Batch 2 was too sour, batch 3 too sweet and batch 5? Batch 5 tastes like dishwater. When maa made shikanji, it was always perfect— 1 lemon, 2 spoons of sugar, a dash of black salt, a couple of stirs and voila! The glass glistening with pearly condensation; she always made me that perfect shikanji when I got back from school. Today, about 1500 kilometres from home, I make my 6th batch - only to bin it and start all over.
Maa spoiled me, a bit too much for my own good. She’d wake up at 4 am with a blueprint of all that was to conspire in the kitchen that day - strain pureed mango, make chaat masala from scratch and other things that seemed completely trivial at the time. When I’d walk back home from the playground, flush faced and damp haired, she would turn on the cooler, bring me a steel glass full of Aam Panna (the nice glasses were reserved for guests) and engage me in a conversation until I forgot all about my tryst with the sun.
She resisted my repulsion for milk with full gusto. On some days, my morning glass of milk wore a rosy pink smile, owing to a spoonful of rooh afza. Other days, it was camouflaged as thandai. When I grew particularly difficult, she met me halfway with a glass of thick lassi.
When we drove to Nani’s house in papa’s Maruti, she’d always stop mid way for bunta or jain shikanji. It was the only time she allowed me to consume outside beverages.
Feeling rather let down by my culinary experiments, I pick up a can of diet coke. What follows is the arrival of my monthly dose of crimson, accompanied by its protégé— a big fat zit. At first, I bring out the painkillers and devise a pimple popping strategy. But then, already revelling in my childhood memories, I do what maa would, and chuck my pills for good old ayurvedic products. Chug down a glass of haldi ajwain milk for my cramps and apply turmeric paste on my zit. Text maa— “I’m flying home this weekend, have shikanji ready…in a steel glass.”