Prelude: We just moved back to Singapore, our home of 13 years after spending 2 years in India.
While home takes time to settle, kids to start school again and most importantly my acceptance of being SELF-MAID yet again, life offers plenty of dine out opportunities. So, over the past few days we have been clenching each one of them and eating out at places we have always loved. Tonight, Pasta Fresca it was.
After a long and tiring day of running between two schools for both my angels, seeing a dear friend over tea and finally heading out for dinner, our tummies were growling. Cats, bats, rats, in fact, a mammoth army of animals was rumbling within. At this point, I must warn you we are a family of serious eaters. Ever since. Never even on our first date did we shift focus to eyes, hands or anything that may have brought the evening close to romance until we had our tummies full. And 14 years hence, we have stayed true to our character; food still remains our first love. And so we wasted no time in placing a quick order of three different pastas and garlic bread. White sauce minus the seasonings (as a special requirement of the youngest member of the Deshpande clan); Spinach Ravioli in red as a compromise to satiate my older one with Ravioli and red sauce for my Desi(Indian) self and a fiery Arrabiata for the better half.
The girls know how to keep the mother pre occupied, not leaving any room for conversation even the menu card to say the least; leave alone the spouse. They manipulate me and keep me so engrossed with their demands, I wonder who manages whom. So while the waiter sets the table, the youngest member demands I ask for crayons and paper. She chews on my right ear incessantly till matters get out of hand and I am forced to ask the waiter to bend before her whims. He immediately gives a nod and I feel a relief. It is moments like these that should be backed by an automatic trick-alarm triggering into my system to warn me of my short lived peace. By the way, waiter deciphered ‘colouring’ as ‘cutlery’ and wasted no time in presenting IKEA dinner sets for the girls. I detested the half chewed fork and overused dishes, but my success in negotiating stayed restricted to usage of steel cutlery and plastic plates. (P.S. Finally, the colours never came and I had to be at the receiving end of constant nagging for the next hour or so.)
In the meanwhile, my older one is waiting stealthily like some leopardess to strike her next kill and the better half is glued to his screen. I feel mad and utter, “Why on earth is this six feet of space being wasted? Why does he get all the freedom all the time? Why do I get the questions and demands all the time?”
The older one is quick to snap back, “But since this is not home, we aren’t exactly wasting that space!!”
That helps all of us crack up a bit.
It isn’t before 15 minutes in my seat that I finally get to catch my breath and run eyes across the room. And then while I am hungry enough to devour all food my eyes can screen on neighbouring tables, I notice a really fat man, denim clad, sitting right across like some potted plant, relishing an entire pizza. He seems happy, going solo, with some booze to keep sanity at bay.
Suddenly, I notice the contemporary ambience of the restaurant. Wood, white walls, high ceiling, new age lamps with zero personality; two walls full of liquor bottles, one wall window opening into the kitchen, and all other walls filled with some black and white pictures printed on canvas. Suddenly it occurs to me I first fell for this place about 15 years ago. I was new to the city, living in a condo called Hacienda Grove right behind the restaurant as a PG with an Indian family. Their daughter first brought me to Pasta Fresca and I instantly fell for the great ambience of colourful paintings of the Italian countryside spread across the space; fabric used like drapes on ceiling, dotted with tiny chandeliers, giving the place a rustic feel. The only thing in common 15 years apart is the all glass side looking over the beautiful Upper East Coast Road and the decent taste of the pasta.
After I married, we discovered a Pasta Fresca closer to home, located in front of a long empty road in Pasir Panjang. We would grace it regularly in the honeymoon phase of matrimony, when love was still blooming, friends were forgotten and we would certainly return to romance after gobbling some pasta down. In our case, love finds way only after the tummy signals a green light. The ambience there was just as rustic and laid back. The space was massive, the staff welcoming, the patrons few and the view calming, especially on a rainy day. On one such night some twelve years ago, we headed to the place, me all dressed up and standing tall on 3 inch high heels(things you get to do when you are 40 pounds lighter). And the universe conspired. We couldn’t find a cab on our way back. Then we played the adventure card and decided to walk back home. Only a 20 minute brisk walk. How romantic with 3 inch high heels to catwalk back in!! I stayed put for exactly 1 minute and 22 seconds wearing my most romantic smile. Then I got back to basics. And we spent the next 17 odd minutes enjoying a romantic walk, sandals in my hand(With sandals in my hand.. I felt like a Woo-man).
Suddenly the waiter showed up with pasta. We immediately dug in. After serving the girls, I wasted no time being polite to the husband. I started eating hastily. And lo behold, my true blue Desi soul revolted. Low sodium, no chilli, my taste buds rejected my once favourite pasta. I quickly grabbed a bite from Arrabbiata. And ummm, the chilli padi tasted orgasmic. A bottle of chilli flakes appeared on the table in the next 30 seconds. In the meanwhile, I realised, the pizza eating man ordered his last two slices to be reheated. I was dead sure he was some Desi used to hot chapatis being served at the table. I smiled.
In the meanwhile my younger one continued standing up on her chair every couple of minutes. She was bored and didn’t know how else to entertain herself since phone was a strict no no. The older one ate full speed and went about bothering the sister to keep busy. Hubby dear was quick to gauge my situation and retort, “Your lehsun chutney is here… aur bhi kuch mix karma hai ya ban gaya Pasta Butter Masala?” (Your garlic chutney is here, would you need any more toppings or have you guised Italian pasta to its Indian version?)
I zipped up; I realised how Indian-ised I had become after spending just two years in India and despite living in Singapore for 13 years before that. It was for the first time that I realised I was turning out exactly like my Mom; the kind I teased and mocked a decade ago. Aren’t there Apps available to change upgrade my system to ‘Modern Mum’ aka ‘Cool Mum’ that and survive happily without going back and forth to ROOTS? Unfortunately, life seems to have come a full circle. Surviving in Singapore feels like an uphill climb this time.