Monday, 5 March 2012

Fiction: Hell can wait!

The Writers' Circle is back and this time we are trying our hands at fiction. 
I have given this a tentative title for now, but would welcome any suggestions.

Hell can wait

He opened his eyes and found himself standing in front of a huge gate. It took him a few moments to realise what was happening. He had been dead for only a couple of minutes but it felt like eternity. He wasn't sure what would happen next.

And then he saw some one approaching him from behind the gates. It was a welcome sight to see another 'person' and suddenly he realised that he must be standing at the gates of heaven. "So this is how it all ends, at least I am in front of heaven." He felt happy.

The Apsaras were all excited too, at the thought of having a chef come and stay with them.
 “Finally I can learn how to make perfect souffles!” Thought one of them.

But the chef was being told some thing else by the gate keeper “ You know we would love to have you here in heaven but although you have done a lot of good deeds by pleasing a lot of people through your food, there is one thing that is preventing you from making heaven your home.

You have broken a lot of hearts through that program on TV, where you judge a cooking competition. Your caustic remarks and harsh language made half of those aspiring chefs to abandon their dreams and some were so depressed after that competition, that they thought they were good for nothing.

But you are still being given a chance. We have arranged a similar test for you where you have to cook something with the given conditions. If you succeed you may enter heaven, otherwise the other world is waiting for you. But you are used to Hell’s kitchen arent you?"

The chef smiled, after all this was something he did every waking moment of his life. How hard can it be?

He was then led onto the kitchen area. Everything looked different. It reminded him of his long lost & forgotten village kitchen where his grandmother used to cook. There was nothing he could identify with, no non stick cookware, no ovens, no gadgets, not even a proper sink! He was handed a sheet of paper with instructions and was left alone.

"Cook something savoury using Chickpea flour and the other things provided." Said the sheet. He looked around for other ingredients and found a tray with some basic essentials but only a few teaspoons of oil. So frying was out of question. He looked around and could see only one sauce pan, a few spoons, a few plates and a small herb garden. For once, he was stumped for ideas. His mind went blank and he could not think of anything at all.

As he gathered himself and started to think, all ideas he came up with, required elaborate ingredients and costly gadgets. While he was looking for a way out, his thoughts kept returning to one student who he had criticised a lot. He would always look lost in the plush kitchen of the Chef's culinary school. The student would always make something that his great aunt would make at home for him and the Chef would always ridicule him for that, saying, how did he expect to serve something as plain as Khandvi to the distinguished guests in his 5 start restaurant. His Khandvi had tasted great and was so simple to make though.

"Of course! Thats what I can make now!" He tried to remember what the student had done and how.He quickly gathered everything he needed to make it and went about preparing it. He was just adjusting the coriander garnish, when the gate keeper walked in and asked him to stop, since his time was over. The chef proudly presented his dish and waited for the verdict.

To his own astonishment, he was actually sweating with tension and was really scared of what he would hear about his creation. Is this what the contestants went through while he smugly went on tasting their creations and said whatever came to his mind. Hardly ever appreciating any one, always keeping them on their toes and conveniently ignoring their best efforts?

He looked at the gate keeper's  facial expressions for a clue and was even more tensed. He took his time tasting the Khandvi, looked at him one last time and said “ I will let you know the decision but after our special guest has tasted this." As they all looked on, a young boy, no more than 5yrs of age entered the kitchen and went straight for the dish. He took a mouthful and instantly spat it out. The chef could not believe what had happened, a first for him. He was about to give up completely when the boy returned to the plate and carefully picked out the coriander leaves with his fingers, then picked up the 'clean' khandvi and relished it.

He turned to the chef and said " Its delicious but without all the green leaves that you put there for decoration." The decision was made, the chef could stay there but on the one condition that he would cook for them and be prepared for their criticism every day.