“The party is tomorrow”, my mother reminds me. “Are you excited?”
I glance down. “I’m excited for everyone to meet Akaash. Do you think they’ll like him?”
“Of course. If you like him, they will too.”
I’m seated at the dinner table, devouring the steaming paranthas that she’s bringing over from the kitchen.
“So what should I make for tomorrow?”, she asks. “What does Akaash like to eat?”
“Anything, Ma. Everything you cook is so good.”
“Comes from years of practice”, she replies, deftly flipping yet another parantha off the hot tawa.
“What was the first thing you ever made?”, I ask.
She shrugs. “I don’t remember. I was never so passionate about food. After I got married I had to manage the house. You pick up these things when you have kids.”
I frown. “But you love cooking, don’t you?”
“I do”, she assures me. “But it’s not always easy cooking every day for a big family.”
I ponder over this as she retreats into the kitchen.
“Ma…tomorrow, don’t make anything. I’ll cook dinner for everyone.”
“Just. I’ve invited them, after all. You relax and have fun.”
After dinner, I call Akaash. We browse a list of recipes.
“You like pasta”, he suggests.
“Too easy”, I reply. “I want it to be special.”
“I’ll make Khao Suey!”, I exclaim. “The Burmese noodle dish. It’s perfect.”
Akaash was quite enthusiastic about it, too.The next morning, my mother receives the news less enthusiastically.
“Sounds difficult, no?” Her brow is furrowed. “At least let me help cut vegetables?”
I firmly block her entrance to the kitchen.
“I’m going to take care of everything. You just sit and chill, no?”
While the water pot slowly begins to bubble, I poke around the kitchen for any ingredients in line with my theme. Coconut, lemon, coriander. The counters are soon crowded with a riot of colour. I should start chopping the ingredients. Or maybe I should wash all the vegetables first? But we’re almost out of coconut milk, maybe I should go buy some?
I glance at my phone. Three hours to go for our guests to arrive. I clear my head by deciding what to wear tonight. The pot on the stove is steaming, encouragingly. But, when I dip a fork in I can tell that the noodles are still raw. I look back at my phone, two hours left. There’s still plenty to do. I begin painstakingly slicing all my ingredients. Forty five minutes pass and I’m only halfway done. Panic starts to set in.
My hands shake slightly. A pod of garlic bounces from under the knife and flies across the kitchen.
“What are you doing?”
I turn around defensively. My sister, Megha, peers into the pot of noodles.
“This is really big. It’ll take a long time to boil.”
“I know”, I fret. “Everyone will be here in just an hour, and nothing’s ready.”
“Oh? One second.”
She pokes her head out of the doorway “Ma! Can you come help?”
“Don’t call her”, I whisper urgently.
Before I can reply, my mother enters. They both look at me expectantly.
“What can we do?”
Their calm faces rub off on me. I gesture at the pile of uncut vegetables. We all fall to work. I’m surprised at how quickly the list of tasks gets ticked off.
“We’re almost done, Tushar”, says Megha. “Go get ready.”
By the time I return, our guests have begun to arrive. I see Akaash, chatting with my cousin.
“Hi”, I say gloomily.
“My Khao Suey is a disaster. Ma’s probably so upset.”
“She looks okay.”
I follow his gaze. My mother stands across the room, laughing happily. I make my way to her side, quickly.
“I’m so sorry, Ma”
She looks surprised “Sorry? What for?”
“I wanted you to have a good day, not get stuck in the kitchen cooking for everyone.”
She gave me her warmest smile and patted my cheek. “Stuck? I was with both of you. As if I wouldn’t enjoy that.”
“Come on, everyone”, I hear Megha call. “It’s time to eat. We have something special today, Tushar has made Khao Suey.”
Across the room Akaash smiles at me. I take my mother’s hand and smile back. People sometimes ask about the night I introduced my boyfriend to my family. They always look like they’re expecting a horror story about awkward conversation or flat out rejection. That’s how I know I am lucky. Oddly enough, what I remember most from that day is slaving over a pot of Khao Suey.