My finest buddy Antubala was a budding chef and her otherworldly recipes cured me of starvation perpetually

The very first thing Antu gifted me was her lice, which discovered contemporary actual property on my head. And the guavas, after all

The very first thing Antu gifted me was her lice, which discovered contemporary actual property on my head. And the guavas, after all

My one and solely childhood buddy was a woman referred to as Antubala. She lived in a tree. It was a guava tree within the overgrown backyard in the back of our home. Its branches have been very eager to enter my room, and rapped loudly on the pane day and night time. One afternoon, once I opened the window at a very sharp rap, I noticed two depraved inexperienced eyes set atop a cucumber nostril watching me belligerently from among the many leaves. The eyes belonged to a nut-brown face with a head filled with matted hair connected to a physique like a twiglet’s.

“Well?” I requested. “Well,” she stated. “There are younger inexperienced guavas throughout this tree. You, together with your slug-body, clearly can’t attain them. I can get them for you should you let me in.” And so began a lifelong friendship that has brought me only pain. The first thing Antu gifted me was her lice, which found fresh real estate on my head. And the guavas, of course.

Once Antu was inside the house, she demanded to be led straight to the kitchen. (Thankfully, the entire household was having their siesta at the time.) Entering the kitchen with a whoop, she quickly plundered the jars of rock salt and chilli powder, generously sprinkling both on the green guavas cut in half. She thought of me only after she had gobbled up at least four. My teeth rattled as they hit the unripe guavas hard as Antu’s heart but I soldiered on, shedding copious tears from the chilli. Meanwhile, Antu inspected the kitchen, poking her dirty fingers into the dough, breathing into the boiled milk, and shaking the setting curd so that it became a watery mess. Job over, she looked at me, guffawed, called me a sissy and disappeared through the window.

Downhill from right here

I felt the impact of Antu’s guavas late at night time: my abdomen cramped as if ten thousand sharks have been waltzing inside. My mom emptied a bottle of Gelusil down my throat and stated, “Antubala has discovered you, I see. It will solely be downhill for you from right here.” And so it was.

My playroom was the garret stuffed with broken furniture, window frames, empty paint cans, my grandpa’s bed pan, and my father’s Hawaiian guitar. Antu soon joined me there. Since she was a budding chef, we tried out various recipes. The first was brick squash, which involved finely grinding brick and then adding water and my mother’s kewra essence to it. We tested it on my sister, who went yellow, green and magenta by turns after taking a sip. When she went howling to mother, I was locked up in the puja room, which was a horror chamber because of its lizards the size of dragons.

It was a sad day as I cowered in the corner of the dark puja room, anticipating an attack from the dragons any time. In desperation, I called Antu, who suddenly appeared before me. Her eyes were glittering, a sure sign of danger, but I was still grateful for her presence. The first thing she did was remove the bead necklace from the Ganesha idol and wear it. Then she attacked the jars of batasha (jaggery candy) my grandma kept there for the gods. The empty jars were rolling on the sacred floor in no time.

Stuffed with the sweets, Antu then drank up the Ganga Jal from the steel tumbler in which grandma had offered it to the idols. “The gods will punish you,” I lashed out at Antu, at which she stuck out her tongue and said, “They already have more than enough to eat and wouldn’t care less. The punishment for the attempted murder of your sister is much more severe, mind you.”

At that moment my grandma unlocked the door, having heard the ruckus inside. As her eyes fell on the empty batasha jars, she hugged me and said, “Those have been stored for you solely, my hungry mite.” Fearing that she wouldn’t be so charitable about the Ganesh necklace, I quickly escaped and locked myself in the garret for the rest of the day.

gutter tea

One of my childhood obsessions was tea, through which my relations drank by the gallon however would not supply me a drop. When I expressed this grievance to Antu, she instantly went about remedying it. She collected the dry peepal leaves that had gathered in heaps close to the gutters on the roof and soaked them in water. After including stolen batasha to the liquor, she ‘boiled’ it over a burning candle. The end result was out of the world, naturally. It quenched my thirst for tea perpetually. Antu remarked sagely, “With Antubala around, you will want for nothing.”

I misplaced contact with Antubala once I was busy coming into the boring grownup world. Suddenly, males — say, John Lennon or Johnny Depp — grew to become extra essential. But that was solely a brief hiatus. Antu got here again as quickly as I had my first heartbreak. But that is a unique, not-to-be-divulged story.

I met her just lately once I had a bout of (non-COVID) fever. As I wiggled my toes and stared on the ceiling in distress, there was that sharp, acquainted rap on the window. Antu was standing exterior, having adopted me from Kolkata to Bengaluru. Her eyes have been glittering. Reader, I let her in.


Easy guava stew


3-4 ripe guavas

Sugar to style

A couple of cloves


1. Deseed guavas. (The seeds catch in your enamel in any other case.) Slice them, however not very skinny so they do not dissolve.

2. Put them in a saucepan and add water until the fruit is nearly coated.

3. Add sugar and cloves.

4. Boil solely until guavas soften. There should be syrup left within the pan.

5. Chill within the fridge.

6. Dish out into particular person bowls and serve with vanilla custard of a pleasant pouring consistency.

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