Every family has secrets stashed. So does mine. And it was one fine February evening that I stumbled upon them. Mumbai evenings had been extra nippy that year. T’was the perfect time to gather around friends and family, for we hardly have winters in this humid city. And since I was just a month old in my new home, Daddy thought best to invite them over. I was only too eager to please. House parties were something I aced. It was time to show off my event management skills. I got to work immediately.

We settled on the forthcoming weekend and the RSVPs were in place. I arranged for the big day, taking extra care in deciding the menu, the cutlery, the decor and even the takeaways with tiny ‘thank-you’ notes. I was beaming from now to kingdom come. The drinks, since I was a novice, were to be handled by the husband. And, tick-tick, tick-tick, we waited for the weekend to saunter in.

6 pm D-day, I was doing a mental checklist to see if all was in order. Daddy seemed mighty pleased with the arrangements. I’d hit Jackpot. I mean who doesn’t like appreciation, now? And then he spoke in Swahili.

“Where is the Chakna?”

“Where is what?” 

“The Chakna?”, he asked. I heard ‘Chicken’.

“It’s on the gas stove”, I replied.

“Gas?” He gasped. He glanced at the casserole and then shook his head. “Not chicken, chakna!”

Had I forgotten something? Me? I prided myself on efficient party planning, delegation and execution. This was not going as per plan. I was ready to burst into tears. Yes, I used to be fragile at one point. Stop judging me and focus on the story, will you?

“Daddy……………..I…..I don’t know what is Chakna……Is it too late to make it?” I asked, almost in an inaudible whisper with eyes that threatened to overflow any minute. Thankfully, he was rummaging the shelves and did not notice. After what seemed like ages, I saw his face emerge from behind the mid-safe. He had a packet in his hand and an impish grin on his face.

“Here, I knew there was a packet somewhere. Put this in a bowl.”

“But Daddy, these are cashews”, I said, bewildered.

“Not just any cashews, premium salted ones. Got them on my last trip to Dubai. Put them in a bowl just when the drinks are served, else they will get soft.”

“So cashews are called ‘chakna’ by you whisky drinkers?” I asked, still confused.

He smiled. No, actually, he laughed. He just did not roll on the floor.

“Chakna is anything to snack on with your drink. Salted cashews and spicy peanuts are my fav”, he explained, patiently. And then he went on to add “They are great accompaniments and bring out the flavour in whiskies. That reminds me, I have two bottles of Black Dog stashed in the bar. The old boys would prefer that.”

Evening came, evening went, but the induction class was never forgotten, coz Daddy won’t let me forget! Occasionally, when he is in the mood, he asks me to get ‘chicken’ for his drink. And then he will grin like the cat who got the cream. Oh, well, we live and we learn, now don’t we?

Chak De, Phatte!


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