CAULDRON: Sunita Jugran

Sunita Jugran
Ever since I heard of the story of Draupadi's magic cauldron 
I always believed, my mother had one as well.

There were four of us siblings
And dad's students who always came
On pretext of extra study
But stayed for dinner...
There were dad's acquaintances from far off villages
Who would march in without invitation
With their coarse, homespun coats
And dusty shoes
Tobacco smell clinging to their rough hands
With which they would pull our cheeks
And ruffle our hair...

Then there were those unfortunate ones
Who missed the only evening bus to the city
And the way to their village was only through the dense forest
They came to my father
And he never refused them food and shelter

And my mother
She never objected...
I always saw her preparing tea and serving it with a sweet smile
I never saw her tired....
Never angry..

And that magic cauldron
It was almost always there
On top of burning firewood in the mud chullah 

There were two of those cauldrons, in fact
That were put one behind the other on top of that chullah
And mom added her secret ingredients in them
Which at times sputtered
At times, hissed
At times sizzled
But always smelled so good
Palak ka saag always turned out deliciously green
Green mango chutney was always deep brown
Sidu were always fluffy
And daal was never dull
Virtual rainbows
Would sit serenely 
In our plates 


She would serve dinner to all..
First of all, to the kids who were our guests 
Then to elders
Then our turn
And often dad and she at last

And her cauldrons were never empty
Till she had eaten
I remember
Asking for a bite or two from her plate
Because it tasted better from her hand

I always looked for any tiny grain of food
Sticking to the sides of that magic cauldron 
But never found any
As mom always washed it meticulously 

May be
That's why I still feel hungry even after a big meal
There's no more those morsels of love from mom's plate
Disappearing in my mouth.

Now
I have many cauldrons, pots, pans
Better stove
Bigger home

But nobody comes in uninvited.
Magic is lost

But the memories remain
Of the crowded home
Of mom's face glowing by the fire in the chullah
Of tobacco smelling hands
Of those cauldrons
And their magic. 
***

Sunita Jugran, M.Sc.
I have edited a few poetry books of my friends. Other than that, I write poetry and short stories. I also write for children. I have written a lot on social media but have taken a break from all that for now. Presently, I live in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh.

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