Chilling Prospects

My ode to the Chilli was published in the April issue of Spark. You can read it on the Spark website, or below the fold here.


Two weeks ago, I discovered unexpectedly,
My Pharaonic appetite for a fiery red spice
Had received its biological comeuppance,
Six months of recurring cough were not down
To the air, water or my daughter’s school infections –
It was just the humble chilli avenging decades
Of intemperate use in my vegetarian diet
Sambar, rasam, chutney, podi dosa, curd rice,
Mangoes, pickled and raw, and flavoured snacks
In unbranded packets from tin sheds in Bommasandra
Or puffy branded ones from automated factories,
FAO accredited, no trans-fat and zero cholesterol.

Nanogram by nanogram, this most inexpensive
Of spices had whittled some unknown capacity
In my physical body to tolerate its fire
Even as I delighted in its mystical splendour,
And it’s as if a tragedy has befallen me,
For, what else can it be when I can no more
Transcend the pain of love, loss and betrayal
With a slice of chilli cheese toast than
I can imagine life without the prospect
Of these emotions; it is, after all, the enduring
Dramas in our life that make it all worthwhile
And while some turn to beer, whisky or rum
To navigate the twists and turns, it was
To the accommodating chilli that I turned to,
Time and again, to consume the fires within.

To be allergic to something so essential
To my very existence, no, it is not a tragedy,
Maybe it is a farce, maybe it is a challenge
To my spirit, or maybe a sly God mocking me –
So what if you can play three sets of tennis
Or run a half marathon or work through the night,
This moment on, that thin crust pizza you hold
Will have to do with just six little red flakes,
Two for every slice, while you lustfully eye
The other half of the plate where your wife
Liberally sprinkles her slices with sixty six,
And while I don’t really count, it is an omen,
Of a sort anyway, I am beginning to think.

This is all a bit too much for me, I know now
The reverberations in the heart of an addict
And decide I won’t spend the rest of my life
Eyeing someone else’s masala puri plate or
Pondering the excesses of my self-indulgent past,
What’s done is done, and what’s to come will come,
But what is inconceivable is that I foreswear
This most noblest of spices, the lasting legacy
Of those intrepid and barbarous men who came
Searching for a different spice, and unbeknown
Redefined the passion and temper of a billion
Like me. Allergy be damned, get me my pickle.


Posted on April 9, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Ha ha ha….I don’t know whether to feel sorry for you but at the moment it’s funny…You!…allergic to chillies!…nature has it’s own kind of humour… 😀

  2. Kya karen, seems like I have no choice but to limit my junk food! 😦

  3. it’s a blessing in disguise then 🙂 …. but I so wish the whole earstwhile team, sitting in the cafeteria at 5, eating aloo bondas, chaats and chilli pakoras…with you sitting there with a plate of fruit salad, pretending to be nonchalant…but secretly eyeing our plates!! 😀

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