A charcoal-bruised sky greets me as I open my eyes this morning.
Two rain-drenched parakeets sit on the window sill, despondent, waiting for the heavens to cheer up.
Where is everyone ? The still-sleepy ten year old me muses.
I turn now to my doll, still in deep slumber, head nestled on her pillow, the patchwork case of which Didi had stitched earlier this year. She had then proceeded to fill the empty case with a handful of mustard seeds before sewing the last edge with cheerful sunshine-yellow thread.
The next afternoon I had returned from school to discover a bright vermilion ‘D’ neatly engraved on the lower right corner of the humble pillow. ‘D’ stood for Dolly, how I called my little princess.
I had been overjoyed.
Wake up, I nudge her, you shall be late to school.
I sit upright now.
There’s an orchestra playing outside – the raging rains furiously lashing the roof of the shed, the frenzied wind howling relentlessly through the trees, the incessant croaking of bullfrogs (Dada and I, armed with Bapis Eveready torch surreptitiously pilfered from the drawer in his study table, had tried desperately to spot the sonorous amphibians last evening, only to return indoors, forlorn and drenched, much to Maa’s chagrin) and chirping of usually nocturnal crickets, misled by the ebony skies to believe it was still night, punctuated by the occasional plaintive moo of the calf, a plea to Didi to let her off her shackles so that she could venture out.
It’s then that I heard the low humming, I decipher the tune in a jiffy, the words though are barely discernible.
And then I see Maa, seated by the window at the far end of the room, the playful wind playing with her tresses, a cup of tea resting by her side, as she stares listlessly at the distant watercolor-smudged horizons.
I lift Dolly out of bed and drag myself up to Maa.
The words become distinct now – Hridoy amar nache re ajike, moyurer moto nache re.
Yet another of Robi Thakur’s immortal creations celebrating the alluring beauty of the rains.
Maa notices me now.
Good morning, she wishes, Isn’t this a gorgeous day ?
Come on, sing with me, Maa encourages.
I try to sing along.
And we now do this Bibidho Bharati style, Maa asserts, a radiant smile lighting up her face.
So this song, she mimics a popular anchor, we dedicate to the wind gods who have been so spirited and mirthful this morning.
Pagla Haowar Badol Dine, she breaks into another of Robi Thakur’s unforgettable melodies, gesticulating to me to join in.
And now, this is homage to the cloud messengers who have been so industrious all morning. Take a break folks and look at all those glorious patterns they have been sketching on the canvass of the heavens.
Mono Moro meghero shongi, ure chole dik digontero pare
I listen, transfixed, to Maa’s mellifluous rendition of the bard’s ode to the clouds.
The rains continue unabated.
The wind bellows.
The clouds grumble.
The occasional flash of lightning pierces the lightless awning of the sky.
And finally my princess and I sign off, Maa announces with a brandish, with a Adhunik gaan, a dedication to those rain-kissed mystic mornings where the mind seeks a tryst with the sublime.
Ei meghla dine ekla ghore thake nako mon
I realise I am crying.
Where did those golden mornings disappear ? I ponder as I look at the clouds this morning.
Maa and me.
Robi Thakur and the rains.
Khichuri and ilish maach bhaja.
Beguni and macher dimer bora.
And especially, that special morning when Maa went on to make a tear-jerking spicy maacher dimer paturi.
Yes, you heard it right, a stunning macher dimer paturi.
Maacher Dimer Paturi. The umami of fish roe. Perfectly balanced by the piquant zing of mustard oil. The wicked fire of green chilies. And the earthy aroma of just-charred banana leaves.
Food heaven !!
Enjoy the rains !!
Maacher Dimer Paturi (Fish Roe in Banana Lead Parcels)
- 250 g fish roe
- 1 egg beaten
- 2 big onions finely chopped
- 5-6 green chilies finely chopped
- 1/4 cup corinader leaves finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 3.5 tbsp mustard oil
- salt to taste
- Fresh banana leaves for the paturi parcels, washed
- lemon wedges to serve
- onion cubes to serve
- Cut off the central vein of the banana leaves, trim the edges. Warm the leaves over a very low flame, taking care to not char or burn the leaves. (This softens the leaves and keeps them flexible, making the parcels is much easier that way.) Cut the leaves to medium pieces.
- In a bowl take the fish roe, onions, coriander leaves and green chilies, add the beaten egg, sprinkle in the turmeric powder and salt, splash 3 tbsp of mustard oil, give it all a hearty mix.
- Take a piece of banana leaf, add a small portion of the fish roe mixture in the middle.
- Wrap the banana leaf from all four sides to make a parcel, secure with twine. (Or if you are in a hurry and want a shortcut, use tooth-picks instead to secure the parcels.)
- Add ½ tbsp mustard oil to a flat pan, gently place the banana leaf parcels on the pan, cover with a lid and cook over a low flame for 12-15 minutes.
- Serve hot with steamed rice, lemon wedges and cubed onions.