Problems are an integral part of life. We’ve to navigate through them. There is no other option, some would think. But there is! Just scan for others who labour on with similar issues. We expect our son or daughter to score well in the crucial board exams but when he/she performs below par, we lose sleep till we run into a family friend whose child has also fared rather poorly.
He soothes our nerves with a universal statement — “something is seriously wrong with our academic system and evaluation process.” We struggle with a backache and are about to meet a doctor. Just then, a relative comes along with the same complaint. Don’t we get some relief and even contemplate scrapping that appointment? When a tyre of our two-wheeler gets punctured leaving us stranded on the road, spotting another in a similar plight would give us more joy than the sight of a mechanic ready to bail us out of the mess!
I lead a forced bachelor’s life in a Gulf nation with my family living in India. During a casual hop into a hypermarket some time ago, I purchased an electric cooker following the salesman’s glowing account that the contraption would be quite user-friendly. I recalled that 15 years ago, my wife had bought such an appliance in India when the product was just launched. That had an aluminium pot and worked fine for five years, save for some minor glitches. But the one I picked up came with a black-coated pan. I cooked rice as instructed but the final product left me aghast. Instead of whitish steaming cooked rice, I found myself staring at a sinister-looking black boiled food. I deduced that a portion of the ‘non-stick’ coating, true to its name, had not stuck to the container but blended in with the rice. I took the gadget to the hypermarket and they replaced it with another one of the same brand. No questions asked.
This time, I tried my hand at vegetable rice on reading that it’d be child’s play to cook pulav varieties with an electric cooker. Alas! It was black magic again. I went back to the market and now, the salesman cooked, grilled and roasted me on the art of cooking and using a cooker, posing many a childish question.
I explained to him the process of putting rice, water and other ingredients with measured cups and even switched on the appliance — acting, mimicking and miming a la Kamal Hassan. (Recall the climax scene of Balu Mahendra’s Tamil movie, Moondram Pirai, where Cheenu (played by Kamal) tries every gesture in his repertoire to make Viji (Sridevi) recognise him, parroting all along, “Viji, I’m Cheenu” but in vain). Satisfied with my histrionics, the outlet replaced my cooker with another brand. Regrettably, the black peel continued to come off in patches and haunt me like ‘Betal’ in Vikram and Betal stories. I googled for solutions. I came across an online group of ladies, who I had no doubt were expert chefs, and to my thrill, they had already dealt at length with the vexatious problem.
One lady shared that she had tried out a new milky white dish for her darling little daughter. When served on the plate, however, she realised that it turned out to be some sort of a black pudding. She naively asked the others, “Is it harmful to consume teflon with food ?” Another chimed in, ‘To understand the blackening of food during the cooking process, I stood by the automatic cooker without moving an inch till the switch dropped from ‘cook’ to ‘warm’, despite steam hitting me from all around and drenching me in sweat. Of course, I got free steaming and facials!” Here I was, sadistically rejoicing at others’ travails! Happy that even highly knowledgeable and skilled womenfolk couldn’t crack the mystery of the black cooker.
Tail piece: I inserted a separator in the ‘non-stick’ pan, kept a stainless vessel inside and somehow, managed to use the appliance for some time. I’m not sure of the latest versions of the electric cooker launched in market but If any dealer offers me a free sample, I’m game for a trial and share my teflon, nay, sugar-coated feedback!