Dosa by Bhumika Anand

​‘We need to spend some alone time together.​’


‘Yes. We’ll do that. For sure.’


A heaviness lifts from my chest. The constant pain that I’ve had these days eases.


‘But after breakfast tomorrow. We’ll have them over in the morning​. I have promised them a typical South Indian experience – breakfast and coffee. What do you say? I was thinking…’


The voice fades away. I can no longer hear anything. I try only to see. All I can see are the swirls the tea makes when I stir it. The sugar in it has long since dissolved. I taste. When I bring the black porcelain up to my lips, the tea tastes sweet. Very sweet. Yet a bitterness coats my tongue. I wanted to have bone-white china cups. Like the ones I remember my grandmother had. So old-fashioned, he had laughed. He had pulled at my hair in affection as he said that. I had smiled. I had continued to smile when we billed the brand new set of mugs – all black ­– at the mall. Mugs shining like newly-washed hair. I hated going to the mall.


When I was growing up, we always bought cutlery at Jamal’s. It would be crowded too, especially on a Sunday but not like in a mall. All those people talking incessantly. And those children. Running everywhere. Screaming. High on sugar and life and behaving like the escalator was a toy. He thrived on the noise, the sight of all those people. His face would become animated. His body would become more confident.


Six feet tall, he towers over most Indian men. I feel insignificant next to him with my five feet two. Then there is his build – he’s a big man. A handsome, self-involved man. Everyone told me I was lucky to marry such a good-looking, ambitious man. That my parents had found me the best bachelor in the city. I decided to believe them. I wanted nothing more than to be a woman in love, cooking for her family, having the time to read books, decorating the house, and being a hostess.


We were engaged so quickly, I barely had any thoughts in my head. I was in awe. I was dreaming about my soon-to-be-perfect life. It would be no less than a Mills and Boon. At least a Bollywood movie. Even the pain would make for drama and theatrical reconciliations. My head was full of stories. When we started going out together after being engaged, the way he talked about himself had been so seductive. Taken in by his ambition, his confidence, his bursting enthusiasm for life, how could I have not loved him? I loved where he used to take me – the Bangalore Club for dinner, the Karnataka Golf Association for a Sunday brunch. And how social and friendly he was. And how popular. I thought I was with a man so assured that he knew not just what he wanted from life, but also somehow, what I wanted. He would not have to ask me; he would always know. How long ago was that? Two years?


In two years, the voice, the same voice that sounded like frothy filter coffee at first has begun to grate. Like the sound that my knife makes against my cutting board.


‘Anjana, Anjana. You are dreaming again.’


‘No, I am not. I am just thinking.’


‘Thinking? See, that’s your problem, you think too much. So dosa, is that okay? We will need about thirty dosas, I think. I’m sure you can manage. You are very clever that way.’


And his lips absently leave a tea-stained wetness on my forehead, as he walks away to get ready for work.


I had tried to tell him that we needed to spend the weekend together. No social commitments, no malls, no plan. I wanted an unplanned day spent in conversation with each other to discuss our relationship. For a few minutes, I had thought there was hope. I had believed he knew what I meant.


It has been months since we have had a real conversation. He always spoke. I always listened. I had moved from Victorian novels to reading about urban stasis, relationship conundrums. It was horrifying to see that my own life mirrored the doldrums that writers wrote about with such angst. How foolish to have thought that he’d have sensed it at least in the bedroom where I just stayed quiet as he touched me, how cold my body felt, how I no longer shivered in deliciousness, how I never bit my lip anymore. I no longer felt him except as a weight, a movement in my body. Did he not feel that?


Another conversation is cut off, another chance lost. Can this happen within a year and a half of a marriage?

That night when he came home, we made love. Something was different with me. I was desperate for a real connection. I no longer felt him as a weight. I tingled when he touched me, whimpered when he took my breast in his mouth. And when he moved in me, I felt it all the way to that place at the back of my head. I shuddered. A tear fell unbidden. He noticed. He moved away, still holding me, still touching.


‘Tears? Darling, what is it? Thought of a Neruda – isn’t that the guy – poem, did you?’


And he laughed. I managed a smile through the tears. That night we slept in each other’s arms.




I get the batter out of the fridge early the next morning. I boil potatoes in the cooker; grind onions and garlic, and coconut for two separate chutneys. I feel energised.

The kitchen is my domain. I learnt to cook from my grandmother. Shantajji could cook for more than hundred people. I was told that she cooked all the food when my mother got engaged. She had always said that in her time, a woman was not allowed to hold a pen, so she held on to the pan. As her granddaughter, I had made a choice too. While I had held a pen till my BA in Literature, I had found more satisfaction clutching a pan, clonking it on the stove, and creating dishes on it. Cooking was catharsis. It had always been. It had always been enough. I jealously guarded my kitchen. No one was allowed to enter it. No one ever tried.


He never cared for the kitchen. Our roles were well-defined. He would earn; I would cook. I had no desire to seek employment in any organisation, and he had always wanted a woman who would maintain his house like his mother had done for his dad. The arrangement suited us both. I never felt inferior for making that choice. We had thought we wanted the same things from life. We had thought that we complemented each other.


As the steam from the pan moistens my face, I remember last night. Last night had been magic. I shake away my thoughts as I lift the lid off the potatoes, which have boiled a creamy yellow. I mash them as he walks into the kitchen, surprising me.

‘Anjana, you are humming again. I haven’t heard that in a long time. Sounds good. Smells even better. Shall I help you with anything?’


I hadn’t been aware that I was humming. Now I recognise the song. Piya tose naina laage re. An old Hindi film song. I smile at him over the potatoes.


‘Onions. You can chop the onions for the palya,’ I say, astonished by his offer to help; shocked by my own voice that asks him to cut onions.


Today feels different. I set the tava to make dosas. There is a satisfying hiss as the oil splatters over the batter, as it cooks, as holes form. I watch it in fascination like I always do. Arjun stands by my side and watches it with me. He idly pulls at my hair. ‘Wow. This is a process, isn’t it? Never thought it was such an art, Anjana. Maybe you should teach me.’


I smile. I know then what I have to do. ‘Arjun, I am going to start a catering school. I have all the skills. I love to cook. I … I get bored sitting at home. I think this will help us. I will be busy and I think it will be good. You say I spend too much time reading books and how that ruins my head, so I thought…’


I am rambling. It’s an exhilarating feeling to speak to him that long about myself. By saying this much, I have now become the speaker in the relationship. He will now have to listen to me. I am nervous and excited. I am alive in a way I have never been in a long time.


‘Hmm … Anjana, where do you get all these ideas from? Finish those dosas fast. I can hear someone climbing the stairs. I’ll go open the door.’


I stare at the dosa I have just finished making. It is perfect. Golden brown, crisp but meaty, and riddled with holes.



Bhumika Anand has a degree in Communicative English and a Masters in English. She has been a lecturer, a corporate trainer, editor, communications specialist, events coordinator, MC, a social media strategist, and a manager of online communities for over fourteen years. She is the Co-Founder and Director of Bangalore Writers Workshop. Her work has been published in Urban Confustions, The Affair, Bombay Literary Magazine, and is forthcoming in Queer Ink. She has been interviewed by The Delphi Quarterly, The New Indian Express, and DNA. She is a disinterested cook, an intermittent but uncomfortably intense blogger at Bhumika's Boudoir, and an appreciator of the ridiculous. She lives and works out of Bangalore.