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Sweet Ambition

About Akhil Kakkar

Akhil Kakkar is a Mumbai-based writer and content marketer. He has an M.A. in Creative Writing from Brunel University, London, where his dissertation tutor was Booker-longlisted author Matt Thorne. He has also attended the ‘Time to Write’ course at the University of Cambridge twice, and has been mentored by renowned Indian author Anita Nair. His work has been published in Bangalore Mirror, Scroll, The Criterion, Voices From The Attic, Open Road Review, Quillr and The Madras Mag.

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A day in April

“It’s not going to set,” I say to myself.

The Masterchef contestant looks pretty confident though. Overconfident, actually. I personally think that his crème brûlée needs a much firmer texture.

Twenty minutes later, it’s time for the judges to taste the dessert. Time to confirm my theory that the crème brûlée is the weakest link in the pressure test.

The judges check servings of the crème brûlée in their plates. It looks runny, too runny…

…suddenly, Mom comes and switches the television off.

“Study, Sushant,” she says.

“Study? I just gave my 12th board exams,” I say.

Both of us knew that the topic of discussion was my engineering entrance exams.

“Do what you want to do after engineering. Become an engineer first.” Mom pulls the television’s plug out of the socket, to reaffirm that watching Masterchef right now is out of the question.

“I need to take a shower,” I say.

“OK, get ready quickly. Study once you’re ready. Please do study.” Mom walks out of my room.

I go to the bathroom with the pure intention of taking my own time daydreaming about being a pastry chef at the Taj Hotel in Delhi. I start the shower, the water pours on my head, and I envision the detailed steps of making a cracking crème brûlée – one that has a perfect wiggle.

*****

A day in May

We’re playing cricket at a well-grassed patch in Pusa Institute. Formally known as the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Pusa Institute was a green and serene compound in the middle of hustling and bustling West and Central-West Delhi. Calm, quiet, and brimming with trees, it was a pure contradiction to the part of Delhi it was enveloped in.

Unexpectedly for the month of May, it starts to rain. The downpour is intense. We run to take shelter under a bus stop nearby.

I notice a large cream coloured building with perpendicular red stripes dividing it into equal square-shaped segments. The building confidently displays a large sign that says ‘Institute of Hotel Management, Catering and Nutrition, Pusa’. IHM Pusa, as it’s commonly known, is India’s best institute for hospitality and culinary studies. India’s greatest chefs started their culinary journey in this very building.

Gazing into this mammoth building, I discover a much smaller sign over one of the windows that says: ‘Admissions Open’.

“I’ll catch you guys later,” I say to my cricket companions, and walk towards the IHM Pusa building.

*****

A day in June

I’ve not qualified for any engineering seat yet, but hopefully the last day of June will work like a charm. This engineering entrance exam is my safe bet, it’s the easiest exam to take.

The problem is that I’m already 20 minutes late. Traffic was really bad because of the season’s first monsoon downpour. I’ve reached the exam centre now, though. Interestingly, it’s not that far from the Taj Hotel.

I say goodbye to my Dad, get out of the car into the torrent of rain, and rush to the exam centre. The rain is so fierce, that even though I just run for a minute, I’m completely soaked.

‘Admit card, please,’ the gatekeeper at the exam centre says.

This is when I realise that the print out that qualifies to be my admit card has been in my shirt’s pocket all this time. Feeling anxious, I pull it out of my top pocket.

What I feared has happened. The admit card has been ruined by the rain. My photograph is completely smudged and looks like a pattern from a cheap old kaleidoscope. My bar code is an amoeba-shaped blot of black ink.

I try to reason with the gatekeeper, but to no avail.

Confused and irritated, I take shelter at the tea stall next door. Sipping on a cup of tea, I take out my smartphone and check my messages. I notice a new message from one of my cricket companions:

‘The IHM Pusa results are out.’

My roll number was engrained in my memory. I log onto the IHM Pusa website from my smartphone and check my result.

I have made it into the IHM Pusa Merit List!

There’s a fusion of feelings I’m going through. I’m proud but I’m also confused. I’m anxious but I’m also elated.

“Well you got to do what you go to do, Sushant,” I say to myself.

I check my wallet and see that there’s a 500 Rupee note in it, just enough to afford a crème brûlée at the Taj Hotel. I leave the tea stall and stroll towards the hotel, soaking up the sharpness of the monsoon. I’m enjoying the raindrops on my face, I’m enjoying the water dripping on my mouth, and awaiting my mouth-watering treat.

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