My Turn To Blanch

In the year 2008, my father, the late Daddykins, flew down to spend four months at my home. Daddykins pottered around the kitchen doing little things that would make my day easier. At 6.30AM, he’d stand at the stove, laboring over a perfect cappuccino for me. While morning coffee trickled into the decanter, Daddykins emptied the dishwasher, putting away many dishes into the wrong cabinets.

Every other day, he helped me make yoghurt with active culture from kefir, taking care to set the timer for 25 minutes after the milk had boiled. He grated carrots and cucumber for salad. He diced apples–so badly though that I gently weaned him away to bananas.

When pomegranates came into season in October, he’d shell them for half an hour and then complain that, thanks to me, his nice white undershirt had "terrorist" stains on them that would never go away.

I remember how, close to Diwali week in early November, when I got ready to make my famous almond halwa, my father offered to blanch almonds. But when I supervised him on how gently to coax them out of their skin after soaking them in hot water, he didn’t mince words.

“You’ve given me a job. Now can you let me do it?” It was my turn to blanch.

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That Last Diwali With My Father

Three seasons ago, in November 2012, I felt privileged that my father was still alive to make my first Diwali in India special, after 29 years. 

The evening of Diwali, I pulled out my tiny bag of firecrackers. My gift for 89-year-old Daddykins was one box each of sparklers, pinwheels and flowerpots. His valet, Vinayagam, placed a glowing sparkler in my father’s hand. It crackled into stars and starlets. 

On my father’s face I saw the boyish wonder of festivals past, that childlike glee that washes over us when we relive a moment that has been lost to us for decades. I remembered the dewy mornings when my father and I had stood on the wide verandah of the home into which I had been born, his hand guiding mine as I held a sparkler. I caught a million golden showers in his eyeglasses then, as I did now, when Diwali had lost almost all meaning for him. 

A few minutes later, Vinayagam set a flowerpot on the ground and handed me a long lighter with which to light its wick. I ran back to where my father stood. A bouquet of sparks grew towards the sky with the swelling roar of a waterfall.  

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