“Me?”….. “No, It is He, who is the Magician Chef !”


This excerpt is from my novel on senior citizens, with the title “My stay in Old- Age Home.” I am playing a protagonist in first person in that novel.
Here, I come across a poor woman named Shalini who despite un- availability of the Oven baked finger- licking cakes using a pressure cooker !
Who not only cooked the tastiest of pulses on coal and dried cow-dung (when the cooking gas cylinder could not be purchased because we were short of funds ), but who also cooked delicious Carrot halwa with very little milk at her disposal!
Sometimes, we used to keep a watch on her while she was in the kitchen, just to find out if she had hidden some ingredients elsewhere and threw them in to the frying – pan or whatever utensil she used to cook- when no one was around.
However, I stopped playing Sherlock Holmes on her, the day I heard her prayer in verse! Here goes the excerpt from the novel:
“The first thing I did was to start the celebration of the birthday of each individual. A black board was put in the Old- Age Home mess announcing the birthday.
The food that day was cooked strictly as per his or her choice on that day as well as the small gifts like cards, flowers, beads; bouquets etc. were given to the birthday boy or girl among the rounds of incessant shouts of “Happy birthday to you!” Accompanied by slow and steady claps from the umpteen humble, yet firm hands, encircling him or her!
A cake was made in the kitchen by using a pressure cooker by the Chief chef Shalini tai sans the colour and the essence, sans the almonds and cashew nut,but I always thought the ingredients which were missing were more than made up with her true love, her true and intense desire to spread happiness through cooking and her true compassion for mankind.
I never ever had the opportunity of having had a tastier cake than the one made by her.
Whenever I asked Tai ( Elder sister) THE secret recipes or the true reasons for being able to turn out such tasty dishes, which were in fact not known to me at all, she would humbly attribute it to her unconditional love for everyone staying in the Home whom she considered like her own children (No, she was not the oldest member in the Home ! In fact she was one of the youngest ) and her prayers to heavens, pointing her index finger to the skies !
Upon my continuous requests, she did ultimately give in and revealed the secret prayer to me which was originally in Marathi, but which translated into something like quoted below: This prayer was meant for the desserts like the cake.
She changed the prayer slightly depending upon the dish she cooked. In fact, I overheard a word or two of the prayer in poetry, which she was hymning in her soulful voice while she was preparing the dough, as if she was meditating deeply !
“O Almighty! I am a poor soul, I don’t have any sugar, but only a little jaggery, I don’t have any Chocolate , no food color , no kesar , no costly nuts, nor any essence, no vanilla, no kewada no rose !
You know, my poor dad cannot afford these costly ingredients, though he toils in the field, every minute ,365 days. My elder brother is jobless, the younger is still a student, my mother still works as a maidservant but I do pour in all the love, all the sincerity and all the compassion of my heart into the dough, while chanting your holy name Vithala, Vithala (the name of God) on my lips simultaneously, with each breath.
O! The ruler of the universe, kindly do take the trouble to bless my dish and kindly touch a bit of it to your lotus- bud- like red lips before it is offered to any living being.
O Lord! Protect my name, protect my reputation, and protect my image.They think I am a magician chef, which You know I am not! How could I ever be? I am only an insignificant devotee begging for your mercy at thy feet.
They do not know the grace is all Yours, the taste is imparted by you alone ,that You are the Alchemist, that the good things in life cannot be ever had without Your blessings !
Therefore, God; make it tasty, make it heavenly, make it divine, let them lick their fingers for a long time. Let the sweetness of the dish trickle into their lives ! Let them speak in sweet and loving voice to each other !
Let the hunger of the hungry be fulfilled forever, let the thirst of the thirsty be quenched, forever! Let those who do not have any thing, have everything. Let there be everlasting peace every where. ”
"Let everyone in this world remain healthy, let everyone live for 100 years, let no one get sick ever, let the darkness from our lives be removed, let the Sun shine upon every one in the Universe,all the time ! "
……………….Her prayer in verse is over! Need I say more? Please join me in saying "Amen !" in the end.

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Published in Senior Chatters


  1. cappuccino

    Your blogs are inspirational and thought provoking Abhilaaj,but I find them too long…As a result I tend not to read them anymore…..But that,s just me !…Dont stop blogging,coz others enjoy them.

  2. roseinbloom

    Interesting blog. Seems to me women are expected to work miracles. It seems there is too much pressure on the woman and many women do work miracles, and the credit should go to them and not the god or gods. I am a western woman and I do believe that Indian women need more equality.

  3. bathchairdave

    I noticed a comment about the length of your blogs. Seems to me a story teller has a duty the audience? – An introduction, naturally, information with inflectation, consideration, and of course conclusion. Amen does negate conclusion somewhat ( notice my mirth at this point). Fact is all this must take it’s time – as in good cooking.
    Loved it