How I wish I could have the power, language and imagination of Neruda to write this blogpost which is totally inspired by his ‘Odes to Common Things’.
I have always felt that knowing or reading Neruda only for his love sonnets is to completely limit both him and ourselves. Neruda’s writing spanning more than 50 years was rooted in the radical South American politics of liberation and struggle. In his ‘Odes to Common things’, he celebrates and explores life and all its nuances by celebrating everyday objects. Thus , he says, a whole tuna in the market is “a torpedo from the ocean depths” or when you cut a tomato, you “murder it” or ( my favorite, given the addiction to French Fries 🙂 ) raw potatoes for French fries look “like the morning swan’s snowy feathers”. There were twenty five odes in the book and Neruda beautifully weaves tales of love, life, music, nature, friendship , war , dreams, beauty , travel , learning as he talks about table, chair, bed, guitar, dog, cat, flowers, soap, socks, dictionary, scissors, tea, spoon, plate, orange, apple, bread, onion, tomato etc.
Well, let me start with celebrating the egg. To be more precise, the ‘boiled egg’. Its mid-November here in New Delhi. The weather is delicious. The evenings are a little chilly, but the warmth of the afternoons doesn’t wear off.Rather, it makes that nip in the air ,friendly and comfortable. And it is the perfect to have a little pre-dinner snack of a ‘boiled egg’ from the street vendor as one hurries back home from work or is returning home after a brisk evening walk. Delhi is very famous for its street food.One can wax lyrical about the chaats, samosa, chole bhatures, lassi,bhuttas etc etc. But somehow, the humble boiled egg doesn’t find a worthy mention in all such ecstatic outpourings which is totally blasphemous!
I am addicted to the boiled egg sold by street vendors in perhaps all neighborhoods. The vendor strategically places his cart in the street corner, lights his kerosene stove and puts the eggs on boil. Once done, he immediately puts another vessel on the boil because I am yet to see a person eating just one egg! The demand is tremendous! He takes an egg out from the warm water, briskly shells it and slices it in half. The guy has in readiness chopped green chillies,raw onion and coriander which he sprinkles on the sliced egg along with salt, pepper and red chilly powder. He then serves it on a quartered piece of newspaper and Voila! As one bites into the warm egg, bliss pervades every pore of one’s being 😀 To anyone who either is in//likely to stay in Delhi and reading this blog, the accidental sufi exhorts trying out this simple joy! To anyone who has stayed in Delhi, does it bring back memories ? 🙂
My neighborhood vendor is called Babloo Kumar. He would be around 35/40 years of age and hails from Chapra,Bihar. A cheerful fellow, he tells me that he came to Delhi to get a government job like his Uncle. But, ‘Memsahib, God had other plans for me. Now I earn just that much money to look after my family. It is difficult but I am happy’. He and I have struck up a strange friendship. While he doesn’t bat an eyelid if I ask him to use my hand sanitizer before shelling the egg ( the accidental sufi has horrible OCD 😦 ) or wonder at this strange woman with a beautiful Great Dane gal ( both are fans of his boiled egg), I invariably give him money to buy something for his two sons. I tell him he should buy books for them. I am sure he doesn’t 🙂
I morph into Neruda mode. So what does the humble, boiled egg teach me ? Tell me? That happiness dosen’t have to be about the big, sweeping circumstances, about having everything in your life in place. Maybe it is just about stringing together a bunch of small pleasures. Of things and people. So Nora Ephron says”I love that you get cold when it’s 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you’re looking at me like I’m nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it’s not because I’m lonely, and it’s not because it’s New Year’s Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible” ( When Harry Met Sally)
That’s all from me today, guys 🙂
Delhi-ites, eat a boiled egg today and listen to this http://youtu.be/cLAyypuSX94 😀
Non-Delhites, do listen to the song and ummm eat a boiled egg too 😀