Sunday, December 03, 2006

Frozen Images

A humorous piece I wrote a while back:

Ever noticed those luscious pictures of refrigerators in the ads? Door invitingly open, shelves pleasantly loaded with chic and trendy foods... that's all you can do to stop yourself from jumping in and chomping away on the healthy produce in there.

First, there's the mandatory wedge of watermelon, bursting with red and freshness and juice. A bowl of strawberries. A pie/tart/flan with golden yellow filling and a citrus slice coronet, replete with a cherry and sprig of angelica or mint. There are fruits and vegetables in little colour-coordinated mounds resting artistically in a corner. They could be the biggest golden mangoes you've ever seen, a variety of squash (gourds to us Indians), sweet corn peeking through bright green and a bunch of what looks like the fattest, juiciest, roundest grapes. Then there could be a tall, inviting jug full of orange juice or milk; you can feel the Vitamin C and calcium in your bones merely on seeing it. And there are various clear-as-crystal containers speckled with dew that contain healthy things like sprouts and slabs of tofu. Lower down, maybe a selection of cheeses. In the side, smooth brown eggs that look like they've come out of some super-hygienic assembly line.

The vegetable crisper has an array of greens and reds — crisp lettuce, plump leeks, waxy green cabbage, peppers (call them capsicum and you lose the magic) dark green, red and yellow, long and shapely chillies, succulent and immense red tomatoes, miniature radishes, artichokes and other such no-longer-exotic metropolitan vegetables. The side racks have bottles — some branded, with sparkling water from somewhere in Europe, sports drinks, fruit juice cartons — from all of which you can find good health leaping off and accosting you. A variety of sauces and relishes to add zip. There's the model with clear skin and the perfectly white and even teeth to tell you that the refrigerator keeps her in top form. And, of course, these refrigerators are so roomy, there's no need to cram anything — everything fits like a dream. And all this is bathed in a golden glow that's at once soft but bright and raises this home appliance to something in the nature of a celestial being.

Reality check

Now for the reality check. My fridge, and most fridges in homes I know, is not half as appealing. Most are white, so the dirt shows. There's usually a grubby, limp napkin wound around the handle. Quite a few are small, so they seem to whimper under the weight of leftovers. The eggs are often spotted or streaked with dirt. Next to that, a couple of torn and straggly wrappers labour to cover bitten-off chocolate. A half-eaten orange lies fibrously forlorn and last night's home delivery packet, side flaps unattractively askew, languishes with its leftovers of tough and slimy manchurian and cold and hard-as nails fried rice. A plastic box, in an attempt at ingenious space creation, collects other odds and ends — a half-used packet of curry paste, an unsealed packet of cornflour, the remainder of a drying loaf of bread. Fingerprints never looked clearer as they did trying to clear out sticky smears of spilt milk and rossogulla syrup mingling with gravy.

In the bottle racks, there's hardly any water. Which my brother learnt the hard way when glug glug went a bottle of vinegar down his throat on a hot summer's day! The chilli, soya and garlic sauces that kept it company should have warned him, don't you think?

In the compartments above are lipsticks, a set of wet wipes, a crusty, two-year-old packet of seeded dates, some older salad dressings bought abroad that you can't bring yourself to throw away, a zillion sachets of tomato sauce and oregano that came with pizza and other home deliveries, some jam and assorted cartons of coconut milk, tomato puree and face pack.

Where dreams die

The main shelves, and this is where dreams really die, are full of steel dabbas. No elegant platters containing seductive trifles or cheesecake. No artistic arrangement of microwaveable dishes with their sunny yellow lids lighting up the confines. No tall, cool jug of juice. No Asian stir-fry twinkling up colourfully from a spotless porcelain dish covered with cling film taut and clear. No brilliant colours in the crisper, just some listless vegetables curling up and dying. No freezer stocked to the full. Just some ice-trays and gaping white space into which a visiting cousin sticks his head to escape the heat. No who's who of the food processing industry.

Mostly it's an assortment of square, round and squat steel containers, solidly reinforcing the ordinary, middle-class reality of your life. None of that `aspirational' (to borrow a marketing term) quality the ads and lovely brochures have about them — it's three rows of detritus that blow to smithereens every lifestyle fantasy you harboured. But don't quit.

So what if you accumulate prettier things — both food and containers, more puddings and pounds — in the quest for the perfect refrigerator interiors? It is, in truth, a pursuit of a higher ideal — a healthier, happier, calmer, all balanced, unflappable, wholesome new you. After all, as you've always been told, it's the effort that counts, isn't it?


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7:05 AM  
Blogger Mehul said...

Wow, loved your post! Man, I've always wanted to start a blog and write funny posts like these, but it is hard to put down such thoughts on... print.

Well, good job taking the time out to write such a huge post! Will read the rest of your blog.

5:38 PM  

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