He was the perfect wife. When we were done screwing without taking off the saris he loved so much on me, he would press a fresh erection against my bum and refold the pleats neatly, looking over my shoulder while I swooned in his arms. He lit incense every evening and looped voluptuous rings of smoke in front of an altar of cheesy god prints in his kitchen. He washed his hair – and mine – with chiakkai. Best of all, in the mornings, while I lazed around in one of his lungis like some feline mystique, he would put the decoction on for filter coffee and then he’d make me thosais.
Perfect round thosais, crisp but still white, ladled out of a stainless steel vessel and spread in concentric circles on a pan that sizzled like rain on summer tarmac or great sex. Thosais the way our grandmothers made them. Every night I spent with him, he ravished my womanliness, and in the mornings, he fed me my childhood.
Some mornings, if I was feeling sulky, I would reject his breakfasts. “I’m going to Indiresh’s,” I’d say. “He makes real maami coffee.” And the Gigolo Maami’s lariat of a face would fall. And then I’d take my little stroll of shame over to my friend the Bharatnatyam dancer’s apartment, where he would caffeinate me in an authentically Iyengar way and bitch about our boytoys.
“Remind me again why you call him a maami?”
“He makes me thosai in the morning. Can you believe that?”
“Banging can make a girl hungry.”
“Put another vada on that plate, baby, because I am.”
“So what happened today? Burnt thosai? Bitter chutney?”
“He got a mid-coital text from some giggling groupie who spells it L-U-V. And he replied to it, mid-coitally. I wanted to Dronacharya his thumbs.”
“Ahahahahahaha – this doll of yours is like some sort of satire on the decline of Tamil morals.”
“He is not satire, he is a satyr,” I said.
“One of these days,” said Indiresh darkly, “that’s going to be a problem.”
Then something happened. I met someone else or he took the gigolo thing too far; probably it was both, but either way, months later we bumped into each other at a produce market. We looked at one another across a provocative expanse of fatly phallic purple kathrikai. “What are you doing here?” I asked.
“Buying groceries. The supermarket near my new house is pathetic. Actually the whole place is depressing. The watchman is always asleep. The electricity meter is rigged. The water doesn’t heat properly. Too many birds – crows shit on my car ten minutes after I wash it. The taps don’t close fully. And have you seen the state of the lift?”
“Well, I don’t even know where your new house is.”
“Veetuku vaadi, paale pongalam”.
Come home, woman, and we can even boil the milk. Which sounded like he meant, maybe, that we could play at rituals again: tie leaves above the threshold, dab turmeric on new clothes, place milk on the stove and let it rise and run over the pot in a gush of ceremonial good luck.
What he meant, of course, was that I should just come home.
And when I did – of course – there was a simmering, and a sugaring. And a grinding and a pressuring and a tasting and a creaming, and finally – a sweetly, hotly overflowing froth.
published 11 April 2012