Meals with my Grandparents
Bokaro Steel City, 07/15
[children playing cricket on the street/ vegetable vendor going from door to door to sell fresh vegetables/ my grandmother chooses aubergines and parwal/ the doorbell rings like a cuckoo’s sound through the house]
My bua would have added extra oil, but we can’t have everything.
We eat under the tube light in the dining room, which is blocked from every source of natural light. I breathe in the soft scent of jeera and also the soft white fumes rising from the tube light. Its light is so bright that sometimes I wonder if it smells slightly metallic and sweet, or if that’s just my imagination. My grandfather beams at me from across the table. He wears a sapphire ring, fascinating in its blank yellow loveliness. I once asked him for the name, he said pukhraj. His mellow deep voice husking over the -kh sound.
The paratha breaks in three perfect layers, the middle one thin, the top and lower ones crispy from the oil and the hot stove.
I eat from a steel plate, drink water from a steel tumbler. Thousands of kilometres away, in my London flat, my crockery is supplied by my landlady. But I brought some steel utensils with me, utensils impossible to replace or replicate in their usefulness by anything I’ve found in crockery.
Bokaro Steel City, 1966. The year of my father’s birth, also the year that Indira Gandhi laid the ‘foundation stone’ of Bokaro Steel City. Her name makes my stomach lurch.
Nobody knows where Bokaro Steel City is.
My grandfather worked in the steel plant all his life.
In the reflection of my spoon, I watch him tear a piece of paratha, scoop in the aloo, and engulf the flavour. The shiny back of the spoon reflects his smiling teeth, upside-down.
Pratyusha is an Indo-Swiss writer. Her latest pamphlet, Bulbul Calling, was released with Bitter Melon Press in 2020. She co-edits amberflora.