Pygmalion

I am in the midst of an interesting and promising looking experience in man management – teaching our maid, Banu, how to cook.

I used to live in a PG (paying guest) place when I first moved into Bombay. I used to have my dinners with the family I was living with. They were Punjabis but used to make vegetarian food. Being a Bengali it was difficult for me to get used to this. Still I will never forget the piping hot rotis, the lovely alu parathas and most of all my landlady who would try to accommodate my whims and try make me feel at home and even tidy up my cupboard when it was in a mess.

Then there was the period when Kainaz and I were dating. We would eat out every night and we soon spent all our savings in Leopolds, JATC, Baybite's, Khaane Khaas, Crystal, Bade Miya's, Churchill, Kobes, Saayba, Sahiban and various other mid range eateries at Bombay. We were both quite broke by the time we got married.

That is when I started cooking. Primarily because we couldn’t afford to eat out, order out or keep a maid. It was truly a case of necessity being the mother as I realized that I enjoyed cooking, discovered that I was pretty good at it and had a knack for it too. Seeing my example Kainaz too picked up the ladle though, as she maintains, she cooked more because I loved food than because she liked cooking.

As the years went by we could afford to keep a cook. In fact Kainaz would get me quite a few numbers of cooks. But I held back saying that I’d prefer to continue cooking as I enjoyed it and that I was not sure if any cook would be able to measure up to my standards.

I had to given in recently though after about seven years when I took up my new job. I now return home later than I did earlier as there is more work and my new office is further away from home. With both of us returning home late it was clear that it would be difficult to cope up with cooking.

So we decided to give our maid of seven years, Banu, a shot. This was especially since we couldn’t get hold of a regular cook. Plus she had began making rotis and parathas for us a month back and did a good job of it. So the time had come for me to give up the control of the kitchen.

I spent the last weekend teaching her a few basic Bengali recipes such as fish kaalia, fish in mustard curry, chicken curry without oil (without oil is my touch), shukto, moong daal and cabbage the way I make it. I am a big believer in delegation rather than micro management and I tried to apply this with her too. So I would give her basic directions and then leave the kitchen rather than taking out the ingredients and then overseeing her. And I must say that she has been a very quick, eager and open minded learner. She has turned out dishes which taste the way they would have if I had made them. This then gave us the confidence to make a few of her own dishes and she has made some pretty nice potato bhaajis and shammi kebabs. I think she has definitely been my most successful and promising ward.

Our life last has been quite different this week. We don’t have to bother about cooking or ordering out when we return after work. We just open the fridge, take out a dish, bung it in the micro and then eat some pretty good food.

I must admit, in public, that Kainaz was right. It is good to have a cook. But hey some of the credit does go to me for making an inspired hire and then training her.
Banu is going to make me chicken biriyani tomorrow. Let's see how it goes.
3