There is a well-known story about a king who wakes up one morning with the bright idea of asking his three daughters how much each one loved him. The eldest replies, “You are as precious to me as pearls and diamonds.” And the king is delighted with her response.
The second replies, “I love you more than all the land in our kingdom.” The king is mighty pleased with this reply too. The youngest daughter replies, “You, father, are as dear to me as salt!” And the king, upset and disappointed with this candid reply, banishes the young princess from his sight.
And then the story goes that the smart girl in cahoots with the royal chef and the sous chefs, prepares a banquet fit for kings, like literally, and serves it to the king minus the vital but offending ingredient in every dish. After a few unsalted and tasteless bites, the king realises just how important salt is and welcomes his daughter back into the royal embrace. All is well in the kingdom after that.
A vital element
Salt — such a vital element, both for taste and health, but so taken for granted. No one notices it until it is a little too less or a little too much. It played an important role in India’s freedom struggle when the British imposed a Salt Tax on the Indian citizens, which led to Mahatma Gandhi’s famous Salt March of Dandi.
A precious commodity since ancient times, salt was considered so important that it gave rise to various expressions of its own. Good and honest people were said to be the ‘salt of the earth’. People of high ranking in society were considered ‘above the salt; and those at the other end ‘below the salt’.
You are advised to take a fanciful and exaggerated story with a ‘pinch of salt’; a man who has age and experience is considered an ‘old salt’, while ‘salt and pepper’ refers to the fifty shades of grey and black on someone’s head, and while on the topic could we consider this piece as ‘attic salt’, which refers to subtle humour or wit?
Now with the extra half a day added to the regular weekend in the Gulf, getting back to work on a Monday morning is quite like ‘going back to the salt mines’ for some.
Hung up and well salted
I guess this is as much salt as you guys can take in one sitting, with me having the topic ‘hung up and well salted’ which means to know everything there is to know about something.
And, what brought on this extensive thesis on salt? Oh, I guess because I had an as-dear-as-salt moment recently, right in my humble palace. The husband is normally a taciturn man, from birth, I hasten to add lest readers get the wrong idea.
Especially when at work, buried among his files, he very rarely calls unless it’s an emergency, unlike other husbands who I hear call their wives thrice or four times a day. Ah well!
So, imagine my astonishment when I suddenly get a call from him, around noon-ish. After the initial ‘hi’, I almost added ‘and to what do I owe this unexpected honour, dear Sir?’ before I reined myself in. He replied with a ‘hi’ of his own and continued with ‘and what are you doing?’ I replied vaguely ‘oh, this and that’, and tried to sound busy.
“What about you?” I asked him.
“I’m digging into my lunch-box.” Came the reply.
“Oh …” I said, waiting for more. When there was nothing forthcoming, I asked him, “So how is it?”
“Excellent as always,” came the gallant reply, “except for a slight issue with the salt — not a grain of it to be found even if I search with a microscope.”
Aah! Indeed … mystery solved.
I owe the unexpected honour of a call from hubby to salt or rather to missing salt, in his food!
Radhika Acharya is a freelancer and author of two books Adventures of JP family and Girl from Goa