I was about 10 years old.
It was a hot day in Fiji, and I was sitting under the mango tree and Avinash, my little brother was kicking the ball not far away. My stepfather, pundit Vishnu Prasad (not sure why he was called “pundit” as he wasn’t a Pundit) walked over with long loaf bread, a tin of corned mutton, an onion, a bowl and a knife.
He beckoned me to follow him to the lemon tree. Dragging my feet, I followed him to pick a lemon straight off the tree, and then we walked across and plucked a couple of junglie mircha.
Using the knife, he pierced a whole on the top inside edge of the tin mutton. He manoeuvred his hand back and forth to open the tin mutton with the sharp edge of the knife. Again, using the knife, he assisted the pinky, corned mutton into the bowl.
Next, he peeled the onion, cut it in half and cradling the halved onion in one hand, he finely sliced the onion crescents directly on top of the corned mutton.
Then using the inside edge of the bowl, he finely chopped the jungali mircha into the corned mutton.
What he next just filled the air will such a fresh aromoa…. He halved the lemon and squeezed it in his right hand, moving it his hand in circles right above the pinky corn mutton. It was like a shower of lemon juice and citrus fragrance being added to the pinky white mix in the bowl.
My mouth was watering as he sliced the long loaf he cut the bread open lengthways. A quick mix of everything that was in the bowl and he was ready to spread it across one half of the long loaf. The other half, he used it as a hat over the corned mutton, so it created a long sandwich of soft, fluffy bread with a deliciously spicy corned mutton filling.
The long sandwich was then sliced into 4 portions. As I sat back against the mango tree, I saw Amma starting to walk across to us with a kettlii of lal cha and 4 piyalas. I wandered if Avinash would leave his ball alone for a while and join us or could I get his portion of this delicious corned mutton sandwich.
Over time, it had become a Sunday ritual for us.
I carry this memory so close to me, if I close my eyes I can hear the wind rustling as I sat under the mango tree. I can see how artfully my stepfather would open the tin mutton and how skilfully he balanced the onion in one hand as he sliced with the other. I smell the fresh lemon and I can hear voices of my childhood. I hear the thud of Avinash’s foot as he kicked the ball or the ping of glassy marbles that he sometime played. I can see Amma’s feet as she puts one foot in front of the other, and inches closer to us, holding the piyalas and the lal cha.
Please do try and enjoy.