The rain was pouring down heavily. Amma brewed a hot cup of masala chai in the kitchen. She peeped out through the window. “Oh! What a cloudy morning.” She saw the vendors drenched and yet standing with the last lot of their unsold vegetables. “Oh, Lord! Please have some pity! Look at them. How desperate he must be to sell and go back home. These clouds today are floating lazily in the breeze and it’s a Sunday for them. Sunday and a fun day! Of course, without any destination, they are floating in the sky making the sky, gloomy and dark black.”Ama took her masala chai and sat on the couch near the window gazing outside. It was a fresh windy and crispy air whistling and inducing laziness in her.
Ring … ring ..
Amma jumped up and picked her phone.
“Are you okay?” Saira was on the other end of the phone.
“Uh … Ah .. beta! I am okay!! Saira, how are you? Did you reach LA?”
“Hmm, Amma but I am travelling to San Diego next week for a project. Isn’t that exciting?”
“Have you eaten anything?” Amma asked anxiously.
“Can we talk about anything else? Don’t ask me what I ate. Sometimes your daughter has to compromise on food. Don’t worry!”
Amma was very worried. Saira used to live alone in the US. She was doing well with her work and career but in the bargain was neglecting herself.
“Beta, take care of yourself.”
“Yes, Amma” Saira rolled her eyes. Amma was listening to Saira’s updated intently. She was talking to Saira while her eyes got stuck on the wall. “David! Now our daughter has her flow. I am happy that I have made her stand on her own feet. But you are gone!” Tears rolled down her eyes as she said these words to herself.
“Amma … are you there?” Saira screamed on the phone.
“Yes .. yes! I am here. Tell me, darling..” Amma replied trying to conceal her sobs.
“Amma .. are you crying?” Saira asked with a heavy voice tinged with concern and irritation.
“Nah beta … I am Okay.”
“Amma, don’t worry. I am alright. I will eat properly but I love you very much. Please do not be sad. I will ask Anu to visit you. Are you feeling lonely ma? Cheer up! I will come soon. Don’t be sad. Anu will be there.”
“Yah! My baby! Take Care.” Amma sadly kept back the phone. Today the was dull. She lay down, rolled over her hands to hold the nearby pillow and her heart searched for him. But he wasn’t there and would never be again. Soon she squeezed back her pillow and eased herself.
Amma suddenly got up. “It must be Anu.” She hurriedly went to open the door.
“Namaste Amma!” Anu, a beautiful girl with sparkling eyes hugged Amma.
“Namaste Anu! How are you beta ….?”
“Fine Amma! Saira told me you are upset! Why Amma?! Whenever you feel low please do ping me. I am all yours Amma. Anu comforted herself in a cosy corner grabbing a cushion in her lap.
“Let me make a cup of coffee Beta” Amma mumbled and walked into the kitchen.
“Oh, Amma! I love your home food. We used to grab Saira’s tiffin in school!”
“Oh, that’s why I always asked Saira how come your tiffin box is always empty whereas at home you have so many tantrums.”
They both laughed and chatted sipping the sizzling cups of coffee.
“Amma I have a great idea! Can you start your Dabba factory from the home?”
“Naah! I can’t!” Amma replied dismissively.
“Oh, Amma! You can. We both will do. I will arrange everything for you. You cook so well. Please use your talent! Let’s go with this. And if you think, ‘I CAN!’ then no one can stop you! Please ‘Ma’!” She put her hand forward. Amma was looking at Anu’s face intently.
” We can! I am with you!” Anu replied with boundless energy.
Both of them resumed their chat. Meanwhile, Amma cooked a delicious dinner which they ate. Amma thought, “Oh God! Bless Anu with lots of happiness. Saira is not here but this girl made me feel so special.” With a happy smile, Anu left for home.
Amma switched on the TV and sat down with a sigh. Thoughts poured in and she decided to act on them. She agreed to whatever Anu had been suggesting. She thought, “There are many people like my own Saira. Poor girl. She is so busy in her professional life that she is skipping meals. They are not able to get proper homemade food and rely on junk food, which proves harmful to their health. Even if I am not able to help Saira, at least I can serve people who are in a similar situation as her. I must do this!” Her resolved stiffened.
“Cooking is my talent. There is no doubt about that. I feel in every nerve of mine that I can cook and serve people and make them happy.” She thought. She glanced at the door, walked through it and into the moonlight. She had decided, she would supply the dabbawalas with homemade food. At least she can do this much for the sake of her daughter. Life is about decisions. And then keeping up with your decisions through the thick and thin.
Amma phone Anu. “Anu darling! Let us make it am ready!!”
“Oh! That’s like my fantastic Amma! That’s like my young lady!!!” Anu chirped. Both laughed and chatted.
The next morning was hailed by bright sunshine with a lot of hope and possibility in its heart. Anu went to the wholesale vegetable market with a list of things she had made to start their Dabba business. She bought all the required ingredients as well as the stuff needed for the delivery. Thrilled with herself, Anu made a call to Amma. “Do you need anything for yourself?”
