In our haste to eat, we seldom pause to acknowledge that the kabab is a martyr, a slave to fiery, consuming passion. Before it arrives on your plate dressed in juicy lemon wedges and pungent onion rings, it endures untold travails. Dwell, for a moment, upon its journey to your heart through your stomach (more so if you have an excess of LDL cholesterol). Carved from choice cuts of meat, steeped in saucy marinades, skewered through the heart, it is dragged over hot coals until it acquires that sizzling, smoked flavour and luscious texture that conspire to turn you into a hopelessly drooling puppy.
A lot like being in love, eh?
Only genuine lovers of kabab (kebab to the Anglicised tongue) can gauge the depth of the phrase kabab mein haddi – the shard of bone that robs the gourmand of the luxury of feasting is the proverbial thorn in the flesh.
For the handful of Indians still unfamiliar with the idiom, it refers to the Offensive Third Party that menaces the romance of a lovey-dovey couple. They come in many variants including but not limited to Possessive Best Friend, Doting Father, Let-me-also-come-to-the-movie Sister, Dominant Mother, Interfering Mom-in-law, Lecherous Uncle, Let-me-show-you-how Boss, Asinine Kid Brother, There-but-for-the-grace-of-God-go-I Nephew, Eat-a-little-more-kheer-na Aunty, and so on.
Couples that endure them and live to tell the tale find themselves morally devastated when they are compelled to apply the metaphor to the fruits of their loins. Our world is overpopulated with parents coping with marriages drained of romance and intimacy by what they presumed, ironically, would be their bundle of joy.
Having been parents for nearly five years, my wife and I fondly recall a time when we went on long drives, camped in the wilderness and necked in renovated colonial mansions. We held hands at the movies and cuddled in restaurants. We were madly in love and we showed it. Madness, I’m afraid, is all that remains.
Life changed the moment we caught sight of our little embryo lub-dubbing on the ultrasound monitor. That glutinous speck on the screen claimed a place in our hearts and, consequently, in our bed. In fact, right between us.
I’m neither a theist nor a Creationist, but I call upon God when I want to wag a finger at someone. Heck, whose idea was it to make the act of creating life – without caring for the consequences – so enjoyable? Interestingly, we think of sex – excluding the Internet variety – as “making love”. And just as well. You’ll need to make a lot of it to cement your marriage after all that rabbiting about bears fruit. The mush you wallowed in while you were expecting evaporates without a trace when the package is delivered.
Your job is done, my friend, now go watch your IPL and swill your beer. Or be useful around the house. When baby arrives, your wife will forsake you. It’s biological. She’s now a different bucket of hormones. The instruments of seduction are replaced by fiercely territorial maternal instincts. Women, like she-elephants, exhibit a disturbing flock mentality. Mother, sister, aunt and often nanny will cast aside differences and join cause to form the Evil Galactic Empire while you wave a soiled diaper about like a lightsaber.
With the tyke bawling for milk every few hours, it is ludicrous to entertain even a fleeting thought of a quickie. With a third person, however tiny, in the room?! You must be nuts! The wife has more pressing concerns: What if the baby hears something and is scarred for life?
Net-net, it will be long before you two get together in bed again. When you do, a bit of awkward realignment is in order. Her body, she whines, is not the same. Don’t dare remind her of the side-effects (take that literally) of eating for two. Plus, the obstetrician’s tinkering and suturing have left her too sensitive for certain kinds of business.
When our child -- to whom I shall refer as Vava -- was about eight months old, my wife and I thought we could solve the problem by placing her crib beside the bed and remaining very silent until we heard her gentle snoring. As we turned towards each other Vava announced her intentions with a gurgle of triumph and launched herself out of the crib as Sergei Bubka might have done as a child. Then, unlike Bubka, she snagged her foot in the mosquito netting and yielded to gravity. A baby with a burgeoning red bump on its forehead, shrieking like an out-of-control air-raid siren, isn’t a situation known for its aphrodisiac properties.
When Vava could walk, we took to tiptoeing away to the guest room in the dead of night to consummate our fugitive passion. Many a good time ended before it began, interrupted by a heart-rending whimper at the door. We considered strong cough syrup and, after reading Amitav Ghosh, opium. But we never mustered the conscience to execute our plans.
Ever determined, we turned the guest room into Vava’s room. We packed it to the ceiling with soft toys that could offer warm comfort in the solitude to which we hoped we would consign her. All went well the first night. Until about 3 in the morning when I felt a monstrously large and hirsute teddy bear attempt to sneak into our bed, heaved by an intrepid human being half its size. In nights to come, stuffed creatures of every description joined us. At daybreak, our bed resembled a set from Life of Pi. If three’s a crowd, four is a circus.
When she was old enough, we would pack Vava off to her grandmother’s for the night, sometimes the weekend. Just when we thought we had the bed to ourselves, we began to miss her terribly. Morons that we were, we lay awake all night talking about Vava and giggling hysterically over her antics. First thing next morning, we rushed to look her up. She eyed us with disdain. She had slept well for a change and was in no hurry to come back home.
Gobsmacked, we hatched our new conspiracy of 'Inclusive Love' -- wherein the haddi is made intrinsically part of the kabab. We have adapted to the constant intrusion and mastered the art of executing the quick squeeze and the lightning lip-lock when Vava’s looking the other way. And we’re getting awfully good at it.
As for kababs, our favourite these days is Tangdi!