Many years ago, more years than I can remember, I had lunch with Mandira Bedi and Raj Kaushal at their Bandra home. Mandira was cooking. That was the reason. Or the occasion. Vir and Tara, their lovely kids, were not on the scene as yet. They were early into their marriage. A fun couple, utterly and entirely in love with each other. It showed in the way Raj poured out a glass of her favourite wine, the Italian bubbly Asti Spumente, from his well-appointed bar.
In her little kitchen into which sunlight streamed and where two shy Nepali boys stood in attendance like sous chefs, Mandira Bedi cooked lunch by referring with fierce concentration to a diary crammed with home recipes authored by her mother. The lunch was eclectic. Pepper Mutton with Pav from a nearby bakery; a Kaali Dal her mother perfected for parties, known as Party Dal, with home-made Rotis; and, a sinfully rich and gooey Coconut Cake.
Mandira was a vegetarian. “I don’t even taste non-vegetarian food so I have no andaza while cooking,” she said. “That’s why I must follow a recipe. But my cooking is still very creative. To put things in at the right time is a work of art.” Raj swore by her cooking. “She’s fabulous,” he said, “what I like about Mandu is that she gets everything just right. She doesn’t go overboard on the spices or oil. I’d gladly have her cooking 24/7.”
Mandira is, and even then was, a fitness freak. Raj was a Mutton Biryani, Butter Chicken and Roti person; she was happy with Broccoli, Mushroom, Soya sticks in a dip, that kind of healthy stuff. And chocolate, she couldn’t get enough. He was into singe malts. Her tastes ran more to Vodka and fine wines. They were like Yin and Yang. I remember coming away with that impression from lunch.
Yesterday, I too reacted with shock at Raj’s sudden death. Pictures and videos on social media confirmed my disbelief. If ever grief and heart-break had a face, it was Mandira’s as brokenly and unconventionally she led the funeral rites. The most painful goodbyes are the ones that are never expected and never said. How will she explain this to her young son and the daughter she last year adopted? What happens to Ying when Yang goes away?