The fact that he was drawn to culinary arts was evident from as early as his toddler days. The toys he enjoyed playing most with were an empty wok and ladle, that he would stir sitting on the floor, placing them on a make-believe gas stove. Back then, the family members found it cute and cooed at him fondly when he would serve them with imaginary delicacies that he had prepared during his play time. But as he grew older, when he expressed his desire to help his Ma in the kitchen, he was shooed away by the women, who told him it was his sister who needed to learn cooking and not him. His being obese also worked against his interest in food. People assumed that he was only interested in eating good food and cooking was just an excuse to eat some more good food.
His sister who was two years younger than him was never interested in cooking and would look for ways to escape the women who tried to get her involved in the kitchen activities. She would be taunted and manipulated till the time she would relent and grudgingly join them in the kitchen. How he wished he was in her shoes! At least, he would have got the privilege of being exposed to something he so badly wanted learn.
But well, he still did manage. He would observe his Ma on the sly when she would be cooking. Carefully noting the proportions, techniques and recognizing the ingredients. And on days when he would get a chance to be alone at home, he would sneak into the kitchen and try these recipes, sometimes modifying them to add his own creative touch to them. He would cautiously clean everything, wiping off all the traces of his culinary adventures, putting things back in place after he had eaten what he had dished out, so that his Ma would not notice anything amiss in the kitchen. Sometimes, his sister was a partner in his crime, but she would only comply in helping him eat what he had prepared. She was in awe of his passion for cooking. She admired the way he would meticulously chop the veggies in a precise size and come up with the most delicious concoctions that were far more superior in taste to what the women in the family cooked.
When Shaunak cleared his high school and it was time for him to pick the course that he would specialize in for his graduation. Without doubt his preference was to do a course in Hotel Management. When he expressed this desire to his family members, he was met with stiff resistance. Pa gave him a piece of his mind asking him to decide on an occupation that was more manly and professional, like medicine or maybe engineering. When Shaunak showed no signs of relenting, Pa accused Ma for not having curbed her son’s interest in cooking at an early age, and that they were bearing the brunt of that, as a result. The other men in the family scorned him for supposedly turning out to be a sissy guy. They also attributed his greed for pigging on good food to be the cause for his interest in cooking.
Looking at his Ma’s sorry state after all the accusations thrown at her, Shaunak reluctantly agreed to select some other field and finally ended up taking up a course in Engineering. Since he hadn’t scored enough in high school, it was difficult for him to grab a seat in a good college on merit. So, his father paid a hefty donation to get him a seat in one of the most prestigious Engineering colleges of the country. But unfortunately, a lack of interest in the subject made him perform poorly in the first year of college. At the end of that year, he had made up his mind that he would discontinue with the course that did not inspire him to pursue it at all. In the meantime, he researched on the Hotel Management institutes in the country and started applying for an admission there. When he bagged a seat in a well known institute, he conveyed his decision to switch his field to his parents. Of course, he was met with stiff resistance yet again. He was faced with a lot of emotional blackmail too, since his dad had paid through his nose for the donation for the Engineering course. But Shaunak would have none of it. He went ahead and joined the Hotel Management course. And in a few years, he passed it with flying colors.