Bapi rarely cooked.
And that wasn’t because he didn’t know how to cook.
In fact, he adored cooking.
The reasons why we rarely saw him in the kitchen though are easy to comprehend.
Bapi hardly had the luxury of time.
Being a doctor in a hospital in a sleepy hamlet and residing in the hospital premises meant there was virtually no concept of working hours. If there was ever an emergency, Bapi would rush.
Day or night.
Weekend or weekday.
A festival day or otherwise.
And Dada and I had grown up, used to it.
Add to this, Maa and Grandma were both very protective of Bapi.
Given the very little time Bapi would ever get for himself, they would weave up the most ingenious of excuses to keep him away from the grime of the kitchen.
You leave the kitchen in such a mess, Maa would jibe in jest.
Or, She needs your help desperately with her arithmetic, pointing at a taken-by-surprise me.
Or, I think you didn’t complete that crossword this morning.
Bapi knew it all.
He just smiled.
And sometimes did challenge back.
Manik shall ensure the kitchen is left just as tidy.
Or, My princess is a star, she can surely manage even the most intriguing of arithmetic problems on her own.
Or, of-course I cracked the crossword this morning, proudly pointing at the black and white grid on the newspaper.
Maa silenced now, Grandma would take over.
But you haven’t had your shower yet, have you ?
Your pampered prince and princess brazenly flout that rule every day. Bapi would counter.
They are kids, Granmda would retort.
End of discussion.
Dada and I were above law in Grandma’s eyes and no one could dare cast an aspersion.
There would be some days though when Bapi would win.
And he would inevitably end up cooking one of two dishes.
A stunning tear-jerking spicy Mangshor Jhol.
Or a simple one-pot chicken pish-pash.
Makes me nostalgic of internship years, Bapi would reminisce, our dinner saviours after days that stretched to late nights and there was hardly any energy or inspiration to cook anything more elaborate.
Why is it called pish-pash Bapi ? I asked one day bursting into a giggle. How can a dish ever have a name as pish-pash ?
Thats a great question, a thoughtful Bapi acknowledges. To be honest, I don’t know.
I look at Bapi in stark disbelief.
Superheroes are supposed to be omniscient, aren’t they ?
And that is how I grew up loving the humble chicken pish-pash, a dish with an arcane name and one I still relish to this day.
Chicken pish-pash. A no-fuss one-pot dish of chicken and rice. A medley of seasonal vegetables. A profusion of freshly ground black pepper. And a generous dollop of butter.
Soul food at its very best !!!