The Spirit of Food and Language

Yomari – By Spartathreehundred at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32880059

It was 2pm in the afternoon. I was at my maternal grandparents place. We were about to eat the afternoon snack when my uncle mentioned about a Nepali who was participating in MasterChef UK. That was the first time I heard about Santosh Shah, whose name I didn’t know then. Soon after I googled to find more and followed his progress on the show like thousands of others.

His story reminds me of faith and patience; from a small village to the worldwide stage. The roads of life are strange and you cannot tell what awaits at the next corner, the only thing that you can do is practice your art.

Recently I watched the episode where he made Yomari and Chilly Chicken, the dishes that sent him straight to finals week. I was excited to see his take on the famous sweet dish and also equally excited to see how the judges would react to it.

Chef Shah had made balls of chocolate and covered it with white dough – something different from how I have seen a Yomari being made. How it’s often made at home is by melting a local variant of chocolate known as ‘Chaku’ and the liquid is then poured in the white rice dough that is made into the shape of a cup (with tails and two antenna like structure) and steamed.

As I watched him make a Yomari in a British show that had presented the contestants with a Chinese Kitchen, the words of Indian writer Raja Rao came flooding. Raja Rao had written: One has to convey in a language that is not one’s own the spirit that is one’s own. These words had nothing to do with food and yet everything in the moment. Chef Shah had tried to manage whatever was available in the kitchen and express the spirit of his homeland.

As someone who has been writing in English, a language that is not my mother tongue or first language, I have many a times stumbled upon the question of how can I ever express a world that is not English in English. Nepali writing in English is a relatively new sphere in the world of literature and language. There are not many in this field who can make you smell the tea farms of Illam, the rainy seasons of Kathmandu, and the heat of Terai in English. As I struggle to write my worldview in English, I worry about how unique or original will it be or if I sound like a copy of a writer I have been studying.

Watching Chef Shah mould the Yomari, I found a new interpretation of the words of Raja Rao – it is the spirit that one must express. There will be differences, but that is not what truly matters. It is the spirit that matters. The judges were wowed with the dish. They had never seen the unique shape of a Yomari.

It truly is the spirit that surfaces at the end, be it in the flavors of food or in the words written across pages.

This Is What Murakami Meant | A Short Story

Her eyes swell up. I don’t want her to cry, but I cannot utter a word. She has too brilliant a mind to lose it over her heart.

We would have been perfect for each other, I know she believes it. We both love the same things. But for us to happen, we’d need another universe. We are here instead, and this isn’t going to happen.

I tell her, hers is the most brilliant mind I have ever come across. And I wished I could give her back the marvels she has given me. But I fall short. I’m only human, she might have been divine.

Admiration is what bonded us together. I have told her one too many times how much I adore her mind. When did she begin to blur the lines between the mind and the heart, I cannot tell.

‘I know it’s not your fault, not my fault, or anyone else. It’s just how it is. It’s just living,’ she says. A fine line of tear has already left her tiny eyes.

Living, the word echoes endlessly in my mind for a minute.

‘This is what Haruki Murakami meant,’ she says. ‘When he wrote, that a person can, just by living, damage another human being beyond repair.’

The words are too hard for either of us. But it has been said. Was she really beyond repair?

‘Maybe not beyond repair,’ she says realizing the harshess of the words. ‘But if you think of it, we don’t go repairing our heart. We just peel off the broken parts till new ones grow in. So it is beyond repair in one sense,’ she adds.

I told you, she has too brilliant a mind to lose it over her heart.

I knew Murakami was one of her favorite authors. I never read one myself. I don’t know if she was blaming me, or herself, or anyone for existing. Living was in itself a coiled reality. That we could live in so many different levels in the minds and hearts of others is both terrifying and amazing.

Either of us hadn’t done anything. She was hurting. And I felt guilty. But there was nothing either of us could do.

Wouldnt it have been so much easier if we could love the ones who loved us? Maybe Murakami knows the answer to this. Maybe he doesn’t. What did he really mean with that line afterall?

The Journey South

Image by Alexas_Fotos on Pixabay
Image by Alexas_Fotos on Pixabay

‘Mama,’ said the Baby Bear as they dug the pile of garbage for food. ‘Why does it smell so different?’ she asked again.

Mama Bear frowned, she had no answer.

A group of 12 polar bears had left their home in search for food. The older ones were starving, the younger ones were afraid. They had just come across the pile of garbage, where humans, the most superior of beings as marked by God, had left a humongous mountain of waste.

Baby Bear dug dipper, she had found something. It gave off a pungent smell. She realized it was not food. It was a cellphone. She could not eat it.

‘They are coming!’ said one of the elderly bears. The entire group rose up and started moving backwards. The humans had arrived with loud noises. They had crackers along, and a pack of dogs with them. The dogs had already begun barking.

‘Mama, what do they have?’ questioned the Baby Bear.

‘We must move,’ said Mama Bear.

‘But I’m still hungry.’

Mama Bear frowned. Some of the bears continued digging for food. Their pearl white fur had turned brown and black. The smell was unbearable.

A loud noise scared the bears even more. Nearby, the humans had just lit their crackers. The dogs were barking loudly.

‘It’d be better to move,’ said one of the bears. But the pack was very hungry. The bears had not eaten for three days. They had to pick one, fear or hunger. And hunger won the battle. A few moved back, while some continued digging, chewing on whatever their senses allowed them to pass as edible.

Baby Bear found a can of food. It gave off a pungent smell, but she realized she could eat it. She swallowed it in one breath.

A few more crackers went off and the bears retaliated, their hearts stopping for a micro second. The barking had become louder and louder. The dogs were nearing in.

The pack finally decided to backdown and moved further back. They slowly started to disperse. The food hunt had been paused.


A group of polar bears is called ‘Celebration’. But the pack that entered human settlement in the Russian village recently, was not about celebration of any sort. Humans are on top of the food chain so we’ll receive the blow at the end, but the blow is also likely to be final. My heart capsized when I saw the picture of the bears searching for food in the trash. What have we done to bring such magnificent¬†beasts of nature to this point?¬†