The other day, my maid made a very unusual request.

As I was preparing pasta with white sauce, my curious maid asked me what it was. Brushing aside her question, I replied that I would cook it for her someday and that it was not the right time to talk about pasta since my husband was running late for office and I needed to pack his lunch box. I sautéed some vegetables quickly and added a few pieces of sausages to it while quietly counting the calories and hoping that the protein in the sausage will be enough to counter the carbs of the pasta.
I was surprised to find my maid still lingering on near the kitchen as I packed my husband’s lunch box. She is always in a maddening hurry and usually completed all her assigned household chores before I am done with my kitchen duties. As my husband left for the office, she took the opportunity to approach me. From her worried look, I could guess that something was wrong.
“What’s the matter?” I asked her before she opened her mouth.
“Madamji, will you cook a ‘fancy’ dish for my child’s tiffin?”
“Fancy?” I was surprised by her choice of the word while I half comprehended what she
“Pasta-shashta with all those colourful vegetables,” she said, pointing at the zip-pouch containing chopped zucchini, broccoli and some colourful bell peppers.
“Yes, of course. Is it her birthday?” I asked knowing well that she had celebrated her daughter’s birthday a few months back.
She looked a little uncomfortable and took a while before coming up with a measured reply. “You see, all her classmates bring food like the ones you prepare for bhaiyya. I always pack whatever simple meals we cook at home. These days her lunchbox remains mostly untouched. Last night she asked me to cook something nice for lunch, which she can share with her classmates.”

The uncomfortable silence following her answer spoke volume. I knew that her daughter was admitted to one of the posh schools here. She got admission under the seats reserved for children of the Economically Weaker Section (EWS). I could understand the mother’s predicament as well as the child’s dilemma.

I didn’t ask any further questions but started my preparation to make the best pasta I have ever cooked.

-By R K Kashyap