Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Just special i guess

You wake up to the sound of the drums. Not harsh and loud. But beautiful, like a call to jump up and run out and welcome the day. The beat grows and spreads. Gradually down the street, till it reaches your house.

You smile, as you open eyes, your head still on the pillow.

Then you hear a babble of excited voices. Young, old, middle aged, as they pass your window. You straighten yourself, and peep out. Orange flowers on trees, a slight nip in the air, and women dressed in red, and brown, and white and gold. And men, suddenly taller, also dressed in silk and cotton.

Then, the smell, that lovely smell. That envelopes you, and settles all your fears and tells you you’re safe, you’ll always be.

And suddenly it dawns on you. At nineteen, this is your first Durga Puja. And even before you can realise it, you’ve been swept away.

Every year where ever you are, the smells, the sounds, the voices will come back to you. And you’ll feel happy for no reason.

And this is the first short story i wrote. It is not about the pujas, but just about things I remember around it.


The maid sat on the floor. Bent over a boti. a steel dekchi, battered with the constant scrubbing it was subjected to, lay on the newspaper.

Ranu checked the stove in the corner. The rice was coming along fine. She turned her attention to the gas. One burner had a round shallow kadai. The potols stuffed with kheema were just beginning to brown. The other burner had a large kadai on it. Its handles had turned black with years of use. Ranu frowned. The maid never bothered to scrape the handle with a knife. That's all it took. No point telling her anything. Maids were hard to get these days. And of course no one could be like Suti Mashi.

Now those were the good old days. Suti Mashi ran the house as if it were her own. Of course she also drank at least one litre of milk with her morning tea, but look at how much she worked. The floors would shine, the kadais would sparkle and the way she cooked. Cubes of kumdo. Small tangra mach in tomato gravy. Slivers of baby papayas. And small florets of gobi cooked in a tangy mustard paste.

" Hoye Gache." (It's done)

Ranu looked at Chayya. And thought, " Chayya. Now days, even their names are fancy."

Chayya returned her gaze with one of her own. And drawled, " I can't use this boti anymore. Why can’t you get a nice knife and chopping board. Like the Mehtas upstairs. They even have a micro..."

"Never mind what they have, Ranu snapped. " They have no idea how to cook or cut their food."

Chayya shrugged sulkily and got up. She clutched her knees while doing so. And twisted her face in pain. Ranu noticed it all. “Playacting. She can just go to those Mehtas. They are vegetarians. Let’s see her stuff herself with rice and fish curry there."

The mustard oil was hot. Ranu held the steel dekchi in her left hand. Fat pieces of Katla bedecked in turmeric and salt lay glistening in it. She waited patiently. If it started smoking, the smell would disappear. If it wasn't hot enough the fish would stick, or even worse break.

This was the moment she knew by heart. That magic moment when with a deft hand she would slide the pieces in. One by one. The oil would sputter, threaten to spill all over her. But she was ready. With another slice. And yet another. Together they would catch the oil by surprise. The hissing and spluttering would stop. And that lovely aroma of frying fish would fill the house.

Even Chayya would come and stand beside her. She would nod her head from side to side. Ranu knew that nod. It meant no one could do this like her mistress.

Ranu smiled and said, " Aajke tui amader shonge khabar kha." (Today, you eat with us.)


And finally, I wanted to put up a song (Good Morning Blues - Van Morrison, the skiffle sessions) because it is one of my favourite blogger ka budday. But I still haven't learnt how to put up a MP4 on the music player. Damn. Still, it is the thought that counts and all that jazz. Sorry blues!

22 comments:

The Cloudcutter said...

Wow! This is a fabulous first attempt at short story writing. So wonderfully slice of life.
When did you write it?

Mumbai Diva said...

you're awarded and tagged!!! :) please hop over to collect it.

Tongue Trip said...

kick-ass stuff.great writing.

Saltwater Blues said...

Wonderful writing. Didn't know you were a Bongoli girl! Or maybe you are not a Bongoli girl, I don't know.

And yes of course it's the thought that counts! Besides you played me a song just the other day :)

slash\\ said...

