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SANJUKTA MAJUMDAR

SONGSOPTOK THE WRITERS BLOG | 5/15/2016 |




Charu realised that it was ‘ponchishe boishakh’ and she was yet to fix on the menu for the evening. She has been celebrating Rabindranath’s birthday every year for more than a decade now with her friends and relatives coming over. The dinner has always been a special impetus for them. Ponchishe boishakh also brings back memories for her… of a very special person, who had once fulfilled her life with love and her senses with the tastes and aromas of exquisite food…

Years back it was the same day, Charu was clad in sunshine yellow chiffon, waiting patiently at the college bus stand for her very dashing, caring and loving boyfriend Adidev. Both were great foodies and whenever they met it was always about what special they ate, what new recipes they learnt, and what else can be made out of something. Charu always felt very special to have a boyfriend who was a great chef. So many times he cooked and got it packed for her. Friends pulled her leg, that she is going to marry a cook, but she knew they were jealous. Charu never saw her father even enter the kitchen. Hence she really considered herself to be the luckiest to have Adidev in her life.

That day it was the first time that she went to his place, a little shy and shaky. There was no one in the house. He moved a little close to her and as she started to anticipate something, he asked, “Are you hungry?” She actually was, and nodded her head. Her alpha cook boyfriend came with a strange mushy dish and chapatti. Hardly could she understand about the dish but the enigmatic aroma captured her senses. Adidev presented the dish also in style and told her to eat and find out the ingredients. It was of course eggplant but something was so very rich and Mughlai about it. She could feel mutton keema melting in her mouth. But it was totally smooth and creamy. The reason behind this remained a secret. She coaxed her love for this out of the world, mouth-watering delicacy’s ingredients and ultimately a shy kiss on his cheeks actually opened the door.

It’s called ‘Byangoma’. He said. ‘first smear the eggplant in the oven, u can boil it too, but the smell won’t be there then. So just roast it, applying mustard oil on it generously. Boil minced meat and keep it ready. Boil two to three eggs also. Take a pan, heat oil, put sliced onions, garlic and ginger. Put julienned tomatoes, let the spices get fried, and then add the keema, and eggplant. Sprinkle some coriander on it. Let it cook and get entangled with each other like inseparable lovers. And now the creamy trick that you couldn’t make out my sweetheart. Mash the egg yolks in it. Wrap it with your lovely smile and present it.’

Adidev was not only a great cook but a brilliant teacher who motivated Charu and taught her to do so many things. Charu loved cooking but the passion secretly seeped into her when and how she didn’t understand. However whatever recipe she learnt from Adi, even after doing exactly the same way, it never tasted the same. This used to make her unhappy within. 

Charu jolted back from her reverie. It’s now over almost two decades that she has not even seen him. They drifted, on a reason not known to them. He faded away slowly, without telling her. Initially she used to feel the difference. He became so busy that he hardly could give her time. She used to cry, complain, and he used to pacify her. But slowly he moved away, far away. Charu still cries, she could never love anyone the way she loved him. She drew a picture of their house and named it ‘Eternity’.

Every day she visits that house of hers. Charu’s eyes were moist again when her elder daughter Tanu hugged her from behind and said, “Ma, aren’t we having guests today? What’s in the menu?” Charu replied, “Haven’t thought sweetie… let’s see.” Charu’s elder daughter is a great chef. She is now in 9th standard but she bakes like a perfect baker, and cooks like a master chef. She inherited almost all the exquisite dishes from her mom. Today she planned to surprise her mom by trying something new. She took the onus on her saying, “Ma, let me do the honours today.”

Whole day she cooked, while Charu helped her with the spices and other things. Charu then got ready, the house smelt of flowers and the kitchen of course was knitting another aromatic pattern. It was Rabindrajayanti celebration once again. Poems, songs, and stories of Tagore from here and there were flooding each and everyone’s intellect.

It’s late in the evening when Tanu called everyone to the table – “Sinner time!” Sweet and simple menu by chef Tanu… polau, kali dal, fish fry, and byangoma. Rooti Charu got from outside and brownie with ice-cream.

Rounds of applauds for Tanu were reaching the level of noise pollution.  Charu was beaming with pride. Some suggested, “Send her to Master Chef!” Some suggested that the young girl must pursue hotel management and some enquired, “How come being today’s generation she is so much interested in cooking?” Dipak, Charu’s brother-in-law said, “Boudi, we know you cook well, but never saw my brother get inside the kitchen. Tanu has gone on you totally.”

After everyone left, Charu took her plate and sat with the food. She was so delighted to find Tanu making Byangoma, one of her own favourites. But to her utter amazement it actually tasted like the one that Adi used to make. Tears trickled down on the plate and she wondered… how is this possible? How could her daughter inherit this culinary skill which belonged to the love of her life? Life is indeed stranger than fiction and love can make miracles happen.


[SANJUKTA MAJUMDAR]

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