The Healthy Lunch

“I refuse to accept this as a valid vegetable,” cried out Kiara while looking at her lunch plate which her mother had placed in front of her. “What do you mean?” asked her mother Anisha indignantly, “I would have you know, young lady, that this is not only a vegetable, but a very healthy one at that.” Kiara looked at her mother pityingly, the maturity in her looks belying her tender age of 6 years, and said, “OK Mom, why don’t you eat it, right now, in front of me, after all, parents are supposed to set an example for their kids, whose minds, as you told me long ago, are like tabula rasa, and so they will imbibe whatever they experience and consume.”

And that put Anisha in a real bind, because the vegetable in the lunch plate was something that she abhorred from the core of her heart, right from the time that she herself was a kid. But ‘kiss moonh se’ could she admit to her daughter that the vegetable that she wanted her to eat reminded her of dried-up cardboard, in terms of taste that is, not looks, because cardboard is not yellow, and is much better looking.

So she tried to get out of this predicament by telling Kiara, “Arre I am fasting today, didn’t I tell you in the morning?” Kiara being a shining torchbearer of today’s precocious generation, replied, “Was that before or after you had your third aaloo paraantha Mom?” Anisha bristled at that, and said, “This fast is kept for a Roman God, and starts after breakfast. I am supposed to eat only Italian food for lunch and dinner, so much as I want to, I will have to let go of this wonderful opportunity of eating this delectable dish that is on your plate.”

But Kiara was truly her mother’s daughter when it came to deviousness. She coyly asked, “Which Italian God is this for Mom?” And that stumped Anisha, because for the life of her, she could not remember the name of any Italian Gods.

But luckily, she was saved by the bell, literally, because just then, the doorbell rang, and when Anisha opened the door, standing there were the most good-looking, and majestic, man and woman she had ever seen in her life.

They took her permission to enter (to which she just nodded absently while gawping at them), and then the guy (OHHH GAWWWDDDDD, HE WAS SOOOOOO HOTTTTT) introduced themselves to her and Kiara, “Good afternoon young ladies, my name is Jupiter, I am the king of Roman Gods, and this ravishing beauty by my side is my wife Juno, the Goddess of Marriage and Women.”

You wouldn’t have thought it possible, but Anisha’s already wide-open mouth opened even wider at this, and as was her wont, she started WHAT-WHAT-WHAT-WHATing at breakneck speed, without even the slightest of pauses to draw a breath. Kiara, on the other hand, sat completely nonchalantly, as if Roman Gods had a habit of dropping by during her lunch.

Jupiter and Juno calmly sat down on the lunch table and waited for around 12.5 minutes for Anisha’s WHAT-WHATing to finish, and when it showed no sign of doing so, Juno took mercy on her and said, “Can we have some water please?” That obviously broke the spell and forced Anisha to get out of that infinite loop of WHATs, since she, like all Indians, especially Aamir Khan, believed in the concept of Atithi Devo Bhav (Guest is God), only in this case, the Athithis were really Devs!

So she quickly offered them some water in her brand new glass crockery, which her brother and his wife had got for her from Rome, and which she had specifically set aside for special occasions like these (OK, not like THESE, for she couldn’t possibly have imagined a scenario where she would be serving water to Roman Gods in glasses from Rome, even though, as she realized later, the glasses were actually made in China, but you get the picture).

Then she finally gathered the necessary courage to ask them, “What are you guys doing here? Not that I mind of course, you are more than welcome Mr. and Mrs. Jupiter” (Juno’s right eyebrow twitched slightly at this last part, since she was a card-carrying feminist).

Jupiter replied, “We were off for a stroll after our lunch, and thought we’ll buy some Pulse candy, when we suddenly overheard you talk about fasting for Roman Gods over the ethernet. So, we immediately took a small detour to meet this great bhakt of ours, who is willing to undergo such a huge sacrifice for imported Gods.”

That put Anisha on the horns of a dilemma, or in a quandary or predicament, if you would prefer something milder, since lying to Gods was not an option, and telling them the truth was not only insulting, but potentially dangerous. After a lot of deliberation, she decided to do the RIGHT thing, AVOID THE ISSUE.

So she picked up Kiara’s lunch plate, and pointing towards the vegetable on it, said, “Actually, Kiara was insisting that I eat this first if I want her to eat it, since she claims that this is not fit to be called a vegetable. I was telling her that I am fasting today, so unfortunately, will not be able to eat this disastrous…I mean, delicious vegetable today.  But good that you people dropped in. I will just serve some of this vegetable to both of you also, ab aaye ho toh aise hi thode jaane doongi!”

And for the first time after the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, one could see clear signs of panic on the faces of both Jupiter and Juno. Because even though they were Gods, they were mortally afraid of a few things, and this vegetable certainly ranked right at the top of that list of scary items.

Being Gods, they were able to communicate telepathically, and after a brief, but tumultuous discussion, Juno told Anisha, “Actually, if you are fasting, it would not be right for us to eat something that you cannot eat. So I have a brilliant idea. Why don’t we all order a Pizza from Pizza Express, so that the sanctity of your fast is also respected, and we don’t go empty stomach also.”

Anisha caught on to the charade pretty quickly for a human, and said, “Of course, I’ll just order three pizzas,” and started dialling, when Kiara piped in, “Make that four Mom. After all, if people come to know that not just you, but even Gods, are afraid of this vegetable, but you are still forcing a young child to eat it, it won’t look good na!”

Anisha tried to look at her strictly, as if she was about to admonish her, but could not maintain the expression for too long because of her guilty conscience, and her face cracked into a smile…and then she, Jupiter and Juno broke into loud guffaws. Young Kiara quietly got up, picked up the bowl of cabbage-mutter (peas) and emptied it into the dustbin.

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About anuragbakhshi

At the age of 40, I decided to exit the corporate world, and enter the world of stories as a full-time writer. Wish me luck!
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One Response to The Healthy Lunch

  1. Reblogged this on jagahdilmein and commented:

    This was among the first ‘for children’ stories that I wrote on my blog. It was inspired by a vegetable dish that I had in my lunchbox that day. My views towards that vegetable will be clear once you read the story. Cheers 🙂

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