Rain on me…

RAIN

Why do I love rains so much? Is it because of the fragrance of the wet earth when the rain first falls on the dry parched earth which is my favorite smell in the world? Is it because of the pitter patter sounds that the rain makes when it falls on the roof which is one of my favorite sounds? Or is it the feeling of cool and chill in this extreme and nasty heat? I think it’s a little bit of all these reasons.

As I wait in my office ready to go home but unable to go out in this heavy rain and thunder, I sit beside the window and watch the sudden flashes of lightning along with the intermittent sounds of the fierce rain drops hitting the window panes. It is a lovely sight and sound. And I am taken back to the beautiful memories associated with rain. So here are my favorite moments:

Making paper boats and floating them in the water accumulated from the rains was a favorite childhood pastime. I often innovated on the many number of boats that I could make. I even made the boats out of papers of different colors. I may be a grown up now but still I long to do the same. Wonder what my boss will think if I start tearing pages from the diary and start making paper boats.

My first year in university, I remember going to the Central Library, which was a different building altogether and located quite far from my Dept building, not bothering to carry an umbrella. And then it just started pouring all of a sudden. Without caring about catching fever, my friends and I ran all the way to our building. The exuberance of youth is indeed a heady thing.

What is rain without a little romance? That first kiss with my boyfriend on a lush green field in the rains is one of the best moments in my life. It was so full of wild attraction and tender loving all at the same time. When I visualize it in my mind, it seems to be a scene straight out of a rom-com. People change and grow apart but the memories remain forever.

And then there is food. I am reminded of all the different varieties of delicious fries that I have enjoyed while staring at the rain. Ever since my childhood and it continues till now, whenever it rains, I love having potato and brinjal fries with a little salt and pepper sprinkled on top of them.

Oh the thought of food inspires me to just get out of my office, go home and cook some for myself right now. So, I am off to my home. Cheers and a happy rainy season…

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Writing 101: Day10 – Food for the Soul: Happy Durga Puja and a happier me

Waking up to the sweet scent of autumn in the air, the chanting and devotional songs in respect of Mother Durga playing softly on the playground of my locality and the happiness of the entire family getting together for the meal after the Puja (worship), some of my happiest childhood memories are linked to this day every year, the Ashtami (eighth day) of Durga Puja (worship of Mother Durga).

For my friends across the world, Mother Durga is the Goddess of Shakti or strength. I know it is incredible for a lot of you to believe that we worship a woman as an embodiment of strength, especially when you come across the terrible news of how women are sometimes treated in this part of the world, but it is true. She has ten hands with different weapons in each one and is the destroyer and slayer of the very evil Asura. Every year she bids farewell to her husband, Shiva and her heavenly abode to visit her children on earth (that is, us) accompanied by her real children. Though the premise is a religious one, Durga Puja in Bengal and in fact all over the world where there are Bengalis, has surpassed the religious realm and has become a celebration of fashion, the Bengali culture and most importantly, Bengali food. People belonging to all religions, caste and creed take part in this wonderful celebration which is the celebration of life itself.

Goddess Durga in her earthly avatar

Goddess Durga in her earthly avatar

Ashtami, the eighth day of this wonderful celebration, is the day when the main worship happens. All of us do not drink water or have any food till we take part in the ritual chanting (Pushpanjali) in the morning. As a kid, my siblings, my cousins and me used to wake up early on the morning of Ashtami, take a bath, and donning new clothes, we would rush to the pandals (temporary place of worship built every year) to offer our prayers and take part in the chanting. Ravenous after all the efforts of worship, we used to race back to our home and the fragrance of the food prepared by my mother would welcome us.

Every year the menu was the same. Actually, it still is. On Ashtami, we are supposed to have only vegetarian food. So, it would have to be “Khichdi” (a mixture of rice and lentils cooked with generous amounts of spices), fries of different vegetables and” labra” (a curry cooked with different vegetables like pumpkin, potato and lots of spices). As the eldest among my siblings and cousins, it was my duty to set the plates on the table. We used to wait with the plates and glasses all arranged and Mom, Pisimoni (aunt) and Thammi (Grandmother) used to bring out the steaming bowls of “khichdi”, “labra”, the “Beguni” (brinjal fries) and “aloo bhaja”(potato fries). As soon as the khichdi was put on my plates, I used to put generous amounts of butter on top and watch as the butter melted and seeped into the entire food. And then, I used to take a spoonful and relish as it spread warmth in my mouth, stomach and entire body. Oh, it was heavenly. Actually, the warmth is quite literal since there were times when I used to burn my mouth by eating the hot food, against the advice of Mom. When you have such food in front of you, how can you wait for such a mundane thing like cooling it down?

