And meet my mother-in-law, T announces.
The septuagenarian lady who walks out to the living room is an epitome of grace – her silver hair is tied up in a neat bun, a red bindi dots her forehead and her starched white cotton saree with its vermilion red paisley border is immaculate.
I touch her feet.
She blesses me.
I am meeting you for the first time, Aunty tells me, an impish smile lighting up her face, but I know all about you.
I am speechless for a moment.
Maybe T had briefed her about me and our days in college before I arrived ? I muse.
Aunty reads my mind.
No, your friend didn’t tell me about you.
My grey cells now go on an overdrive. Trying to compute the link that I am missing for sure.
You grew up in Karimganj.
You went to college in Guwahati.
Your first job took you to Delhi.
Your roots are in Sylhet.
Did I get those basic right ? Aunty confidently looks for endorsement.
I nod in assent. Bewildered.
Did Aunty then know someone who knew us ? If so, who ?
Mental calisthenics as I desperately seek an answer.
More riddles follow in rapid succession.
Bapi was a doctor.
I was Grandma’s princess.
Didi doted on me.
And Manikkaka could never refuse any ask of mine.
How was this even possible ? I wonder.
What follows next are snatches of childhood. Intricate details that only someone intimately close to us would ever be conversant with.
Hunting for mangoes after a Kalboisakhi.
Lokkhi Pujo at home.
Even Sankranti and the pithe-puli-payesh that accompanied the celebrations.
I am more than perplexed now.
Let me not torment you any longer, Aunty, gauging my bafflement, finally comes to rescue.
You should have guessed, shouldn’t you ?
I am a huge fan of your blog.
I am overwhelmed.
The next couple of minutes pass by in a flash. I am entranced, oblivious to what Aunty is telling me.
She embraces me.
Am I crying ?
You know what, Aunty proceeds to explain, I wait eagerly for your posts, reading those honey-sweet stories of yours makes me return to childhood in sylvan Chittagong.
Our village home. By the river.
The verdant green paddy fields.
The ancient mango and guava trees in the backyard.
And above all my Grandma, who never spared an opportunity to pamper me silly.
After so many years, you make me miss my Grandma.
I stand transfixed, listening to Aunty.
Too overjoyed to even know how to respond.
There’s one recipe from Chittagong though, Aunty complains, mock disappointment in her voice, without which your blog is a trifle incomplete.
Have you heard, she asks me, of Mejbani Mangsho ?
No, I confess.
The undisputed star of Chittagong cuisine. Or so I believe.
I don’t eat meat any longer, but shall be delighted to cook for you. She proposes, and if you like it, do publish in your blog, she adds as an afterthought.
You need to keep your blog going, she encourages as I take leave.
A couple of weekends later, I find myself with Aunty and T again.
Aunty guides me, as she had promised, through the steps of making Mejbani Mangsho, the beef replaced by mutton.
The whiff of spices (If you get the spice mix right, Aunty counsels, your Mejbani Mangsho cannot go wrong) leaves me on a high.
And the outcome, one of the most delectable mutton dishes I have ever savoured.
Mejbani Mangsho. Succulent mutton. A tantalizing array of spices. Freshly roasted and ground. Cooked languorously over a lazy flame.
Food heaven !!!
And if this sounds exciting, please stay tuned for more recipes from Aunty’s kitchen !! Guaranteed to delight your taste buds!!