IS IT WINTER YET?

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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