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Shanta's Biryani

by Erin Paul
(Kottayam, Kerala, India)

Shanta was a highly educated woman from a rich family. She was an introvert and was not a socially active woman. She loves to read books and play with her pet dog Montu.

One day her parents decided to find a groom for her. They found a good proposal and called the boy's parents after making arrangements. As soon as they saw Shanta, they liked her quiet disposition and cheerful attitude.

Both parties approved and fixed a date for their wedding. After marriage, Shanta was made to do all the household chores. She never got time for rest. Her mother-in-law was a headmistress of a reputed school, her father-in-law was working in a government sector. He was a PWD engineer. Her husband Sachin was an IT engineer working in another city. Once his project finishes the company will transfer him to another city. If today he works in Kochi, after his project finishes the very next month, he will get transfer to Trivandrum. This way the company made use of him. He only comes home once a week. Shanta hardly got time to spend with him.

One day she called up her mother and told she is coming home for few days. She packed her bag and took the bus. Her mother cooked all the delicious food she liked. And packed pickles, jams, sweets, banana chips and made sure that it was tightly packed. She also gave curries and fish marinated with spices for her to keep in fridge so that she can have them once she reaches home.
Days and months passed, Shanta kept looking for a job and one fine day she got a call from a reputed company in the nearest town.

After she received the appointment letter to join the company, she asked her in laws permission. Her mother-in-law disagreed and told her that her son is working and that's more than enough.

"Who will take care of this house, Shanta!" Hearing this Shanta got upset. " Moreover, it's not safe for you to work when Sachin is not here". "He will only come on weekends". " Please don't think of a job right now." "I have given you enough freedom to enjoy inside this house".

Hearing this dialogues Shanta got upset. She was wondering the days her mother sat next to her teaching her all subjects. If she didn’t do well in one subject, she would get scoldings. Today she has education but what's the use? She has to work like a slave under her mother-in-law. If her mother-in-law doesn't see her doing anything, she would tell her to clean the whole house and always keep everything neat and tidy. By evening she had to finish cooking, clean the house and make sure that she buys food items on time. Her mother-in-law will give her pocket money every month. If she wanted to buy clothes or go to beauty parlor she had to beg for money from her parents. Her relatives were jealous of her thinking that she married someone from a rich family so why should she go for work? Nobody knew that she had to live a miserable life in a big house with no one to help her.

Her father-in-law always agreed to what the mother-in-law said. So, there was no one to listen to her wishes.

Very soon she realized that she got a mother-in-law who was an adamant lady. Even her husband obeyed his mother. As a result, her opinions had no value.

Shanta had a good academic record but since she never took part in activities, she couldn't discover her talents. When
she had talent to dance, sing or take part in sports, her parents were reluctant to develop those skills. Her father used to keep telling one thing " After all she is a girl, give her only education."

Shanta's parents got upset seeing her condition after her marriage. Shanta's mother noticed her hands which were soft like a feather is now hard like a stone. She has to wash clothes with hand day and night. No washing machine was allowed. She had depression and also lost a lot of weight as she had to cook and prepare everything during the working days. Only on weekends her mother-in-law will help her in kitchen. Rest of the days she was busy in the kitchen. Her mother-in-law likes fresh food and will not eat leftovers. Shanta had to make sure that the kitchen is clean before she can go to her room. Her mother-in-law was very strict about keeping the kitchen clean. Shanta was forced to eat the leftovers. Her mother-in-law will get angry if she keeps leftovers. After cooking the morning breakfast her mother-in-law would leave for work. She felt that she was a servant in Sachin's house.

Most of the days, Shanta would travel in bus and eat from outside. Somedays she will cook only chappatis or doshas with chutney or pickle. When she gets fed up, she will have a fried omlette as she was not happy to eat the leftovers. She longed for her husband to sit beside her.

One day she met her school friend in a tailor shop. Her friend was so happy to see her. They both shared their reminiscence of childhood memories.

Her friend came to know about her pathetic situation. She told her " Don't worry, I will come one day to your house".

Her friend noticed that the morning hours was a boring time for Shanta. Her friend gifted her a smart phone. She told Shanta to learn cooking with the help of YouTube. Shanta started learning slowly. Shanta learned to cook north Indian cuisines. She learned to cook non- veg dishes too.

Her friend suggested an idea after few visits. "You cook delicious biryani; I think you should start a catering business ". Don't worry I will help you to sell them," Her friend also told Shanta that this way she can earn a side income without her in laws knowing.

For few days it went on well. But Shanta's mother-in-law got suspicious when she opened the fridge. She told her mother-in-law that her parents are coming to visit her and somehow managed to escape.
Days and months passed, one day her husband went to a restaurant. He ordered biryani for lunch. He liked the biryani. Almost every other day he would order the same biryani.

One day Shanta cooked biryani and served him. He was shocked to notice that his wife Shanta's cooking was just like the taste he got at the restaurant.

Slowly she told her husband the truth. She wants to supplement the family income. Sachin was flabbergasted. He encouraged her and started to like her dishes.

Shanta's friend started a catering business. The main dish is Biryani. She met Shanta and told her that very soon her biryani will become famous.

The orders grew slowly, within few years Shanta started her own catering business and had few helpers to manage. Her friend had to migrate to US, but they were still friends forever.

Shanta was no more a miserable housewife; she was blessed with two children and today she runs Shanta's biryani which is very famous in her town.


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