s a pity...a real pity...!
 
SPDP – Sev Potato Dahi Puri – that’s what the acronym SPDP stands for.

Why ‘Potato’ and not ‘Batata’...?

I do not know – you’ll have to ask the guys at Vaishali.
 
Now don’t tell me you don’t know what Vaishali is...?

That’s being real daft and clueless, isn’t it...?

Well, Vaishali is the landmark restaurant on Fergusson College Road which serves the best and tastiest SPDP in the world – no doubt about it...!
 
And talking about taste, do you know how many basic tastes there are...?
 
“Four...!” you will rattle out, and you will proudly tell me as if you were a know-it-all: “Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter.”
 
“Well, my dear reader, you’re wrong...!

There are five primary tastes – Sweet, Sour, Salt, Bitter, and Umami.”
 
Umami...?

You’ve never heard of it...?

Well I can tell you one thing: “Besides being a lost case, you’re no ardent foodie for sure...!”
 
Umami is the unique tingling ‘savouriness’ or ‘deliciousness’ of Oriental Cuisines.

Well let’s forget all that mumbo-jumbo. If you really want to know what Umami is, just go down to Vaishali, order an SPDP, gently put a portion in your mouth, close your eyes, roll the delectable SPDP till it dissolves on your tongue, and you will experience what Umami tastes like...!
 
Now talking of rolling the SPDP on your tongue – have you noticed that as you roll your food on your tongue its taste changes and flavour varies as the food interacts with different regions of your tongue...?

The ‘Tongue Map’ – ever heard of it...?
 
You haven’t...?

Don’t tell me you haven’t heard of the Tongue Map...?

Hey, you are a real dumbo, aren’t you...?

Then try this yummy scrummy mouth-watering game.

Take some spicy chatpatta stuff, like Bhel, Chaat, or SPDP, and put some on your tongue.

Never heard of these things...?

I knew it.

But not to worry, it doesn’t matter. Relax. It’s okay. It just doesn’t matter...!

You can do this eating experiment with Chopsuey – yes, yes, the usual American Chopsuey you get at these ubiquitous Chinese eateries proliferating like hobgoblins all over the place.

Close your eyes.

Yes, you must close your eyes to heighten your awareness, your mindfulness.

Now focus inwards to accentuate your gustatorykinaesthetic and olfactory sensations, and gently press the rich juicy scrumptious Chopsuey against your palate with the tip of your tongue.

It tastes heavenly doesn’t it...?

That’s Umami...yes... the taste you are experiencing is called UMAMI...!
 
Now slowly roll the chopsuey backwards to the right side of your tongue and notice how its sweetness enhances, and it moves back the relish the tangy sweetish-sourness, the inimitable sweet and sour flavour – to the left – a tinge of delicious subtle bitter flavour – and as you move the delectable melange forward on the left side of your tongue, soak up the tingling vitalizing scrummy saltiness, till once again you experience the intense lip-smacking luscious flavoursome savouriness of Umami.
 
That’s exactly what I am doing here right now, sitting on a lovely rainy evening at my favourite table in Vaishali restaurant on Fergusson College road in Pune.

Dissolving exquisite tingling mouth-watering portions of SPDP on my tongue, my eyes closed, senses focussed inwards, luxuriating in sheer epicurean bliss, trancelike ecstasy, epiphany, when suddenly, unwittingly, on the spur of the moment, I open my eyes, and I am totally astonished, shocked out of my wits, baffled and dazed, to see her standing at the entrance.
 
Instantaneously, I avert my eyes, try to hide myself in the SPDP in front of me, wishing, hoping against hope, that it is not her, and slowly, furtively, with tremors of trepidation, glance, through the corner of my eyes, a fleeting look, and my hopes are dashed, my worst fears come true, the delicious zesty SPDP turns tasteless in my mouth, like cud, and I wish the ground beneath me opens up and swallows me in. 
 
I wish she doesn’t see me, so I look away, try to hide.

I do not want to meet her.

Tell me, which loser wants to meet a winner...!

Have you ever seen a failure attending a reunion, and enjoying it...?

At this stage of my life, I avoid people who are more successful than me.

The company of those less accomplished than you is always more comforting, at least for losers and “failures” like me.
 
Suddenly I sense she is near me.

Hesitantly, I look up.

We look at each other.

Priyamvada has blossomed. She looks exquisite, even more beautiful than before – radiant, slick, chic, booming with confidence – all the things that I am not.
 
“Hi, Praveen,” she says excitedly, “what a surprise...!”
 
“Yes,” I say nonchalantly.
 
“Hey, what’s the matter?  You’re not happy to see me...? Won’t you ask me to sit down...?” she says.
 
“Of course I am happy to see you. I’m sorry, but I was lost in my thoughts. Please do sit down and join me,” I say.
 
“Wow...! Having SPDP...? I too will have an SPDP,” she says cheerfully the moment she sits down opposite me.
 
“You like SPDP...?”
 
“I love it. SPDP in Vaishali – it brings back nostalgic memories too...!”
 
“Nostalgic memories...?”
 
