When Pompi had her first taste of chocolate. Another letter to my niece

Your first taste of chocolate
The dark chocolate cupcake from Le 15 Patisserie Mumbai

Dear Khukumoni,

We finally met again a couple of days back after a gap of two very long months. 

In the interim, our family whatsapp group was flooded daily with your pictures posted by your dad, but it was not the same as meeting you.

The Payesh fiasco

Let me refresh your mind about what happened the last time we met. You had come to Kolkata then for an impromptu part annaprashon- part meet the family trip.

During the annaprashon I fed you some payesh and was followed by others who did so. 

To cut a long story short, you hated it! You started bawling. Overwhelmed possibly both by the number of new faces as well as the unfamiliar taste of payesh and hard rice. You were just 7 months old then.

Your actual annaprashon had happened informally a month back when Satra mama/ kaka fed you some payesh made by your mom at Gurgaon. That you had liked I am told but Kolkata later was chaos.

There was an unfortunate fall out of your payesh trauma. 

I had stayed back for an extra day to spend some time with you in Kolkata. The problem was that every time you would see me you would start crying like there was no tomorrow. 

The waterworks would be turned on only when you saw me. Not for jethi or anyone else!

The only possible explanation was that I had become the dreaded ‘payesh man’ in your head. 

I was very upset at the thought of having pissed you off. 

I spent the rest of my time in Kolkata, with my other favourite girl. Didu, your great grandmother.

Jethur barir abdar (spoilt at jethu's, a play on 'mamar baarir abdar') in Bandra

This time we met in Mumbai. 

You had come for a little vacation at our house in Bandra along with your parents and thammi, my mother. 

The occasion was the launch of my book, The Travelling Belly, and your dad’s birthday which fell on the same day, 6th February, and my birthday the day after on the 7th. 

Once again, like you were when you went to Kolkata from Gurgaon 2 months back, you were quite the champ during both the flights and didn’t cry or create a fuss in the plane. You apparently kept intently looking at everything around you, getting to know the world.

I was supposed to be quite a good traveller as a baby and you did me proud.

Rebuilding relations

I picked you all up from the Mumbai airport and drove home. My back was paining like hell after a food walk inhad conducted that day but the excitement of seeing you made me forget that.

You dozed off in the car and our first interaction was rather uneventful. You were coming to terms with your new surroundings the next day. Seeking the comfort and assurance of your parents.

You didn’t know how to react to unfamiliar faces. When you saw jethi, our cook Banu or me, you would either look at us in wonder, or sob. You rarely smiled on seeing us. You were not sure of what was happening. You were tearing the waters. Plus it was hot compared to Delhi and you were feeling a bit unsteady as you were suddenly only in a frock and diapers and not three layers and a hoodie unlike back home and were not given 3 blankets to sleep under.

The good news for me was that you didn’t bawl ONLY on seeing me. The bad news was that you were not smiling too much.

We had lunch at home the next day. In the evening we drove down to Bandstand and you got your first glimpse of the sea and we took a mandatory selfie in front of Mannat, the house of Shahrukh Khan. It was rather windy and very crowded on a Sunday evening at the seaface. You kept quiet and looked around registering the new sights.

At the end I put my cheeks to yours and you gave me a little kissy and giggled when we were 'cheeks together'. You possibly realized that these cheeks were sweetened with rasgullas. We repeated this ritual three times and you giggled every time before we got back into the car and I drove us home.

I was so happy.

The tale of the first of three birthdays and a chocolate cupcake

That day, 5th February 2017, was also your 9 month birthday. In other words, you had roughly spent as much time outside your mom’s tummy as inside it!

Your parents always celebrated your monthly birthday at that time. They would usually cut a little cake or a pastry back home in Gurgaon on the 5th of every month. 

In keeping with the tradition, we got a dark chocolate cupcake from Bandra’s Le 15 Patisserie. Jethi loves the dark chocolate macarons from there and thanks to her, so do I. We went there as your mom wanted to get a cake from Le 15 to surprise your dad at midnight on his birthday. They don’t cakes at such short notice. Thankfully aunty Pooja, who owns it, is Jethu’s friend and got a cake baked for your dad.

We came home and put a candle on your cupcake birthday cake and cut it and sang for you. You looked at us intently and then at the cake.

Which is when I commanded your dad to give you some cake. He was unsure as you were not allowed desserts yet and were on a pretty restricted diet as you had just begun eating solids. 

But then I am your jethu and I there to spoil you like your dadu would have. So I firmly told your dad to give you some cake.

He gave you a tiny pinch of the cake. You tasted it. Looked a bit puzzled. Then smiled!

I gave you another tiny pinch of the cake and told you, ‘this is dark chocolate.”.

You listened to me intently as you took in the unfamiliar flavours and taste. 

Suddenly you giggled. The you kept laughing for the next ten minutes. Often while looking at me. Your thammi later said that this was your first taste of sugar too.

Chocolate is our friend

That's your dad's cake
which was your second taste of chocolate the next day
The white thing in the background was your bottle steriliser
In the pic: me, thammi, mummy, daddy, jethi

I don’t know if this was a sugar rush but you kept looking at me and giggling after that till your parents took you in to sleep.

You were asleep by the time it was midnight and when we cut your dad’s cake.

The next morning, you same when you woke up. This time you didn’t cry on seeing me. Your dad was keeping you occupied in the hall while your mom made your lunch.

I was having some coffee with a bit of your dad’s birthday cake. Then I offered you a pinch of his cake from last night. Dark chocolate once again. From Le 15 Patisserie,

You giggled once again!!!!!

I had learnt years back that dark chocolate was the best way to calm your jethi down when I had upset her.

Turned out that this worked for you too.

The balloons were my birthday gift from you
The smile was on having you
finally smile at me again

PS: You didn’t get to have my birthday cake as you were asleep when we cut it the next night. The cake ‘surprise’ for me got delayed a bit though as you had pooped at midnight and your parents were cleaning you up and putting you back to sleep before they could come to the hall and join everyone in wishing me with cake and gifts. 

They had bought me balloons on your behalf and that was my favourite gift.

PPS: You were very well behaved in all the restaurants that we went to in the trip - Candies, The Sassy Spoon and Ling's Pavilion - and slept in your pram there just as you did through my book launch which is why I couldn't call you on stage. You did wake up at Ling's but possibly found the 'no beef and barely any pork' order that night boring just as Baba Ling did. Grandma Teddy sang you Do re mi while your parents ate. Next door was RBYC where Jamshed Uncle, who loved seeing your pictures even when he was in pain in the hospital, would have taken you had he not left for the Yacht Club in the sky just a few days back 

Selfie at my book launch at Mumbai's Cross Maidan
at the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival
You were sleeping in your pram in the audience
There's Thanmmi and Grandma Teddy on stage too
Along with Kurush Dalal, Kunal Vijayakar and Vikram Doctor
Three men whom I look up to for their food stories