Keep Calm or I’ll Feed You Mishti

Also published on Huffington Post India 

The furore over the imposition of meat ban in several states in consideration of the Jain festival Paryushan made me realise what a peace loving community we Bengalis are. We don’t care that nobody cares for our religious sentiments. During festivals like Durga Puja, we are so engrossed checking out each other’s saris and ingesting copious quantities of biryani and kabiraji cutlet that we don’t get time to demand bans. Rather, we go for a self-imposed ban on vegetables during those days. True, the bhog of ‘khichudi and labda’ is vegetarian but we more than make up for it in the evening by having protein and bhajabhuji (Bengali-pioneered junk food, way before the West could think) on behalf of the entire nation.

We Bengalis are a contented lot as long as others acknowledge our intellectual superiority, rich kaalchaar and don’t serve us a vegetarian meal. I know of instances where a particular Bengali family was put in deep freeze for a lifetime of indifference because they dared to serve only one non-vegetarian dish on their daughter’s wedding. My Ma-in-law has yet to get over the horrific ordeal of being invited for a meal by our Punjabi neighbour in Delhi and made to eat just rajmah chawal. How can someone invite you over for lunch and serve just one dish and that too rajmah!

I know Punjabis are passionate about chhole and rajmah, but for us it’s cattle feed till generous quantities of keema have been added to it. Our love for maachh is as legendary as our lust for mangsho. My husband often recalls with glee the recipe for dumoorer chop on a TV show that asked for two teaspoons of dumoor (raw fig) to be added to half a kilo of minced mutton. In fact, true blue bongs equate “non-veg” with only mangsho. Fish (phish) is a daily comestible that borders on being “veg”. If your Bengali friend has invited you over for a bhegetarian laanch, you are forewarned that the daal could have a fish head looking dolefully at you and the humble lauki, Baba Ramdev’s favourite vegetable, will have a crunchy splattering of shrimps. We don’t like vegetables to feel lonely.

Moved to Tears

I have discovered the key to everlasting excitement – a life that refuses to settle down and keeps you constantly on your toes making you adjust to a new normal. Much like the commitment-phobic bad boy who women choose over the nice guy.

Eleven years back when we finally moved to our new apartment, I did a happy little jig and said to myself, yay, no more packing and unpacking of mountains of cartons! No more submitting piles of ID’s where we resemble doped convicts and filling forms in triplicate, giving proof of our birth and a forecast of our estimated death – so that we could get our address changed. We’ll grow old and crumble with this apartment. This will be our happily ever after. Yay again!

Truth be told, my yay lasted for quite some time. In fact it felt like a marriage that has lasted long enough to reach a stage when the halo dims, reality sinks in and we start taking each other for granted. It’s no fun to be wrapped in a comfortable cocoon of predictability. You get bored of being bored and soon enough you start itching for change.

The fun fact about change is, everybody wants it. But when it’s finally at our doorstep threatening to knock us out of complacency, we throw a fit like a kid being dragged to school for the first time.

Three years back when we moved to Brisbane in Australia, I welcomed the change. True, it took me a few months to adapt to a new way of living. But once I got past the trauma of being my own cleaning lady, presswali, cook rolled into one, I cherished the freedom I got doing my own stuff on my terms.

What I did not know was this was just the beginning of an unending cycle of settling and unsettling.

Barely a year after moving back from Australia to apartment no. 1 in Gurgaon and then to another apartment, we are getting ready for the tedious process of moving again. Our packers and movers have become an extension of our family. I now call them by their first names.


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