It is pouring outside. The sky is a canvas of monochromes, dull shades of grey, punctuated by ebony, the horizons are a blur, the lightning snake that occasionally zigzags across the Stygian dark heavens is ominous and the claps of thunder are deafening.
I am past the age when I used to be intimidated by the unbridled fury of nature, I still count ‘1…2..3…’ though when a flash of lightning pierces the canopy of the sky, almost expecting the rambunctious roar of thunder to reverberate across.
Bapi is reclining on Grandma’s armchair, a cup of Assam tea resting by his side, I am seated on a cane chair next to him, nudging him to regale me with stories of his medical college years in Dhaka.
Nothing, I have started to realize of late, provides Bapi greater bliss than reminiscing about Dhaka and today is no exception.
Sadarghat is a cauldron of confusion, Bapi proceeds to describe, a perennial parade of passengers snaking their way to steamer terminals.
And then there is the Ahsan Manzil, an architectural stunner, her octagonal dome that’s the pride of the Dhaka skyline. I hear they have now renovated the palace to her erstwhile grandeur.
Bapi drifts away, a wistful look on his face, as he stares listlessly at the horizons where the charcoal skies, the silver thread of a river and the verdant greens meet.
Tell me more, I coax.
And have I told you of the Northbrook Hall before ? What a resplendent example of Indo-Saracenic architecture!!!
Indo-Saracenic – I mutter to myself.
And then once again.
Making a mental note to look up Bapis treasured Britannica Encyclopaedia later in the day.
Bapi guides me on a whirlwind tour through the congested lanes and by-lanes of Dhaka. The Armenian Church. The spice markets of Farashganj. The awe-inspiring Dhakeshwari Temple. The venerable precincts of the Tara Masjid with her seraphic constellations of blue stars.
The conversation flows. Effortlessly.
More tea arrives. Cream crackers in tow.
And the discussion swerves to food.
And that was the time, I still remember this as if it were yesterday, Bapi waxed eloquent of the non-descript soot-blackened eating joints around Sadarghat, with their rickety wooden benches and ancient waiters, that served the most lip-smacking of fare. Biryani. Chicken roast. Mutton Glassy.
Mutton Glassy. The name latched on.
It took me longer than a decade to decipher the origins of the name – Mutton Glacé, perfected in the Memsahibs kitchens, mutton languorously cooked over a slow flame in a gorgeous golden-brown stock of bones and root vegetables.
Corrupted over the last century to Mutton Glassy.
The outcome, a delectable fusion, mutton stewed over a fatigued flame, in milk and milk solids, perfumed just subtly with aromatic spices, spiked with chillies. Sublime !!!