Thursday, May 26, 2011

Fishy Tales

Buying fish has always been a crucial discussion and conversation point in our family.
Well, used to be.
Most of the evening small talk  between my mother and the neighbourhood aunties , as they strolled casually up and down the lanes connecting the houses, was about the rohu which Mr. Ganguly got the other day from Char Ali Bazar, or the small pabho ( pavda) that Mr. Baruah haggled for just  twenty rupees. Went on to the fish sour curry recipe and the steamed mustard secret.

My grandmother's house in Dibrugarh was by the mighty Brahmaputra and we would skip along with my father in the mornings as he went to the fish market and inspected the fresh catch, eventually  returning with a big glassy eyed fish, tomatoes, greens and ginger.

My mother would always call my sister and me when she was frying fish for the curry and give us a piece of the deep fried delicious fish with two onion rings and some ketchup.

The pieces were also carefully served up. My father would get two large and the choicest pieces. My sister and I would get the "peti" ( belly). Mother would have the tail . The guts would be fried with rice and coriander, the head with moong dal.

Kolkata saw me landing up at Gariahat market  on Sunday mornings buying fresh chingri, katla and betki.
 The betki fries served up in some of the finest diners on Park Street was to die for.

Then came Mumbai. My trust with the catch of the sea- pomfrets, surmais, rawas, gassi dishes, rawa coated fires, bombil fry, Gazalee thalis, koliwadas. Fell in love with it all.

INA Market and CR Park Delhi are my new haunts now. With my fluent Bengali , I almost pass off for one and haggle and gaggle till I get a week's stock of hilsa, prawns, rohu and the works. I have even started buying squids. Frozen fish fingers ornate my deep freezer box.

Amazing how life has such varied experience even when it comes to fish.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sunday Mutton Curry

Sunday  was mutton curry day for us when we were young.
It was a ritual of sorts.
Kamla , the help, would chop onions and grind garlic and ginger in rhytmic motions as she squatted  and sweated over the stone pestle and mortar.
The potatoes were peeled and sitting on the sink ledge, some bits of skin still clinging bravely on.

Mother would call out to my father to hurry up.
Father would amble out of the shower, hair neatly combed back, the plastic shopping bag in hand and car keys in the other.

He would walk past the garden and the chicken coop , shouting out gentle instructions to the gardener , before we heard the familiar start up rumble of the Amby.

Around one in the afternoon, the screaming pressure cooker and the accompanying stream of aroma would announce that afternoon lunch would be shortly ready.

That was a ritual that not only we, but most of the families we knew followed.

It was not the mutton that made it special.
It was the family meal.
Unlike other days, father was there at home for lunch.
There was no rush, we could savour every bite and more importantly, conversation.
Mother would be relaxed and happy.
We would be playing.
The radio would be belting out our favourite songs.

That's the difference between consumption and purchase.
The more ritualistic our consumption is, the more special the occasion becomes.

Brands that have capitalised uopn this  have had a much stronger bonding with consumers.
Like the mutton curry, these brands remain in our hearts  longer.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

So little to crib about

I was cribbing about deadlines and work and late hours
I was irritated. Crabbity.
Even sulky.

Until someone asked me whether what I was going through
Was as bad as a man hanging onto the edge of a cliff, counting his last seconds and hoping for help
Or as sad as that little child who had lost both parents and longed for a loving hug
As tiring as the rickshaw puller straining at the wheels for that extra five rupees
As horrible as someone who had just lost his job
Was it even close to what the mother of the brave soldier was going through, as she remembered her little boy playing with his toy guns

I cringed
And saw how lucky I was

To have just a bad day at work to crib about.

Monday, May 9, 2011

A Suitcase full of.....

There are times when I  remember ....
The favourite discoloured old tshirt I would wear at home
The flip camera my team had gifted me
The antique ashtray I had carefully carried back all the way from Bradford
My books
My pots and pans
My favourite  ladle
My daughter's old pram I never threw away
The old suitcase I had got as part of my wedding trousseau

After all, how much can one pack in a suitcase

And then I look at what I did manage to pack
Stacks of happiness
Packets full of hope
Boxes of inspiration
Labels that screamed Freedom

And then I realise that I did manage to pack what mattered most to me.
What matters most for everyone.
Almost everyone.