Plate of khichdi with labra and chatni

Plate of khichdi with labra and chatni

After that there was the “chatni” (literally meaning relish, a sweet and sticky flavorful dish). Chatnis can be made of many things but my Mom used to make her special one with “khejur” (dates) and “aam sotto” (dried mango). It was finger-licking good. Oh did I forget to mention that we mostly use our hands and not spoons to eat the traditional home-made food here in India?

And at the very end, there was the dessert. There were warm “rasgullas” (balls made of Indian cotton cheese and dough dipped in sugary syrup). The rasgullas used to be soft like sponge and just melted in the mouth.

 

Rasgulla in an earthen pot

Rasgulla in an earthen pot

This menu is actually quite simple when you compare it to other Bengali festive meals, especially considering there is no non-vegetarian items involved like “maach” (fish) or “mangsho”(chicken). But, this meal is my most favorite because somehow nothing tastes better than the Ashtami “khichdi”. Maybe it was because of the company of all my siblings and cousins at the table, maybe it was the fact that we used to have the food after a long time of restraining ourselves from having any food or water, maybe it was the festive air with the songs that were playing at the local “pandal” drifting in through the windows or maybe it was the food itself cooked with so much love by my Mom. I am really not sure what made it so special but I suspect it was a little bit of everything.

And even today when I try to remember my favorite meal, I can visualize and smell those fragrant steaming dishes of food amidst the friendly teasing and bickering of my siblings. And I cannot wait for the next Durga Puja when I get to enjoy the same meal again. Cheers!!

Writing 101: Day6 – The Most Interesting Person I have met this year

I have generally met my best friends at school, college, hostel or workplace. But, this year I met someone in an unusual way, at least unusual for me. My friend with whom I used to share our huge two-bedroom flat got married and moved out. In order to find a new flat mate, I posted an online advertisement. I received several phone calls and this was just one of them. I spoke to this girl called Nikki and we planned to meet up after office. I waited for her near the department store. She came on a bike in her formal clothes. She was quite tall but what caught my attention was her long straight hair which very easily reached her hips. She had a friendly demeanor and we chatted all the way to my flat while on her bike.

We reached my flat and I gave her a tour after which I asked whether she would have some tea and then it started raining. I made tea and we ended up talking for almost two hours. We suddenly realized that it had stopped raining but we were so absorbed in our conversation that we had not even noticed. I have always been a friendly person but I could not remember whether I have ever had a two-hour long conversation with anyone I have met for the first time in my entire life. We started talking about the flat, then about our jobs, our native places and the conversation just flowed. She was tall and pretty and had a sense of humor that instantly caught my interest. Originally from the central part of India, she loved good food and having completing her M.B.A she was working in the power sector.

A couple of days after that, I called her to ask whether she was interested to move in to my flat but she had some issues and decided not to. However, we planned to meet up for some coffee after work. And it just started happening almost every day. Our offices are really close by and almost every day after work, we started meeting up, whether it was for a cup of coffee or a couple of beers or shopping or even to try out a new eatery.

Almost eight months later and we are still meeting up after work to catch up. Our passion for good food, our eclectic taste in movies and music and our love for shopping and fashion ensure that we never have a shortage of activities. On a personal level, she is almost four years younger to me but her level of maturity amazes me. We are both fun-loving people but also quite strong-willed and though from slightly different backgrounds, we can totally identify with each other. She is also a very straight talker and never minces her words for anyone or anything.

As of now, she has also become friends with my friends and I have become friends with hers. The result is a girl gang of six. We meet up almost every Sunday for brunch and talk about every small or big thing happening in each other’s lives. Our lives are hectic, all of us being single working girls who have to cook our meals and go to office. But we enjoy each other’s company and have a great time doing things that only girls enjoy. At times I think we are much like the girl gang of “Sex and the City”.

Life is the repetition of the usual and you have to inspire yourself to keep doing what you do. But, when you have friends with whom you can share a part of your life and who can make you laugh, then going through the routine life becomes a little easier.