Having small children can mean many things. It means beautiful songs written impromptu and sung in the middle of the night for the entire family in the living room. It means surprise hugs when you come home tired after a long day of work. It means naughty smiles and generous giggles. It means a full house on festivals and lots of overflowing love.
It also means having soup dropped onto your white T shirt in the middle of a party. A full journey of crying because your child’s favorite movie is not on their in-flight entertainment list. It also means annoying the entire guest list at a restaurant because your kid suddenly found it funny that the table napkins are blue in color.
I have had many food fixes being a mom. But the one that stands out the most in my memory is one that can be shot into a 70mm movie, starring George Clooney and Michelle Pfeiffer (I loved them together in ‘One Fine Day’), and showcased in theaters across the world.
So, what happened was on the lovely day of our fifth anniversary many years ago. Our daughter was two at that time and we thought it was an appropriate age for a toddler to make a debut in restaurants. Now keep in mind that these were the days when there were no fancy apps, internet, or the works. So we went to my favorite restaurant in Karol Bagh (it’s called ‘Dimple’, and I think it’s still there though we haven’t been there for years now). This restaurant used to have Ghazal singers singing live, a cozy ambience and some delicious Indian food. So both me and my husband couldn’t think of a better place to celebrate five years of bliss, in the most tranquil and romantic way possible.
Of course that was not meant to be.
We reached the restaurant at around 8PM and sat down in one of the central tables amply lit and with a great view of the singers. The waiter was promptly at our table and took orders for soups and starters. There was a little lilt in the air and some cool breeze from outside. My mind was humming.
It is moments like these,
When life seems like a breeze.
I could die here at this moment with no regrets,
With a smile on my lips and my hearts filled with peace.
We had ordered tomato soups. They were in front of us soon. For our daughter, we had asked for a smaller bowl and little soup which could cool down faster and keep her engaged for most of the evening. The waiter seemed delighted in the company of this pretty princess, well-behaved and charming, disciplined and obedient. He elegantly placed the bowl in front of her as we sprinkled ours with black pepper and added crispy fried bread to ours’.
In a second there was a deep agonizing sound. We both looked in the direction where it had come from.
In her excitement, our daughter had pounced at the soup in such a way that the spoon had bounced off the table and hit the waiter right in the center of his nose. At this moment he stood there transfixed and stunned without any words. After 5 slow painful seconds, he came to terms with what had happened and politely smiled at us, with one hand on the bridge of his nose, maybe to prevent it from falling down due to the impact. In the most civil way, he left, all the while our daughter oblivious to what had happened and busy taking sips of the soup with another spoon she had found next to my plate. We both pretended as if nothing had happened. The fact that she was not squealing for my help to eat was enough of a boost for me to be happy about.
Our appetizers, ‘paneer tikka’ and ‘achari aaloo’, arrived shortly as well. This time the waiter stated on my husband’s side of the table, as if trying to avoid the little monster as much as possible. We understood his concerns and were overtly nice to him. Plus it helped that he kept those two dishes close to us, because they would be very spicy and we had no intention for the little one to have them. We served some pieces for ourselves and got busy listening to the beautiful ghazals again.
Soon we heard a hiss. We both turned around.
Till date we have no idea how it happened, but somehow like a turtle ninja, the little girl has leaped up and helped herself to a piece of the fiery chilli ‘achari aaloo’ and put it in her mouth within a nano-second. Now with the chilli playing havoc with her tongue, she was in a state of confusion and hissing ferociously to soothe her palate. I was so baffled that I really did not know what to do. I could not even believe that a two-year old was capable of such acrobatics. Thankfully, my husband has faster reflexes and he reacted faster. He made her gulp down some water till her face lost its scary red color and she seemed calmer. My husband looked at me in a triumphant way to show who was a better parents and I just pretended to ignore him.
I loved the ‘makhani paneer’, ‘malai kofta’ and ‘tandoori rotis’ at ‘Dimple’ and couldn’t wait to order them. Since it was a special day, we decided to be a little lavish and ordered some ‘pindi chhole’ and ‘stuffed kulchas’ to go with the spread too. For my daughter, I ordered some ‘dal fry’ with a special instruction to completely tone down the spice. I wanted to feed her the daal with little bites of the roti, and keep her stomach in check. She had been eating external food only for a few months, and outside food only for a few weeks now, so I did not want to take any chances.
By now, the restaurant was full and buzzing with excitement. There were families ou having a good time, couples looking deep into each other’s eyes, groups of friends laughing happily, everybody adding to the loveliness of the evening. The ghazal singer was taking requests as well, so I had already asked for two of my favorite ones, by Ghulam Ali and Pankaj Udhas respectively, and I was feeling delirious with joy. My husband was also enjoying a lot, as I could clearly see from his animated expressions as he nodded to people, placed orders or smiled at us periodically. Plus, of course he had established that he was a calm and mature parent. By the time the food came at our table, all the various diners had literally become one big family, gently humming the tunes together. My heart was singing.
