The reason behind me loving my mother’s fish curry so much, I guess is because I associate it with my happy times, we used to visit our grand mother every other day when my father hadn’t left us and she used to prepare this for us using various fish – rohu, salmon, haddock, cod, catfish. Those were very happy times and I can still taste that fish in my mouth, just thinking about the memory.
From the place where we were to sit for dinner, we could see the kitchen and the chefs creating their wonders, from there, I noticed my mother talking to this strange man whom I haven’t even said hello, so I went in the kitchen to greet the man. I said “Hello, this is Bombay, I am Rita’s son”, I extended my hand for a hand shake and as soon as the man reached out for my hand, I could see some similarities between my father and the way he looked. He also had a mole on his upper lip on the right hand side, just like my father and also had similar broad face and big eyes. I could be wrong, thinking this, I just continued nonchalantly. We shook hands, I could see some tears in the man’s eyes, he asked me if he can hug me, to which I said yes and then he hugged me tightly. Right then, I realized that the man was no-one else but my father who left us 20 years ago. He had re-appeared. I was in a fix, I didn’t know what to say, how to behave, what to tell him. I just said “How are you papa” and he said “I am sorry son”. That’s it, that was all I ever wanted to hear. I always thought it was my fault somehow, that my father had left us. I thought he hated me or was ashamed of me and my habits. I wasn’t so good at cricket as I was at singing, I wasn’t very good at Mathematics as I was at Arts. But those were my thoughts when I was a child. When I grew up, I just thought he left us because he had an affair with some one else and made my peace with it.
I wanted to ask him, where did you go, what did you do but before I could ask all this, I could feel my mouth getting dry and tears rolling down my eyes, like a 10 year old boy who had just met someone he lost. I cried. I cried like a little boy. It was a moment I would cherish forever, life does not give second chances to many, but here I was, a second chance to my father, a second chance to me, a second chance to my mother and a second chance to our family. I loved him. I was lucky that I had both the men in my life present for this special occasion.
My mother had told everything to my father and he knew who Johan was. They met each other that night and I could see my father accepting who I was with lot of zeal, maybe he was trying to make up for all the lost years or may be he really was a good guy. I looked at my mother and she was as happy as I was. We sat together as a family and had dinner that night. The flavors of this dinner will stay with me forever. Johan, witnessed a lot of drama, to which he wasn’t accustomed to, but he took it rather well and chatted with my mum and dad for a long time. That amazing fish curry, I got to know that night the trick behind achieving that perfect balance of flavors, the one that my grandmother passed on to her son and then to her daughter-in-law, was the addition of ground mustard seeds to the marinade. My mother had in a way passed this on to her son and her son-in-law, that night.