A couple of months ago we lost our beloved Dida, our mothers’ mother. When I lose someone from my life, I have a ritual of committing to paper all the memories before they grow dim in my mind. This is one of those ritual drawings.
For all the cousins: Rishi, Ribhu, Reshmi, Ruby, Nikon, Bimbo, Josh-da, Mishti-di, Babun-da, Pushan-da, Raja-da, Ruchi-di, Rinku-di, Badshah-da and Tupshi.
Hall-ghar: the big room, literally the hall
Adda: A gathering for gossip, among other things. Wikipedia definition
Kodbel: A fruit
Putiram: a sweet shop
Eecha: A sweet made with coconut in the shape of prawns from East Bengal
Cheet: A gur candy probably invented by my Dida
Patla Dal with kaalo jeera: Watery dal made in the East Bengal way
Daler Bora, Daler Paturi: Dishes made with lentils, from East Bangal
Mourala Maachch: Tiny fish from the Bay of Bengal
This year I spent Chinese new year with yet another aunt and uncle – Bengalis have many, many uncles and aunts each – and their Chinese friend Wayang. We went to a restaurant called Mayflower. It was rather exotic.
And in between all the eating and drinking and talking, which I totally enjoyed, I managed to quickly make this drawing.
Last week I went home to Calcutta for a brief visit. Those two days were filled with delicacies of all sorts, including the most esoteric dessert. Actually the presence of some seasonal delicacies brought to mind the absence of others – like the Bengalis’ pride and joy, the Himsagar mango. I did get to eat “taaler bora” and “taal kheer” cooked lovingly by my aunt – a skill that my mothers’ generation would take to their grave rather than teach me.
Mother: Huh. Your generation has neither the time nor patience to learn these complex dishes…
Me: But who will make these for me when I’m eighty?
Aunt: Be realistic! You don’t even own a karai, how will you deep-fry the boras?
Yes. Unfortunately I gave up deep-frying (so unhealthy!) and so forfeited my chance to learn the art of taaler bora.
Me: But at least, taal kheer?
Mother & Aunt: No!
Mother: You have no patience!
My chances of cooking taaler bora thwarted, I set out to buy some Bengali sweets to take back to Delhi with me. But horror or horrors, the shops were selling all Marwari and Punjabi sweets!
Where was kheer kadamb, with the powdery white shell and the juicy centre? Where was dorbesh, that beautiful jewel-like sphere?
Nor tilkoot – made from sesame seeds – or jibegoja – the sweet I most identify with!
I was reeling from the shock. Finally I had to go searching across town looking for some real Bengali sweetshops.
In the end with much difficulty I found some simple sandesh…but I am still in shock.]