“No beta. Come home. I am waiting for you”. Amma replied softly.
In a few hours, Anu was at Amma’s place, showing her the shopping she had done at the vegetable market. They made a video call to Saira. “See Saira! I have bought the whole market today!” Amma smiled and picked up things to show it to Saira.
Later, Amma made a sumptuous dinner with her love as the primary ingredient! The food tasted divine. “If you are going to cook like this for the Dabba business, soon we will be the talk of the entire town!” Anu said licking her fingers. As they finished their dinner, Saira shouted on the video call, “I miss you both! Anu thanks for doing all this. You are life to Amma! Thank you, sweetheart!”
Next day a bright morning sun greeted Amma as she got up from the bed. She brewed a hot cup of masala chai for herself. She was sipping on her chai, feeling the cool crisp fresh morning air. The tree branches were dancing in the breeze as if they were discussing their morning plans. Today, the morning seemed to have a calming effect on her. Amma walked into the kitchen and looked at the chart she had made. The chart was a sort of blueprint of her Dabba business. She got on to the task of cooking. Her fingers danced like midgets above a summer stream. She cooked the meals that she had planned as per her blueprint. Anu made some phone calls. After she finished making the calls, she grinned with happiness that she could do something for Amma. After all, Amma had done a lot for her family in the past.
“She cooks so well that we can start homemade healthy Dabba food delivery services at a nominal cost.” Anu happily informed to Saira.
“Oh, Anu! Thank you so much. You made my mom feel so special. You thought so well about her! She will gain confidence and without me, she can engage herself. Thanks a ton, darling.”
“My pleasure Saira!” Anu replied and disconnected the call.
She had meticulously planned everything and contacted different offices and agencies.
After a short while, Amma was done and neatly packed the food in the bright new dabbas. With a smile on her face, she gave the dabbas to the Dabba delivery boy. She had added a delicacy as complimentary. All this occupied the larger parter of her morning and it was now midday.
Soon she was able to juggle her multiple tasks and perform effortlessly. She had coped successfully with her new life.
“Ah, Anu! My first day today! Makes so much difference in my life!”
The dabbawala who collected the tiffins from her soon became fond of her due to her pleasing nature. They loved her simplicity and genuine love. She would offer them tea and snacks while they would wait for the dabbas. She would also want feedback from her customers. She started writing a note in each of her dabbas, once a month asking about the taste, variety and quantity of food. Her freshly cooked tasty food in snugly fitting multilayered dabbas quickly became popular among the customers.
Amma had gained back her confidence and poise. She started serving meals to many. With every meal, she packed her love and care sealed with a hope that none of her customers goes hungry on a busy day like her Saira had to on that day.
Amma’s eyes were sparkling with full of life now. With brimming rays of Sun, Amma now gets busy with her dabbas, Anu is helping her out and watching her brimming with life again!
Six months later Amma was at the Gate No 6 of Mumbai Airport. She looked around to see if there were any comfortable seats. She saw a comfy corner which was vacant but for a young person working on his laptop. On seeing her, he flustered. “Oh Please Ma’am you may sit here. Let me just wrap up my stuff.” He removed his files and made space for her. She settled down on the couch. She took out her mobile and typed a text message, “Girl! I am in the lounge, waiting for the boarding. Coming. Take care!!” Amma was going to meet Saira for her convocation ceremony. Sara was excited and a bit concerned at the thought of her mother travelling all alone to the US. Both were missing each other and looking forward to their meeting.
“This is Vinay! I hope you are comfortable, Ma’am! If you need any help just let me know!” The youngster spoke up.
“Oh, Vinay! Thank you so much. Where are you travelling to?” Amma replied.
“Oh! So we are friends! I am also heading towards LA!” Amma smiled.
Vinay closed his laptop and took out his Dabba. Each of the food containers was marked by four small triangles. Amma noticed this and jumped up. The four triangles were the mark of the Dabba service run by her!!! Vinay opened the containers and the fresh smell of roti and sabzi wafted through the air. Amma was very happy as she watched Vinay have his meal which unknown to him, was prepared by her! She saw Vinay hungrily biting the roti and enjoying every morsel of it. She was delighted to see him savour the homemade meal.
Soon curiosity got better of her. She asked, “Vinay where did you get this Dabba from?”
“Oh! It is from my dabbawala you know Ma’am! I am not keeping well. So I get this food from the Dabba service. It is delicious. I don’t know who makes it but god bless that person for making such nutritious food!”
Amma was smiling. A thought crossed her mind. “The tiffin boxes are packed with so much more than just food! It is a storehouse of memories.” She was very satisfied today. Her face lit up with happiness. She was beaming. It was now that she realised that she had made a great decision by starting this Dabba service. She was doing the society a great service and that made her swell with pride. The sight of Vinay munching away his delicious meal contentedly just doubled her joy! This reflected deep down on her soul. She had found a resolution to all her inner conflicts.
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