"The developers have started work. Amader bari ta bhanga shuru holo."
I had just picked the laptop up and settled down to make this post ... one of Thamma's recipes.
But suddenly feel disoriented.
I sit down for a while. Everything stops still. The cold wind that has been blowing all morning, the noises from the road, even the TV playing downstairs somewhere ... everything stops.
A huge silence engulfs me.
I knew this was coming.
Ever since we cousins gathered together at Dadu's house a few months back, we knew we would get this news one day.
We knew we were getting the whole family together for the one last time.
Dadu's house was being sold.
And we had wanted to be together to relieve and hold on to old memories.
Of this house where we had grown up.
The house where Thamma ruled.
Where the whole family of five brothers and their brood stayed together for years ... long after Dadu or Thamma were no longer around.
The house that held huge orchards of mango trees, betel trees, banana and coconut and chikoo trees together ... cushioning us from the outside world.
The house that has two huge ponds still ... one on the south and the on the east.
The house that had a khidki duaar / side door, on the pond on the east ... where Thamma would sit on quiet afternoons, letting the cool breeze from the jamun and jamrul trees dry her thick, long hair.
I can still see him, very fair with shiny white hair, sitting with his friends in the cane chairs, outdoors on the portico, every evening.
The breeze from the ponds ruffled his dhuti and kurta of cream silk, as well as his hair, lightly.
The shine from the golden buttons on his kurta would reflect in his open hearted laughs.
The mango orchards have seen us in our childhood ... playing hide and seek, climbing the low ones and hold picnics and choduibhaatis under the big ones. Ma and Jethimas would cook khichuri and mangsho in makeshift chulhas or stoves. Dadu would sit us down and make us sing by turns.
In the end, the mali / gardener would instruct his assistant to climb up the coconut trees and bring down tender coconuts for us.
While the elders drank the water, we children were more interested in the tender flesh inside.
What days they used to be!
Thamma was a lady.
All of four feet or a little less, she was the quiet strength that held the family together.
Head held high, thick black hair tied into a severe bun, crisp white sari with one single chain with a guinea as pendant and blue opal studs in her ears, Thamma looked a lady in every way.
Never have we heard her worry or think of anything negative.
Never have we seen her raise her voice as she commanded over a huge family and numerous househelps as well as the people working for the zamindari.
Huge amounts of food used to be cooked everyday for numerous people. There used to be an unending stream of relatives too. But everything ran like clockwork.
From the daily morning green grocery shopping to the dinner menu.
From entertaining Dadu's friends at tea to looking after the childrens' meals.
From keeping track of the helps and their families to keeping count of exactly how many mangoes or bananas or coconuts each tree of each variety produces every season.
But my favourite vision of Thamma was in the evenings.
Fresh starched white sari with a red border, hair just tied up, face clean and shining, she lit the evening lamp at the Tulsi plant in the uthon.
And then, in a big sized dhunuchi in which the helps would keep a few smouldering coals and some coconut husk, she would add the dhuno ( a resin like sap that creates fragrant smoke when burnt ).
Then she would walk all around the huge house with the fragrant smoke billowing out from the dhunuchi.
She would start from the Thakur ghor / puja room , upstairs, in the center of the house.
Then would complete the whole of the upstairs that included Jethu, Ranga kaku and Sejokaku's rooms and anterooms. Then the terrace.
Lastly downstairs ... the drawing rooms, the maajher ghor / ante rooms, Choto kaku's rooms, Dadu's room, the dining room.
Then the two kitchens, the bharar ghor and the goaal ghor / cow shed.
Moving lightly from room to another , she was a vision.
I loved to follow her and would often take the bowl of dhuno from the help and walk with Thamma.
Thamma made two kinds of tauk or ambol. One with tamarind and the other with whole amchur or dried mango pieces.