25th January, 7.02 a.m, I was still in bed and my phone was vibrating by my bed. As a rule, I never keep my phone by my bed side, don’t know why I had kept it that day. Also, it is always on silent mode. Alyona was up and about as she was getting ready to go for her UK visa, she heard it and got me to pick it up. The caller identified himself as Mr Chauhan, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs, he said ‘Badhai ho. Bharat sarkar ne aapko Padma Shri dene ka nirnay kiya hain.’ I thanked him and disconnected the call. Alyona asked, a trifle worried as only during emergencies does my phone ring at that hour. I reassured her that everything was fine and the call was to tell me that I had received the Padma Shri. Now the first thing that came to my mind was that, someone was playing a prank, after all one doesn’t expect government offices to start functioning so early in the morning! I then checked the number on truecaller and sure enough it showed up Mr Chauhan’s name with the right designation. But I needed more proof. I logged on to the Ministry of Home Affairs website and Mr Chauhan was featured there as Joint Secretary. As a last measure, I called him back. I told him I was calling to reconfirm the news. He laughed and said it is confirmed, it’s not a prank, you have been awarded a Padma Shri. Now I knew it was happening for real!
In the last 6-7 years, friends, well-wishers and people I know would ask me when I was winning the Padma Shri, honestly I didn’t have an answer to the when, because there have been very few instances of people in the culinary category being awarded, a matter that has come up at many forums I’ve attended. I have also spoken about this at many high end forums about the need of recognition for chefs. Year after year awards had been given for excellence in the field of arts and science and for me, cooking is definitely one of the greatest art and science. So I won’t say that the news came to me as a shock, somewhere deep down I was expecting it to happen sooner or later. Interestingly for the last few years, every 25th January, I would get many calls telling me that my name should’ve been on the list and that I should have got the Padma Shri.
This 25th January, my phone hasn’t stopped ringing for another reason. As my mother always said, you will get what you deserve. Patience pays!