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Monthly Archives: November 2013

First Published: http://www.thedailystar.net/beta2/news/is-it-winter-yet/
Date: Published: Sunday, November 17, 2013

It is 6 am and I wake up to a rooster crowing. Somewhere. Looking out through the window I see the world is covered under thick fog, nothing visible. I suddenly feel a shiver a cold wave through my veins and take a deep breathe. Ahh, winter is here. Just when I was about to go back inside the warm comforter I heard loud noises from the kitchen and remembered we are scheduled for our annual pitha breakfast. Without delay, I rush out of the room and see my mother-in-law already up and running. She is in her outdoor kitchen preparing for the grand pitha breakfast. Bhapa pitha, chitoi pitha, shaak ghonto, khejurer rosh and hot malai cha. Slowly one by one each one of us wake up and line up around her, sit near the fire, and wait for our share of the heavenly bliss. Everyone is wrapped in warm clothes, some even sporting monkey caps. The kids are running around and taking occasional bites from us. We, the adults, share jokes while the matriarch gives her creations final touch and serve.
My mother-in-law with her trusted supporting team will sit in the middle-right, right next to the lakrir chula and make pitha relentlessly, as long as we demand for encore. From the pan straight to our plates. Orders come rushing: some want more gur, some less, some hate coconut shavings and some want loads of it. Pitha tastes heavenly; in case I haven’t said it already. The gur has been readied a week back from fresh date juice. Rice flour has been made from the finest rice harvested recently. Coconuts picked from the trees around the house. The overwhelming freshness creates an intangible wall around you. It takes you to a dreamland with the first bite. The tenderness and balance of sweet and savory is just perfect. After an hour or so I realise I must get out of the kitchen before I overeat and can’t move. Then one of us moves to the other side to boil fresh milk to make malai cha, someone adds molasses to that tea. Nothing compares to this kind of a morning.
And then I come back to my senses as my son calls me to help him fix his toys. I look around and I see I am in my bedroom, in our apartment in Dhaka. No makeshift pitha kitchen; no pitha at all. I get some chitoi from a street vendor and boil 1 litre of Dano full cream milk and add some molasses which has been sitting in the fridge for a year. A perfect pitha morning in a village has colours and character that the urban dining table pitha fest has nothing on. One who has seen and experienced both knows what I’m talking about. While my mother-in-law gears up for her annual pitha affair, I daydream about it, make a poor version of it, and wait for our winter vacation to arrive. I have a spare seat in my car this year, anyone interested?

Bohemian Soul is a working mother of a 6-year-old. She would much rather bake and write poetry all day but knows how to keep it real.

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First Published: http://www.thedailystar.net/beta2/news/once-upon-a-time/
Date: Sunday, November 3, 2013

There was a time when I lived in a house with 34 members of my family. There were sibling fights, sad days and deaths but those were the golden days. They were packed with playfulness and sheer joy. The head of the house, my grandmother, was like the sun — centre of our universe. Everything used to evolve around her and her wishes; the menu of the day, responsibilities, chores etc.
It was a big house with many rooms and never-ending stream of guests. There was a garden full of roses, dahlias, chrysanthemums, magnolias and believe it or not, sunflowers. There were guava, mango, coconut, jackfruit trees and henna, beli, shuili plants as well. There was an aata gachh, (custard apple tree) too. It was an old building with a long veranda that was accessible from all the rooms. Usually after coming back from school, when everyone used to nap around 3pm, it was only me who toured around the house and embark on little adventures. Thus I earned the nickname “manager of to-to company”. My favorite thing to do was to keep an eye on the aata gachh and see if there was any parrot sitting on its branches, or whether the guavas were ripe enough to eat. There were monsoon days when I stayed out in the rain to my heart’s content. I had 10 cousins living with me who were of various ages and we were brought up as siblings.
Hardly a day passed when we didn’t have guests and I didn’t want to go back to my desk. In the afternoon we used to sit together, almost all 35 people, for tea and puri or badam at the courtyard. The courtyard was the venue for all our family events — starting from ga-e holud, birthdays, death anniversary milaad, and in some cases, weddings too.
A part of the garage was rented out to a chips maker-vendor. We used to run to “Molla” for chips and asked him to take the money from the elders. Life was perfect. We had indoor badminton tournaments, football matches and the typical borof paani games in the courtyard. It was a big fat family you can only see in the movies now.

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