The first memories of kalboisakhi are of stark fear.
A little girl cowered in Grandma’s lap as theatrics of horror enact outside.
Ominous dragons spew fire, lighting up the dark canvass of the skies.
Deafening claps of thunder cause the wooden window shutters to tremble in morbid agony.
Gusts of intoxicated winds remain doggedly steadfast in their resolve to sweep away everything that dare obstruct their paths.
And sheets of torrential rains blur the distant horizons.
Grandma regales me with stories of Indra, the King of the Gods, astride his mighty Airavaat, hurling his thunderbolt to slay the wicked demons.
And every time the lightning serpent rips the sky, my tiny fingers race to my ears.
One…two…three… I count in trepidation as yet another ear-splitting clap of thunders reverberates across.
But as I grow up, the grim fear gives way to an impatient anticipation.
I wait for the kalboisakhi. To send the showers. And cool the parched earth.
The gaggle of geese, pristine white, against the Stygian dark sky, leaves me enamored.
The whirling dervishes, set to a delirious dance by the tempestuous gales, seething with fury, inspire me to reflect. How trivial we are. In the face of nature.
And that tranquil calm that descends once the cosmic dance has ended makes me find bliss and peace. With my inner self.
One thing has not changed though over all the years.
The child in me still yearns to run to the backyard, as soon as the wild frenzy subsides and a serene calm returns, to collect the mangoes rendered homeless by the boisterous storm.
A lantern in tow.
An illumination of fireflies and an orchestra of crickets giving me enchanting company.
A magical world of fantasy Didi had helped me discover many summers back.
And one such evening, Maa makes a delectable Aam Potol with the green mangoes Dada and I return with. It tastes sublime.
Aam Potol. Pointed gourds. The sharp tart of raw green mangoes. The earthy sweetness of poppy seed paste. Spiked with mean green chillies. Perfumed with asafoetida.
Divine with rice on a scorching summer noon.
Aam Potol (Parwal / Pointed Gourd with Green Mango)Potol er Aamshol (Parwal with Green Mango)
- 8-10 Potol (Parwal / Pointed Gourd) peeled and halved longitudinally
- 1 raw green mango chopped into small cubes
- 2 tbsp posto or poppy seeds
- 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
- 5-6 green chilies slit
- 1 tsp whole cumin seeds
- 2-3 dry red chilies
- a pinch of hing or asafetida
- 2.5 tbsp mustard oil
- salt to taste
- Dry roast the cumin seeds and dry red chilies. Allow the spices to release their aroma. Grind to a fine powder, keep aside.
- Soak the poppy seeds in warm water for 15 odd minutes. Drain the water and grind to a fine paste with 2-3 green chilies. Keep aside.
- Heat mustard oil in a pan, when smoking hot, add the hing, allow to splutter. Now add the parwal halves, sprinkle little salt, turmeric powder and stir fry over a medium flame till light brown.
- Throw in the green mangoes, cover and cook till the mangoes are tender. 5-7 minutes I would reckon.
- Stir in the posto paste, throw in the remaining green chilies, continue to stir fry till oil starts to release from the masala and the parwal are perfectly cooked. Splash a little water if it's getting a bit too dry.
- Adjust seasonings and finish with a sprinkle of roasted masala. Serve hot with rice.