My fishmonger gets me a delectable catch of pabda this spring-is-melting-into-summer morning.
As fresh as they can be.
Shimmering silver with wise whiskers.
The delight though even before I realize gives way to dilemma.
What do I do with these gorgeous beauties ?
I give them a pampering caress with salt, turmeric powder and just as Maa had taught me decades back, after I had burnt my hands when the tangra maach I had slid into the hot oil had spluttered in rebellion, a dab of golden mustard oil.
Just a couple of drops of mustard oil is all that is needed, Maa had counselled, calm as ever, as she applied Burnol generously on the nasty burns.
Grandma had been annoyed.
This is not the age she should be frying fish boumaa, Grandma had reprimanded Maa.
You know your grand-daughter better than me Maa. She was stubborn that she wanted to do it.
Grandma had fussed endlessly over the burns.
I was her princess. And she couldn’t bear even the spectre of pain anywhere near me.
Back to my kitchen. And the dilemma persists.
A pabda tel bori jhol ? Ideal for sultry summers. A grumble of kalonji and green chillies in smoking hot mustard oil. Tomatoes maybe. A throw of Maa’s homemade boris, patiently dried under the gentle glare of the winter sun.
Too commonplace, I tell myself, I want something exotic to do justice to these beauties.
A doodh pabda maybe ? Pabda maach stewed in milk over a fatigued flame. Some kalonji and mean chillies for company.
But that was lunch just a couple of days back. I chide myself.
I rummage through my books. And magazines. Maa’s diaries and scribbles.
Kumro Pabda. Maa’s distinct scrawl. Hurried. Bereft of punctuation.
The smell of mildewed pages of the old diary. Leather-bound in black. 1983 inscribed proudly in golden letters on the cover.
The name gets me hooked. I read on.
Pabda maach cooked with red pumpkin.
That sounds interesting doesn’t it ?
I get going.
So a Kumro Pabda it is for me this spring-summer morning. A catch of gorgeous pabda. Paired with red pumpkin. A splutter of kalonji. Grated ginger for perfume. Some wicked green chillies for the punch.
Earthy yet delicious !!!