I could almost smell the katla. Nice.
And gives away your Bong connection/roots as Swb mentioned.

Pinku said...

Shubho bijaya!!!


you have gathered up the Pujo flavor so well.....

it has magic and it does make you want to dance :)

Like the fact that we do have a bong connection.

Pancho said...

Thank you for reinforcing my staunch belief that women and fish cuisine are the only noteworthy contributions from Bengal towards Indian culture

:D

And, there you go:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dgvL4_eWN2M

slash\\ said...

@pancho. good fish and better women. what's more to desire in life? ;)

Pinku said...

Pancho....

a bit of the bengali culture also rubbed off on literature, music and theater as well.

Am not at all disputing your thought on fish and women though.

As the Mind Meanders said...

You are magic... and now I know you always were...

Thank you for sharing this with us...

Pancho said...

@Pinku - I guess you're rght, I just find most Bengali men (the ones' responsible for the literature, music and theater) to be too pretonxious (pretentious+obnoxious) to want to give them credit
:D

Anita :) said...

I would never have done such a beautiful narration in n(n+1) attempts..!

agent green glass said...

@the cloudcutter: thank you. about three years back i think.

@mumbai diva: wow. thank you. i love being tagged. and i read your tag and you are an aries. la la...welcome to the self obsessed club!

also though i love tags, i suck at them. but i shall try.

@tongue trip: hoy, thank you.

@SwB: bongoli? well, yeah, half bongoli.

@slash: yeah, i know...potol, boti, katla...i just gave it away, but who knows. I'm also part something else, so maybe i'll do a post on that next time.

@pinku: shubho bijoya: )))) yup, there is a bong connection. and ya, while we are at it, my dream is to do the dhunuchi dance!!!

@pancho, and then slash: ha ha. agree wholeheartedly. shit, they'll never let me enter calcutta. but i have a question: what's the deal with guys and bong women? no really...what...

@pinku again: ha ha. spoken like a true bong.

@ATMM: oooh. thank you.

@pancho (yet again): Hello? excuse me? let's not generalise. oh, wait, you said most, then that's okay. because some are positively smoking!

@anita: naaah. i read your blog. liar. you are freaking good. okay, freaking damn good.

Pancho said...

the thing with ('most' not generalising :P ) Bengali women is that they're smoking HOT!

... even the aesthetically-challenged ones, there's just something about them...

Choco said...

Oh AGG! This was beautiful. It made me nostalgic and I live in Cal!!!
I could picture everything in my mind...

Kudos...

Subho Bijoya :)

agent green glass said...

@pancho: ooh. i'm glad you said most coz i had visions of mashima, pishima, and didima being smoking hot.

@choco: thank you. shubho bijoya : )

Pinku said...

pancho....

bong men in 'most' cases are slightly hen pecked, short, paunchy and not the droolworthy sorts. I mean just look at cinema and you will know what I mean. for the likes of Sharmila, Rakhi, Jaya, Bipasha, Kajol, Rani etc etc....how ,many bong men come to mind?

In which case their being a wee bit pretonoxious should be tolerated. Especially when they know that the charms of their household women floor most men. Thats a very difficult thought to live with it. The men need something to live by dont they??

Kokonad said...

Prothom kotha - Shubho Bijoya! :)

Beautiful beautiful story, and very plausible too, that was the best part. I often found it amusing that my mom knew so much about the personal life of the maid - and how much they connected on a different level altogether... :)

Bong women, oh yes. Smoking hot indeed. :D

Meghana Naidu said...

i'm beginning to read your stories with renewed amazement
there's something new in them, something different from the ones ive read so far(even though i know you wrote this 3 years back)

you've definitely got something going on atom-spy-girl
what's up?
spill the beans :D

indiegurl said...

i really can't cook. At all. But i do love reading about people effortlessly doing things like chopping and dicing and giving expert commentaries on how long to saute a fish etc. It's like reading science fiction. Alien world. :)

ani_aset said...

I didn understand a thing here :) i am a vegetarian. you can always convert your mp4 format to a format you want.

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