AALEKH

The Guest Blog

Barfi and Biryani

by Aashka Kotecha

Abdul was literally, the most sought-after local superhero in Madhur society. Well, how often do you see Batman or Spiderman delivering words from loved ones? I guess never. But where Batman and Spiderman failed, Abdul came to the rescue. The local postman in Madhur society. And if you think, letters were the only thing that Abdul brought along, then you are in for a sweet surprise. Along with letters from the loved ones, Abdul would come bearing barfi… Paneer Barfi…

As weird as the combination sounds, the barfi was no less than a cotton ball in your mouth. Loaded with rose, chocolate, and strawberry flavors, the barfi was Abdul’s superpower. People would hope and pray for a letter just to lay their hands on Abdul’s special paneer barfi.

As much as everybody in Madhur society awaited Abdul and his special Barfi, Abdul had his soft spot for the society. No, it wasn’t the love-filled eyes or the kids clinging around him or the lush green gardens there. But it was the human equivalent of his paneer barfi aka Nagma Begum.

Nagma used to be a chef in Starlight hotel situated right outside the railway station. Mind you, she ain’t called the Begum for no reason. Nagma legit ruled the savoury world. Her hands crafted out the best Biryani the town had ever guzzled. Nagma would just take a whiff of ingredients and dish out the combinations that were impossible for a human mind to comprehend. Begum truly ruled the culinary world or so she thought she will.

Nagma was married to Col. Sheikh who was declared a martyr in a war. Not only did Sheikh Sahib left Begum alone, but he left Begum without a zeal to cook any more magical dishes. The world was not only deprived of Sheikh’s laughter but it was also stripped off of Begum ki Biryani. Now Begum would just be locked up all day in her apartment, sitting on her balcony, leading a bland life with no spices of love and laughter.

But Abdul’s heart melted with every sight of Begum. Abdul had been a regular customer to the Starlight hotel and had secretly crushed on Begum, her biryani, and her love for feeding everyone that came to her door.

Abdul would bribe the kids in the garden with an extra piece of barfi just to deliver one piece to the Begum. But Begum was a tough cookie to crack… like those elaichi in your biryani!!

Finally, there came a day when the government decided to intervene in their one-sided love story. They sent in some pension letters by post, to be delivered to Nagma Begum, the one living in Madhur society and ruling Abdul’s heart. As soon as Abdul flung opened the post box to collect the letters for the day, his heart somersaulted out of his chest. Today, he combed his thinning hair a little extra nice and ironed his shirt a little extra crisp. He packed 2 extra pieces of his special paneer barfi for his very own paneer barfi aka the Begum.

Abdul knocked on Begum’s door with all the glitter in his eyes and shiver in his hands. He froze for what we call an infinite time when he first heard Begum’s voice. Their fingers ruffled
against each other as Abdul handed her the post and offered her a piece of his finest barfi.
The stars, the barfi, the post… everything worked out in Abdul’s favor and he got the best gift he could expect: A thank you, a smile, and a deal from Nagma Begum. The deal was that Abdul would get Begum a piece of barfi every day.

This was the start; this was the saga. Barfi and Biryani, if you must say, were the best combination indeed. Abdul would walk up to Begum’s apartment every day without fail carrying a piece of barfi in his hands and a story to share, in his heart. Begum would return the favor with her sweetest smile that would put Abdul’s barfi to shame. Days passed by and their friendship, their comfort grew warmer.

Until one day, when hell broke loose all over Abdul and his poor heart. He opened the post box as a part of his daily routine to collect the letters he had to distribute for the day. But this morning, there was a special packet, addressed to Abdul himself. A postman receiving a post for himself was not something Abdul ever anticipated. But with a throbbing heart, Abdul opened the packet only to shrink down next to the post box.

There was a box full of biryani and not just any biryani; it was Begum ki Biryani. Abdul’s love, kindness, stories, and barfi helped Begum to cook back her zeal for food and for feeding the hungry.

Abdul rode his bicycle to Begum’s apartment as fast as he could but to his sheer disappointment, he was met with a locked apartment door. Abdul started running up and down the floors, bewildered and nervous, only to be surrounded by a bunch of kids eating Begum ki Biryani and holding a letter for Abdul. Begum too bribed the kids with her biryani and left Abdul a letter.

Abdul was almost left breathless. He had to bribe those little devils a barfi each to get to the letter. When finally, Abdul opened up the letter it read:

“Thank you, for your stories, barfi, your company and bringing back the Biryani Begum in me. The world should never be deprived of hope or Biryani ever again!!! I am setting out to find the light which I once lost. See you at Starlight Hotel at 6? Will you bring an extra piece of Barfi if I agree to make you the finest Biryani ever?”

Abdul’s eyes were stinging with hot tears of joy… he laughed, he cried, and finally ate a piece of barfi with a spoonful of biryani. Oh, what a combination indeed!!!