chapter 7 - a mother's gift

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Martha the house lady was a wonderful woman.

She was like your grandmother, best aunty and acid aunt all on one.

She was about my height and obviously loved her food, but moved with speed and strength that you didn't expect. She as a magic twinkle in her eye and seemed to know what you needed before you even did.

' Ah! There you are child! I was wondering when I would finally meet the new Mrs Malhotra!" she exclaimed, washing her hands before shaking mine.

Arn't you a sight for sore eyes, and look at those bags under your eyes, you look like you haven't slept a day in 40 nights! I bet you would love a cuppa tea right now and probably a biscuit or two.' And she started the kettle.

I hadn't said a word and watched in awe as she busied herself around the kitchen, making the preparations for lunch.

' Its always so stressful when the senior Malhotra's come to eat, Vimlesh isn't so bad, he will eat just about anything, but Leena, well, she expects me to cook like a Michelin starred chef!"

I watched her pop a teabag into a large mug, how did she already know that I enjoyed a big cup of tea?

"Umm Martha?" I said hesitantly, not wanting to disturb her groove, ' Do you mind if I make my own tea?"

' oh sure Honey, this is your kitchen too now after all.'

I smiled , there was so much difference between her and Stanford, she was like happiness in a bottle while Stanford was stiff and formal.

Martha directed to the pantry and showed me where the pots and pans were, the pantry was huge and I wondered why one person could need so much food.

I measured out a bit of water in a pot and popped in two tea bags, and watched as it slowly came to a boil, watching the clear water turn a deep red colour from the tea, then added a good quantity of milk and some ginger strips I had found in the fridge, watching carefully to make sure the tea didn't boil and spill everywhere.

'Hmm honey that smells delicious! So I'm guessing you know your way around a kitchen."

' Yep, I love cooking, been cooking since I was 10, Mumma always said that food fed the soul as well as the body and she made sure I could cook. My brother on the other hand lives on instant noodles and takeaways. There's heaps of tea here, do you want a cup?"

' Normally I'd say no, its my job to serve you , not the other way around! But I've never had ginger in my tea, or tea boiled on a stovetop before, and it smells divine!"

I poured out two mugs, straining off the tea bags and ginger pieces and sugared them lightly. The smell of the milk and ginger engulfed the kitchen and Martha brought out some biscuits.

The kitchen was light and airy, surrounded by tall glass windows and was well designed with neat clean lines, it was fashionable and functional and I hoped to be able use it more often.

The tea was smooth and silky, and the ginger warmed my insides. While this place didn't feel like home yet, at least I could make it taste like home.

' Oh honey before I forget, there was a box that came with your things labelled ' kitchen'. I assume your mother sent it for you.' She pointed at a box on the counter , knife still in hand. 'The tea is yum by the way.' Taking a large gulp of the steaming liquid, not seeming to notice that the tea was scalding hot.

I wondered what Mumma had sent for me, there wouldn't be anything I would need surely?

Pulling open the box and staring at its contents, there inside was a spice rack , filled with all the spices I could ever wish for, there were jars of homemade sweets and homemade ndian pickles and achars.

And placed on top of everything, were a few fresh chilies, wrinkled and limp. It was traditional to give chilies when you sent food to someone, to ward off an evil eye so that the food wouldn't spoil.

I pulled out everything slowly, tears streaming from my eyes again. How could Mumma know to send me these?

How could she know that such a simple gift would have so much sentiment to me, and as I spun the spice rack, staring at the spices inside the glass vials, I was transported back to cooking lessons as a child, with Mumma as she patiently explained what each spice was and how they were used, my insides felt funny and I wanted to be back home again.

" Aww honey, don't you start crying!" Martha exclaimed, enveloping me in a big hug. ' you miss your family don't you?"

Sobbing into her shoulder, I nodded, I don't know why, but this lady made me feel at home, less lonely.

' Cheer up Hun, lets dry those eyes and put on happy face. Those In Laws of yours will be here soon and you don't want them walking into a crying mess. What would Master Phillip think?"

'I don't care what he thinks!"

' Well you should. Tell you what, you freshen up and I will clear a shelf in the pantry for all your goodies."

A half an hour later I was back in the kitchen, the contents of my box now sitting neatly in the pantry, and I tried as best as I could to help Martha with the lunch preparations.

" Leena, I told you, I told you I could smell it." A mans voice came booming into the kitchen.

" Vimlesh I am sure you must be imagining it." A lady called after him, the sound of her heels clicking along the marble tiles.

Suddenly a well dressed Indian man burst into the kitchen, taking a big whiff of the air, the senior Mr Malholtra had made his entrance and his even more immaculately dressed wife followed him.

They both stared at me, as if they were amazed to find me in the kitchen.

Oh hell, what did I do?

Quickly as I could I washed my hands and walked towards them, and did something I had only done to my parents on Diwali ,and the pundit after a prayer ceremony, I bowed and touched their feet, preforming the act of pranama, an act of great respect.

They must have been a little shocked, because for moment they did nothing and after what seemed like forever for me Mr Malhotra put his hand on my head, essentially offering me his blessings. Mrs Malhotra just huffed and walked out of the room.

' Ah! The lovely Victoria, its nice to see you again Bahuu ( Indian term for daughter in law), you are lovelier than I remember! My Phillip will have his hands full with you."

I couldn't help but blushing, my new father in law was obviously a charmer.

'Now Bahuu, the smell of ginger chai is all over the house, could you be a dear and make me and Leena a cuppa? And while you're at it, a few spicy pakoras would also be nice, I've been shopping with her all morning and I am starved!" and he walked off to find his wife.

" Well I guess you had better get started, I'll tell Stanford that the senior Malhotra's are here and get the poolside patio set up, but I suspect he already knows."

' It beats actually sitting and talking to them, i'm guessing that my new mother in law is already not a fan.'

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