Circumstances made mine a life of constantly being on the move.In the years of crisscrossing the Indian continent several memories have remained firmly planted in the mind. Smells, sounds, pictures,tastes, feelings.Some mishmashed together like kedgeree, some clear and separate as grains of basmati rice.
One recurring memory is of the little cottage in the back of the red tiled bungalows we used to live in. It was the cook's cottage, the khansama's kitchen which was joined to the main house by a long, narrow and roofed open corridor. From here all sorts of interesting smells curled out to catch our childish noses as we played in the vast, dry gardens where red and pink hollyhocks would strive to grow taller on spindly stems and trees contributed the main brushstroke of green on an otherwise brown canvas.
When we arrived in a new place the cottage sometimes resembled the black hole of Calcutta. The room had not been whitewashed with limepaste and the woodfired chulah had blackened the ceiling and walls so much that you could write on it with a finger and a negative image would appear.
There were clues to the cuisine of the house's former residents. A smudge of masala, a leftover bottle of paste, a whiff of an unfamiliar spice used so regularly as to seep into the old teak cupboards in the corner of the cottage.
Just a few days after moving in all would have changed. The walls would be washed to a brilliant white, the cupboards lined with clean sheets of newspaper and the shelves familiar with the shine of our own pots and pans. The chulah would be lit and the glow of the fire could be glimpsed from across the divide, from a vantage point in the pantry and we would get a clue as to what was going to be on for lunch.Familiar smells would fill the place and we knew we were home again.