I made Spinach soup for the first time in 13 years on the day I wrote my chapter o my father in my book. It was the hardest chapter to write in the book. Just like I had circumvented making the soup, I had been postponing the writing of it, not because I didn’t know what to write, there was a lot, but for once, the words would not come out.
14 years to today, I lost him, suddenly and quickly while we were on the most idyllic holiday in South Africa. At the Ullusaba Lodge in Kruger National park he suffered a fatal heart attack. As deaths go it was a grand one, standing up until the last moment, at which point he lay down looked around at most of his family and closed his eyes. Forever.I was the only one that was not there. I stepped out of the room exactly 2 minutes before he died. Ironically it was fathers day that day too. There is an inevitable melonchaly in memories that are edged with the keen sadness of lost time. Inevitability had been the atmosphere all of the preceding week. More urgently that morning when my mother had us kids brought down. But finality had not been a possibility. It was inconceivable ….”the end”. They transferred him to a secluded spot to lie in peace until the embalmer was able to come down from Johannesberg to pick him up and I sat with him as he lay there. Perhaps to make up for not being there those last two minutes or perhaps just not wanting him to be alone. So I sat on the floor next to him his body in repose, like he was sleeping, the counterpane neatly stretched over him. Running my fingers through his hair I talked to him for hours, telling him things I had never been able to say before.
A sense of loss was slowly pervading me. Images flashed through my mind, like a film reel gone wild, its end flapping in the air, accelerating as it reached “the end”. I knew the tears would come eventually, likely in great spates and the cleansing would take place. The bright colors of experience would be wash down to the sepia tinted monochromes of memory. But it could wait …for a while. I could not bring myself to move just yet. And then I suddenly reared up in almost physical pain! I realised I had never told my dad I loved him. Funny how three silly words from a foreign culture can come to become so important... we certainly do not have them in India! But in those moments I realized that I had never EVER said I love you Papa in as many words. And niether had he.
But he did love us, he had shown us in so many ways that last week almost like he wanted to leave us with the best of himself. And in doing so he gave each of us memories that would last a lifetime. There had been an increasing bittersweet air to things as we did them all of that last week. Statements he had made came back. His being in some idyllic family pictures at breathtaking locations, something that had never happened because he would be taking the pictures usually. His warm hug a couple of days into our trip when I was missing Shekhar (who was my boyfriend then and so sore a point that we never spoke about him) and Dad’s quiet affirmation, “Why don’t you enjoy me while I am here, you will have the rest of your life with him? And then when I was crying a few days later because of some silly reason his exasperated question “Why must you cry every time? You have to learn to face odds, I will not always be there to protect you!” and then that last night, at dinner, as we finished the soup course (Spinach soup) he turned around and said, “This is good, but not as good as yours, you make the best Spinach soup.” His last words to me, EVER!!
I like to think my dad is up in Heavan, having a drink with my father in law with our dogs Alex and Nonnie at their feet. And I like to think that every time my son comes back to me with one of his clever rejoinders or my daughter gives me a naughty smile before she shocks me by saying something unheard of from a two year old, they raise their glasses and cheer.
Please celebrate your father this Father's day, tell him you love him and if you don't have a special recipe for him, I will lend you ours...
Love you Dad. Always and forever!
Cooking Time : 15 Minutes, Serves : 4
1 kg spinach, cleaned, washed and chopped coarsely
2 onions quartered
8 cloves garlic
Salt to taste
2 tbsp butter
1 onion, diced fine
2 tbsp wheat flour
2 cups milk
Pepper to taste
1/2 cup cheese, grated
Place all the spinach leaves, the quartered onions, 6 cloves of garlic in a preassure cooker with 1/2 a cup of water and cook. Alternatively microave untill Spinach is a dark dense mossy green. Grind to a smooth paste. Heat a pan and add the butter. Once melted add the onion and stir fry unill transperant, add the wheat flour and stir for few minutes till it turns light brown in color and smells cooked. Add the milk and stir briskly to avoid lumps. Allow to cook untill the mixture thickens. Add the spinach paste and stir continuously till smooth. Add salt pepper and cheese. If it is too thick add milk, water or stock to thin to soup consitency.