I have sulked all morning.
It’s unacceptable and unfair, I have rehearsed the fervent pitch in my head a hundred times over, to be presented to Bapi as soon as he returns from the hospital, Maa has been, yet again, unduly partial to Dada.
This is criminal injustice, I continue with my passionate plea. Rules are rules and cannot discriminate between me and Dada.
I fret and fume.
It’s drizzled all morning.
Despite that Dada has been outdoors with his friends, enjoying a boisterous game of soccer with his mates.
And I have been interned at home, I did implore, didn’t I, to be allowed to accompany Didi to the backyard, the storm last evening was unusual for early autumn and I am certain, the savage brute must have orphaned loads of helpless fruits and vegetables, shaking them ruthlessly off the safe refuge of branches.
And nothing gives me more sublime joy than foraging for produce after a storm.
But my appeals fell on deaf years.
And I am seething with anger.
Maa has of-course tried hard, patiently reasoning it out to me.
I have just recovered from fever, I am still vulnerable, my immunity is still weak, it’s not a great idea to get drenched in the rains at this point.
Dada’s exams are already over, (he can have a bit of a break, can’t he ?), mine are just round the corner.
I have been stubborn though.
No logic has helped.
And here am I, cooped up on Grandmas grand four-poster, a blanket hurled over me, the pillow, drenched in tears, bearing testimony to my maudlin sobs and sniffles.
Didi comes to the room to announce lunch.
I pretend to not be listening.
Outside the window, two butterflies chase each other silly.
Didi visits again, Bhai is waiting for you, please come over for lunch. She earnestly pleads.
The mention of Dada irritates me even further.
I choose not to respond.
I can now hear Maa’s voice at the other end of the daalan. Lunch is ready and I need to hurry.
Truant sunlight projects silhouettes of the gnarled guava tree on the spartan whitewashed wall.
A pair of drenched doves rest on the clothes line.
A hungry drongo scouts for food in the yard.
I don’t know when I drift off to sleep.
When I wake up, Grandma is beside me, patting my head.
What happened to my Princess ? Why’s she all grumble this morning ?
I burst into tears.
The pitch, prepared for Bapi, articulating my miseries and the grave unfairness against me, is now passionately presented to Grandma.
But did I tell you that Bouma has cooked Tel Koi for you today ? And she has reserved the bigger fish for you. There’s a sparkle in her eyes. Come on, let’s hurry, Tel Koi is not half as much fun when it gets cold.
Tel Koi ? My eyes light up. And you are sure, my koi is bigger than Dada’s ?
Yes of course, Grandma confirms.
Tel Koi. Yet another quintessential Bengali delicacy. Gorgeous Koi. The earthy aroma of cumin and fennel. A whiff of fenugreek. The zing of mustard oil. Cooked over an ebbing flame. Decadent and delicious.
- 4-5 pieces koi maach or climbing perch
- 2 tbsp onion paste
- 1 tsp ginger paste
- 1 tsp green chilli paste
- 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 2-3 bay leaves
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
- 5-6 green chillies slit
- 3/4 cup mustard oil
- salt to taste
- Soak the cumin seeds, fennel seeds and bay levaes in warm water for 2 odd hours. Drain from water, grind to a smooth paste.
- Marinate the fish with the masala paste (from the last step), onion paste, ginger paste, green chilli paste, turmeric powder, red chilli powder and 1 tbsp mustard oil. Keep aside, some 30 minutes or so.
- Heat the remaining oil in a heavy bottomed pan, throw in the fenugreek seeds . Allow the seeds to splutter. Once the fenugreek seeds have released their aroma, carefully discard the fenugreek seeds from the hot oil.
- Gently place the fish in the oil, pour in the remaining marinate, give it a gentle mix. Sauté for a couple of minutes.
- Throw in the green chillies, add a sprinkle of salt. Cover and cook till the fish is cooked and oil starts to separate from the masala.
- Adjust seasonings, rest for 15 minutes. Serve hot.