Taniya was brimming with joy and every passing second stimulated her excitement and anxiety.
Her teachers and even her neighbours always spoke of her as a reticent and quiet girl with a palate for great taste. When girls of her age were busy decorating their face with cakes of makeup, Taniya devoted her time to finding the right dressing for salad. While her classmates were busy listing down the names of top colleges for graduation, she learnt the art of blending the right ingredients with dexterity. She wasn’t good friends with anyone in school. She was distant and unapproachable in many ways yet she greeted people with her positive aura, making her adorable.
Over the years, her parents grew more grim and her inclination towards cooking only irked them. Both blamed the other for Taniya’s failing aspirations, as she didn’t want to become a doctor or an engineer like her schoolmates. Instead of talking to Taniya and understanding the reason behind her decision to become a chef, her parents snarled at each other like wild animals.
No matter what she cooked, she always failed to please her parents. They weren’t able to accept her culinary skill and looked down upon her contemptuously as if she was a disgrace to the family.
The lack of support from her parents hurt her sometimes but she wasn’t willing to give up. She started with friendly aunties in her neighbourhood who always looked at her with pitiful eyes and invited her lovingly. Going to their house for getting her dish tasted or exchanging interesting recipes became a usual affair much to her parents dislike. Then she graduated to the next level when she occasionally started taking her dishes to school. All her teachers not only showered their praises upon her, applauding her efforts but also gave their honest feedback to help her improve.
Even in the midst of all the different faces who had helped her reach this far, there was one face that would always be etched vividly in her memory. Sheela, Taniya’s maid had been her pillar of strength when her parents had shunned her. Sheela had been instrumental in crafting her skill to achieve perfection. She could already see the making of a great chef in Taniya.
The importance of this day couldn’t be denied but Taniya looked calm and composed. Ready to take on the challenge and win hearts with an assortment of delicious offerings.
The cooking contest, The Great Culinary Artist, a local community event was set to start in the evening in the committee hall. It was being organised for the first time but was nonetheless important for Taniya as she had never participated in any competition before, not even in school.
While others were making offerings to their respective gods to win the contest with thundering applause, Taniya retired to her kitchen to pay her honest reverence. What could be more soothing and appeasing than the vibrant and indulgent confines of her kitchen! The rich and flavourful aroma suspended in its air embraced Taniya with a mysteriously sensitive touch. She felt confident and overjoyed.
The rules of the contest were very simple. Every participant would be given a surprise basket of food items to cook. Within a time frame of one hour, the contestants were required to prove their mettle in the culinary realm. The winner would get a cash price of five thousand rupees and a small, glistening ladle shaped trophy.
Taniya’s parents were out to meet Mr. Sharma, her father’s colleague. They would be late and had subtly implied that they won’t be able to attend the contest. It was no surprise for Taniya and she had least expected them to show any enthusiasm or support. She was happy to have Sheela’s company just like old times.
The clock struck five and Taniya heard violent groaning in the living room. She rushed out of the kitchen to find Sheela lying on the floor seizing her chest with one hand and flapping the other on the floor. Taniya hurried to her neighbour’s house and Sheela was immediately taken to the hospital.
The doctor said that it was a minor stroke but she would be kept under observation for one day. It was already six o’ clock. Taniya was late by half hour and there was no way she could participate in the contest.
Tears welled up in her eyes and she collapsed on a metallic chair. She buried her face in her trembling hands and wept silently.
Then something happened and she looked up with firm eyes. She wiped her tears and said, “Tomorrow is a new day. I will try again. I will fulfil my dream one day.”