It’s become an evening ritual of sorts on weekends. I stand in my ground floor balcony and keep an eye out for food delivery people coming into the apartment complex. When they go past my building, I try and guess the food inside the boxes based on the aroma coming out of them.
Chicken butter masala. Garlic naan. Tandoori chicken. Fish pakodas. Teriyaki chicken. Chhole masala.
The guessing game probably evolved from months of staying away from restaurant food. Way back in March, my husband and I jointly decided not to order food from restaurants during the pandemic.
And now it’s been seven months since we last ordered restaurant food. Actually no, that’s not completely accurate. It does not include the one time we made an exception as it was my mom’s 70th birthday. Mom wasn’t around but we decided to have great food in her honour and send her the pictures of our celebration.
So that was it. One time in seven long months.
Most of the food delivery people who come to our building probably know me now. They already know I am not the person who has ordered the food they are delivering.
Still, I feel they recognise the look on my face. It’s like the look of joyful anticipation on a hungry person’s face when he or she spots the server at a restaurant walking towards the table with plates of mouth-watering delicacies. But just like the server often walks past your table and lays out the food for people sitting on the next one, the delivery boys also walk past my door.
I now have a running ledger of delightful aromas and images of masked men who walk past our house to deliver the dishes to their rightful destinations. I wonder if they ever make mistakes while locating the right house.
Would they mistakenly ring our calling bell? They haven’t made any such mistakes so far. I wonder if the savoury aromas of the food inside the boxes they carry bothers them like it bothers me.
My mind goes back to the pre-pandemic era when I would mindlessly order food both at home and work. I particularly remember General Tao’s chicken, a spicy chicken dish that I ordered from a restaurant located close to the place I worked.
I curse the virus that has changed our lives forever and walk back into our living room. It’s time to go out and buy all the groceries we need for the coming week. My husband and I drive to the nearest grocery store.
We decide to buy some eggs first as we read a local news report that they might be in short supply this season.
“Give me the best eggs you have. I won’t take any broken ones,” my husband tells the shopkeeper. As he waits for the shopkeeper to pack the eggs, a young man in an oversized, faded t-shirt walks up next to him.
“Give me broken eggs for Rs 20,” he says. In no time, the shopkeeper hands him a paper bag of broken eggs.
The young man takes a look at the eggs and says. “Give me slightly better ones. These are so damaged.”
“This is all I have,” the shopkeeper says and looks away.
The young man takes the eggs from him, hands him the money and leaves.
We take our supplies and go back home. I decide to make an egg curry. I boil the eggs. One of the eggs break while I am hurriedly peeling the shell. I decide to use it any way. I fry the eggs and make a rich, creamy curry. I add the golden eggs to the curry and sprinkle some coriander leaves on top. My husband and I set the dinner table. Our little daughter joins us. I watch my husband serve himself some curry atop the rice.
I notice he has picked the broken egg.
I pause for a moment.
We finish the meal in silence. I know what we are both thinking.
Smeeta Mishra teaches communication at the Xavier Institute of Management, Bhubaneswar, and strives to understand people’s words, silences, and everything in between. She tweets @smeetamishra.