What is there in this world, if not love?
What is worth dying for, if not love?
What can soothe all wounds, and melt all hearts?
What is worth living for, if not love?
The food was delicious. Fresh and flavorsome, we perked up the moment we saw it. We were so excited to see it that we even started serving ourselves first before we put some daal and roti for our daughter. In between I looked at my husband and he seemed to be marveling at the sight of the stuffed kulchas and delectable pindi chole, so I thought it is okay for us to take bite before we start feeding. Well, he is a composed parents, isn’t he? Almost on cue, he looked at me and gave a little nod and then looked at the little one and gave a smile, indicating ‘all is well’. I took my first bite of the warm fuzzy rotis with the creamy paneer and koftas in one go.
There was a loud clank.
And then a splatter.
And then pin-drop silence.
In which we could only hear some skin slowly blistering.
This time we did not have to turn around because around fifty heads in the restaurant had already turned around and were looking at the three of us.
It took my two minutes to register what had happened. Seeing us both put our first bites in our mouths, our daughter perhaps felt that we had abandoned her, and unlike every day at home, when we first feed her before even thinking about eating anything, today we will treating her like an outcast. And perhaps in that thought, she felt grown up and responsible to eat herself? So she lifted the bowl of daal, which of course was slightly warm and heavy. She could not sustain it for too long and her tiny hands gave up soon enough. The bowl instead of landing on the floor or on the table, landed straight at my husband’s white shirt (that I had just gifted him for the anniversary).
As the white shirt slowly turned yellow, and the warm liquid pricked him a bit through it, we had fifty petrified, horrified and almost mummified faces look at us in utter shock and bewilderment. All this while, she jumped up and down as if she had achieved a huge feat. Embarrassed, wordless and muddled, we picked up the remaining pieces of our dignity and started getting up. Sensing that perhaps now things were not so good and she had been responsible for it. She did what she seemed to be doing the best in those years.
She started howling.
And this was a food fix of the highest order. Half soaked in warm daal, trickling down to his pants, my husband sat down. I followed suit. I tried to soothe her, making a show of normalcy as much as possible. But she just wouldn’t calm down. I could really hear from clicks of tongues by people who clearly thought what bad parents we were. My husband picked her up and tried to cajole her by slowly cradling her and that seemed to work. But now she insisted on sitting on his lap.
So we had to sit there for another half hour, he soaked in dal and her, me soaked in peaks of embarrassment, she soaked in little-baby-humor.
The food was delicious and perhaps that was the only saving grace of the evening.
Today after many many years of that incident, that seemed monumental at that time, as I recollect it and type about it here on my blog, I can feel a smile forming on my lips, that slowly turns into a laugh :)
What was probably a horrific moment that led a young couple to be embarrassed, and even a little angry towards a little daughter that had no idea of what was happening, is now a beautiful gorgeous nostalgic moment that we love to talk about as a family almost each time we get together. What was once perhaps a memory to shudder about, is not perhaps a memory that we are so glad to have. It was such a gorgeous moment that bonded us against those fifty people that sat there judging us. It was such a wonderful moment where we came together and did what we could best do in those circumstances. It makes for wonderful fodder for leg pulling and many more wonderful memories in our family archive.
They have looked at me sensed my thoughts,
They have held my hand when I felt weak.
My family has shaped me over the years,
Given me a reason to live when all looked bleak…
Today of course, after typing this post, I again plan a meal from a restaurant, since it is almost evening and I don’t feel like cooking, just lazing in front of this beautiful sunset remembering my crazy family’s crazy moments, with this warm and fuzzy cup of tea cradled in one hand. And of course, I have grown up children now, who are well-traveled, intelligent and wonderful, who will not embarrass us but probably surprise us by their choice of cuisines, places and gestures, but as family we do something else when we feel like eating restaurant food. We use one wonderful app that surprises us with its intuition and elegance, each time we use it to order food.
It is called ‘Tiny Owl’.
Tiny Owl is simple in its accessibility yet thought out in its design, beautiful in its layout yet resourceful in its utility, vast in its options yet cozy in its interface.
I love to order through simple swipe movements, with its array of restaurants, great offers and selections. And what’s more its surprises me each time I visit it!
So while you enjoy your favorite delicacies…
….the kids can order their favorite dishes and desserts!
Well, if you are a young parent who has either gone through what I did, or worry about going through it, then I cannot recommend ‘Tiny Owl’ enough to you. Downloading it was so simple even for a tech newbie like me! I have an iphone and found the app on the store, but for Android users, you can go to google play and find it. Order some of the best food that is available out there in the most friendly and convenient way, and eat it in the luxury and comfort of your home, with your little one prancing around the familiar open space of your home, just how she deserves to, every day :)
And don’t forget to share those young parents moments with me, if there are any ;)