“Vilas saw me for the first time right here – while I was having SPDP with my college gang.”
 
“So...?”
 
“He fell in love with me – love at first sight.”
 
“So...?”
 
“So he told his parents.”
 
“What...?”
 
“That he wanted to get married to me.”
 
“And...?”
 
“He told his parents that if at all he ever got married it would be to me and to no one else.”

“Oh...”
 
“His parents were delighted as he’d been rejecting proposals for years, avoiding marriage on some pretext or the other. So they found out about me from my college and landed up at my place to ask for my hand in marriage.”
 
“And you jumped...?”
 
“Jumped...?”
 
“Jumped with joy at the golden opportunity and dumped me without a thought and married a man twice your age...!”
 
“Twice my age...? What nonsense. Vilas wasn’t twice my age, just 30.”
 
“And you...? You were just a teenager then. Bloody cradle-snatcher...!”
 
“I wasn’t a teenager. I was 20.”
 
“It’s the same thing.”
 
“Praveen. Tell me, why are you still so bitter even today...? Just forget it...!”
 
“Forget it...? I can’t. You broke my heart.”
 
“Broke you heart...? I broke your heart...?”
 
“I was in love with you. We were in love with each other.”
 
“Love...? Come on, Praveen. It was just infatuation – one sided inchoate infatuation.”
 
“One sided infatuation...? I am sorry to hear that. I am really sorry to hear that. And then it was not only that. You made me the laughing stock of society. Not only me, my whole family...!”
 
“What do you mean?”
 
“What do I mean? You know what I mean!”
 
“What?”
 
“You know how it was then. A boy rejecting a girl is okay, but a girl rejecting a boy? That too in Madiwale Colony – you can’t even imagine the unimaginable agony I suffered. I became the laughing stock of town – not me alone, our whole family. I couldn’t even walk the streets peacefully without sensing those unspoken taunts and unseen jeers. It was terrible – really cruel of you.”
 
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you. But I never wanted to marry you.”
 
“Then why did you say ‘yes’?”
 
“I don’t know. My parents were in a hurry. They showed me your photograph – it was all so confusing,” she says taking a sip of water, “Please let’s talk something else.”
 
“No. I want to know why you ditched me for that richie-rich IT Czar tycoon. Was it just the money? Or was it the lure of a luxurious life in America?”
 
“No. It’s not that. You were too mediocre.”
 
“Mediocre...? I’d passed out from an IIT...!”
 
“So what...? Remember when I asked you what your plans were...and do you know what you said...? The way you told me your philosophy of life...”
 
“Philosophy of life...? I think I just said that I never plan anything, that I just flow along, and take life as it comes.”
 
“Oh yes, just flow along. No ambitions. No aspirations. No dreams. No desire to achieve anything in life. Well I always wanted to get out of the middle class, have success, prosperity, see the world, enjoy the good things in life, and not spend my entire life going nowhere with an apathetic husband like you with no plans in life, listening to sermons on thrift and frugality.” 

Priyamvada pauses for a moment, and then continues speaking, “I’m so sorry, but in life one has to be rational isn’t it...? One has to have plans in life.”
 
“Oh, yes. Plans in life...!” I say caustically, “And looking at you it’s evident that all your plans seem to have worked pretty well…”
 
I stop speaking at once, for seeing the sudden transformation in the expression on her face I instantly know that I have said something terribly wrong. She does not want me to see the tears well up in her eyes so she looks down into her plate and tries to eat.

For some time there is silence. Grotesque silence. Then she looks up and says, “My plans did not work out.

“What...???” I look at her dumbstruck.



“I've left him. Vilas and me are divorced. I have come back for good. I was wrong. I did not belong there. I realized I still belong here,” Priyamvada pauses for a moment, composes herself and then she says, “And this SPDP is no coincidence - I knew you would be here in Vaishali at six after spending your Sunday afternoon reading in the library. Praveen, I want to ask you something.


I look into her eyes and say, “I know what you want to ask me and the answer is yes. I knew you would come back to me. I was waiting for you to come back.” 


I pop some SPDP in my mouth, let it disintegrate on my tongue and savour the delicious zesty Umami taste like I have never done before.



VIKRAM KARVE
Copyright © Vikram Karve 2011
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

Did you like this story? 
I am sure you will like the stories in my recently published book COCKTAIL comprising twenty seven short stories about relationships. To order the book please click the links below:
http://www.flipkart.com/cocktail-vikram-karve-short-stories-book-8191091844?affid=nme

About Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer. Educated at IIT Delhi, ITBHU Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale and Bishops School Pune, Vikram has published two books: COCKTAIL a collection of fiction short stories about relationships (2011) and APPETITE FOR A STROLL a book of Foodie Adventures (2008) and he is currently working on his novel. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories and creative non-fiction articles in magazines and journals for many years before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for almost 14 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing. Vikram lives in Pune India with his family and muse - his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts. 

Vikram Karve Academic and Creative Writing Journal: http://karvediat.blogspot.com
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Email: vikramkarve@sify.com          

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