The Custard Apple Payasam and The Story Of A Red Beauty
You know what, I don’t get the point of celebrating birthdays…Today is my birthday and its just like any other of my boring days. I have’nt grown wings nor have I got a new halo. Vicky and Jerry are not like that. They give a list of million things to my Pa for buying, buy new clothes, throw huge parties and do other cliche birthday stuff. But I so hate doing such stuff.
I open facebook to see millions of birthday wishes from peolpe who didn’t even know I existed after they wished me last year. Its funny how I suddenly become important to everyone. As I get off the bed my leg hits against something. I look down to find a beautiful red box decorated with glitter. I open it to find a note and another small red box. The note says:
Dear Cass Sweety,
Some things in this world are just made beautiful and don’t need that extra tinkering like a beautiful rose. You, honey are nothing less than that rose. In this world of hypocrites and dramatists you chose to differ. Being different is not easy my girl and I know you know that. Millions of people claim they are diiferent but are being nothing but fake. Cassandra, my girl, just remember those million people will mock at you, criticize you, but just remember they do not matter to you. The ones who matter don’t send a birthday wish on facebook, their love for you will be visible in their eyes. You have achieved your place in this world as a beautiful rose among a million dry roses for 26 years now and I hope you continue to do so.
P.S- Don’t open the little red box immediately. Just go to the basement and then open it.
P.P.S- Please listen to me for once darling……
Omg I am crying. No one but my dad can say such beautiful things. He never talks much but he is the best.
As the lift starts moving I realize my sis and bro were not around at home. There is surely something fishy about all this red and the box and….Okay, whatever it is let it be a surprise. Probably I don’t hate birthday surprises as much as I hate birthdays.
THIS IS SURELY NOT HAPPENING!!!! AM I DREAMING OR WHAT????…….
The basement is completely empty except for a beautiful Volkswagon Red Beetle car. Suddenly Vicky and Jerry jump from behind the pillars in the basement screaming ‘Happy Birthday’.
“Looks like madam is not going to need me anymore for dropping her at work.” Vicky is all smiles and I stand dumbstruck. I can’t believe Papa actually remembered that I love Beetles. I then open the tiny red box to find a key..
My mom’s call surely brought me back to my senses.
“Happy birthday baby doll….. Did you like the car honey?..But I am pretty sure you would have liked a diamond necklace better. Your father never listens to me ever.” I am so happy that I am least bothered about the ‘baby doll’ too. Anyways I don’t get the point behind Indian women’s love for gold jewellery. Not in a million years would I go for a necklace instead of a car.
“Thank you Mama and please, the car is a total beauts. Please give the phone to Papa.”
“Hi sweetheart. Happy birthday. hope you liked my gift.”
“Dad! Are you kidding me? Do i like it?….I am totally mad over it. I am so happy. Thank you so much.”
“So glad Cass. Okay go get ready now. Your going to be late for work. Bye honey. Have a good day.”
“Are you going to drive it or what?” asks my brother.
I tell him- “I think I am going to brush my teeth and have a wash first. I don’t want to dirty the car.” They start laughing.
As I search my cupboard for something to wear, my eyes fall on something lying on the bed. It looks a bag from Forever New. It surely has to be my sister’s gift because she loves Forever New.
It is a pretty lace knee-length dress. I decide to wear it for work.
“Thank you Vicky.”
“You are totally welcome. The dress looks gorgeous on you.” Just then my brother walks out of his room with an envelope in hand and hands it right over to me. I open it to find a coupon for Anne’s spa valid over a year. He hugs me and wishes me for my birthday and says, “You surely need a day out Cass!”
I have always had a fascination for red cars espeacially if it is a beetle. As I drive it I am falling in love with it more and more by the second. There were times when I have wished my office was right next to my house, but now I wish it were kilometres away.
I have been working at OPL for two years now and yet haven’t been to the parking area even once. Just as I get out of the car, I catch sight of Ray walking towards me with open arms, in awe.
“Woah! Woah! Woah! Take it easy my girl..Looks like a birthday present to me. Anyways Cass, Happy Happy Birthday..”
“OMG…I can’t believe you actually remembered.”
“Haha. I am actually pretty okay with dates and when it comes to my school bestie, HOW THE HELL WILL I FORGET..Come give me a hug now!”
“Awww..Thank you so much Ray. That is so sweet of you to remember.”
“And…I also picked up something small for you, actually got it made. Now..Now..now..please don’t make a fuss about how you cannot accept it and all that nonsense, k?” He hands me something wrapped in a beautiful tissue wrap and walks a little away to attend some call. I open it to find a beautiful book with a collage of beautiful utensils and with the following words written on it-“To the girl who slapped me.” I couldn’t help but smile. I flip the pages to find the first few filled with pictures of my recent recipes and the recipes hand-written below it.
“You’ve got to fill the rest of the 25 pages for yourself now. I want this to be a motivation for you to prove it to yourself that you are an amazing cook.” He is just too cool a friend.
“I mean Ray..umm..I don’t know what to say. This is so thoughtful of you. Thank you so much.”
“No thank yous and sorrys between friends. Remeber who taught me that?”
“Haha..obviously such awesome stuff are proclaimed by only legends like me..”
As I press the button in the lift for the 4th floor, Ray asks me- “So where is the party?”
“No party and all that. I’ll make something and take it to ‘Sweet Home Orphanage’ and have fun with the kids there. Hmm..then probably dinner with family. Sam and Ananya may also join. That’s all. Join me for dinner then if you want a treat so badly..haha”
“I think I’ll come with you to the orphanage too and help you to make something for them.” I smile to give my approval.
All through the morning I had prayed so hard to prevent Ananya from creating a fuss at the office about my birthday. But as usual the birthday girl’s wish went unanswered. The worst part is everyone are wearing birthday caps!! What was oI, some 3 year old? Evana itself hates buying caps for her birthday. Then as usual I had to take around 10 people for lunch as a treat for the cheapo cake they bought me which would have hardly cost anything compared to the bill I was going to pay.
Ray and I bought some really fresh custard apples on the way back home. I decided to make some custard apple paysam. It is considered very auspicious to make payasam on special days by Tamilians. Ray is surely having a woderful time separating the pulp from the seeds for 10 whole custard-apples…XD… Of course I helped him but he told me not strain on my birthday. I finally realize his sweetness isn’t actually fake as I had percieved it to be.
- 250ml chilled milk
- 1/4 tsp elaichi powder/ cardamom powder
- Melt a few lumps of jaggery in 1 cup water by heating, strain this hot liquid. Use this strained liquid as required for the Payasam. The sweetness required differs from person to person.
- 2 custard apples’ pulp
Mix all the ingredients together and serve. It tastes well when chilled or also slightly warmed. This measuremet serves two people.
Everyone loved the payasam and Ray is having a brilliant time with all the kids. He is so casual with them. Evana, the proud peacock itself has become his fan now. Sr. Monica takes me aside and asks me, “Cassie is that your boyfriend?”
“What? No!! He is just a good friend Aunty.”
“Ok dear. But he seems like a good guy though..”
An hour later we join Vicky, Sam, Jerry and Ananya for dinner at Mainland China. And the day ends with Vicky shooting suspicious glances at me throughout dinner.