Basket of Mint Leaves
She tottered out into the garden donning a sun hat and a wicker basket in hand. The afternoon sun beat down intensely turning her cheeks crimson. But she hardly noticed it. There was a task at hand. Making her way towards the patch where she had watched the mint being planted she surveyed the little garden with a smile. Sitting on her haunches she plucked the big leaves from the bottom of the mint stem and the tip so more would grow.She was careful not to concentrate her harvest on just one part of the patch. Tiny insects crawled in and out of the mint bed. It looked like a different world altogether. Perhaps these small stems were actually big trees and and maybe some people lived here unknown to others.
She next inched towards the tomato plants and plucked two ripe ones. That’s all she wanted and that’s all she took. She liked rubbing the tomato leaves. It gave out a fresh tomatoish smell that made her happy. She saw a few specks of red on the leaves and bent down to have a closer look. Oh! These were ladybirds! How beautiful they looked against the green of the leaves! From the corner of her eyes she saw the pea climber, from where those plump pea pods beckoned her. Unable to resist she took a couple of them, pressed open the pods and popped them into her mouth. How sweet they were and how fresh! Especially after all those frozen vegetables they have had for the winters.
Winters in Sharifabad could get cold. Very cold. There was no water also in the tap. And that bothered her a lot. The snow stayed on for weeks together that made her stay indoors most of the times. She hated it. Not the snow. She hated not being able to go out. The others in the house kicked up quite a ruckus when they found she had sneaked out.She had her way though. They let her go out late in the afternoon for sometime. She loved making those little mounds with the snow. Why she even made a snowman once!
That was winter fun. This was the summers. She watched the colourful dog flowers sway in the breeze under that tree. Yellow, pink, purple. It looked like they were talking and giggling among themselves while the sunshine calendulas looked on from the window sill. The flowers and their different colours delighted her.She could watch them for a long time letting herself drift into a beautiful world…Oh! But she must get on! There was work to be done before he came home.
She snatched herself back and made her way into the house clutching the basket of mint leaves and two tomatoes. She carefully crossed the drain that separated the tiny kitchen garden from the tinier lawn and flower beds. Walking into the kitchen, she found the grinder just the way she liked. Pulling out a stool from under the sink she climbed on it to rinse the mint leaves. Once, twice and thrice.The kitchen started smelling of mint leaves. How lovely! Next she cleaned those ripe big tomatoes. She pulled the stool towards the grinder. She assembled the mint leaves, the garlic pods and one whole chilli in the grinder. She carefully cut the tomatoes into big pieces like it was shown and added them to the others. Sprinkling some salt and closing the lid she switched on the grinder and let it work mixing all the things inside nicely. She switched it off and smeared her finger tip with some of the greenish paste. Oho! Some more salt needs to go in. The grinder was at work again, whirring and grinding and mixing. There it was perfect now just like last time, she thought smacking some from her finger tip.
Just then the doorbell rang.
“What’s little Pahi doing today?” smiled her father as he walked in.
“She’s got a surprise for you” said her mother walking out of the bedroom with the phone in one hand.
“Here Pahi, grandma wants to know the recipe for the mint chutney” said her mother.
“Ma, did you tell her about it?”
“Yes, I did. And she says you must teach her to make it.”
“Hello aita! Yes I am fine…don’t you know how to make it?…oh okay! First wear a hat and take a basket. Then go to the garden and pluck some mint leaves. You may find some ladybirds sitting on them but it’s okay….”
Mother smiled as she overheard the conversation between the grandmother and the grand daughter. Getting the pakodas ready to go with the tea she lovingly poured the mint chutney into a bowl. The doorbell rang again.
“Aunty, can Pahi come and play with us. We are carrying some snacks with us and going to that place under the almond trees.”
“Of course she’ll come! Let me also pack something for you.” Mother turned around and called out,
“Pahi, your friends are here! Did you finish your five sentences on ‘myself ‘ ?”
“Can I do it in the evening?” asked Pahi with anxious eyes.
“Okay. Just don’t get delayed. And don’t eat too many of those green apples from the trees” cautioned her mother. Handing over some packed pakodas and the mint chutney, she saw them off.
It was a blessing to be here in Sharifabad. There was no mall, no fast food joint, nothing of the cities. But there was abundance of nature unadulterated. The snow clad Himalayan peaks glistened in the distance. The only road, one kilometer in length, cut across the the small garrison. Children played under the peach blossoms, white almond blossoms, climbed the short apple trees to pluck those sour green ones. Under the clear blue skies, sometimes dotted with tufts of clouds they noticed the flowering grass and the wild flowers. They relished the tangy grape leaves , the sunshine, the snow covered days, the slushy roads of the melting snow and the tingling fresh air that gave them all a ruddy complexion. It was a childhood they would all remember and draw strength from. Haven’t happy memories of childhood refreshed all, bringing a whiff of freshness? Just like a basket full of mint leaves.