"Baajlo tomar alor benu" ....
The night before Mahalaya, there would be much excitement about setting the alarm for early next morning, much discussions on the time to set it to and setting the radio to the perfect band width so that we do not miss even a single word when Akashbani starts with the melodious strains of Mahalaya the next day.
I would still need a nudge or two by Bapi to be fully awake. By then Mahalaya would have started and be on the song "Baajlo tomar alor benu ....", meaning "Your flute of light has started to play ... ".
Durga is coming .... and that is all that is needed for any Bengali child to look forward to.
I would snuggle in with Bapi, under a thick, soft kaantha that Ma would throw on us to ward off the crisp cold of the of early morning that brought the hint of winter with it.
And it wouldn't be long before I was fast asleep again, only to wake up and realise that it was already morning. And the radio has been silent for a long while.
This year, Mahalaya brought with it a new episode of my life. The time when we realise that there is much more to life than what we have been seeing for so long.
The day of Mahalaya is the last, and most important day of the Shraddh period, that is made of a fortnight. In Hinduism, it is believed that Parlok, or the land of the dead , comes nearest to Mrityulok, or Earth, during this time. And hence, it is easier for the spirits of our dead ancestors to come nearer to us.
So, everything that is needed to be done for their peaceful next life is to be done on this particular day.
People offer pujas and offerings are made to the poor, the old and the needy.
It is believed that whatever our nearest ones have left behind or need in their afterlife should be offered to the needy. That way it reaches them.
While, once upon a time, I would have never given a thought to such beliefs, right now I yearn from my heart to be able to do anything that will help my Bapi to be at peace, where ever he is.
After he left us, I had innumerable questions in my mind.
I read books, looked up writings and followed spiritual lectures. No, I was not crazy to follow anyone and everyone.
I did look for logic.
And was astonished how much knowledge our heritage and ancient Hinduism writings held.
Devdutt Pattnaik's books helped me learn a lot.
Another wonderful read was the Mahabharat series from 1 to 10 by Bibek Debroy. It opened up a whole new world of what the real and the next world hold.
This series is very unlike the actual story of Mahabharat ... it does not actually says the story in anyway.
Rather, it deciphers every character's actions and thoughts .... and along with that it gives a beautiful insight to what this world and the next world holds.
And what actions are needed to be taken by every human being to make his/her presence and actions/ karma worthwhile in this life or on Mrityulok.
I was totally fascinated by this series. Especially the 10th edition. It opens up the world of Karma or actions .... what should be done and why.
And with every single guideline, there is a logical explanation.
It took me the past one year to read through them. And helped me deal with my loss and bring a lot of faith back in me. I picked up numerous points from them and added them into my life.
One of them was giving out to the needy.
It may be the poor on the children, the ill, small children or destitute women.
Do everything you can for them.
Feed them. Cover them with clothes and blankets during the rains or in winter. Hand out small treats to the children in the streets.
Anything that is possible by you.
While I and B have always done small things like keeping biscuits and chocolates in the car and handing them out to the children begging on the streets, giving out old clothes and sheets and blankets before every rains and winter, I had never actually cooked and fed them.
After Bapi's demise, I became obsessed with this one thing. Every weekend I would cook up a simple meal, make packs and hand them out to the needy as we roamed the streets of the city.
And the peace that settles our hearts at the sight of a huge smile, or if we are lucky to go through that same road and get to see the children sitting down and eating that food, is huge.
We always look out for the very old and infirmed, pregnant women and small children.
And believe me, our country does not lack in them.
So this Mahalaya, I did just that.
Cooked all of Bapi's favourite dishes, packed them up and set off.
And finally, rounded the day off with ice creams to a big group of little children of construction workers nearby.
We were still smiling as we prepared for bed, the happy screech of a small voice shouting "Kulfi!!!!!!!" still echoing in our ears.
Shubho Mahalay all!!
Have a wonderful Durga Puja!! And happy Navaratri too!
And while you are munching on that delicious food, do think of the little children selling balloons or toys outside. Hand them some munchies and see your festivities light up even more with their smiles.
I had got a good amount of Rohu fish roe on one of my trips to my fish shop. And was tired of the same kind of Boras or even the ambols. I wanted to taste something different.
So, as usual, I turned to my friends and readers on my Facebook page.
And as usual, they were all very generous and shared some precious recipes with me.
The Macher dimer jhuri bhaja got the majority of votes and so I decided to keep the other recipes for another time and settle with the jhuri first.
Rohu fish roe
Onions - chopped, use lots of them
Garlic - chopped, be generous with this too
Green chillies - chopped
Fresh coriander leaves
How to :
Marinate the rohu fish roe with turmeric + salt + lemon juice ( this helps
hugely in taking away that fishy smell. )
Heat mustard oil and fry the onions + garlic + green chillies till they are nicely soft and golden brown.
Remove from the kadahi.
Add some more mustard oil and fry the marinated roe stirring constantly.
It will solidify quickly ... so break up the pieces and scramble well.
Add the fried onions etc and some red chilli powder.
Fry well for a while. ... till the roe starts to get slightly crispy brownish at the edges.
You will see the oil leaving on the sides.
Sprinkle chopped coriander leaves and remove from heat.
This is one of the best things that I have eaten in my life.
Mix it with boiled rice and you are in food heaven. I needed nothing else on the side ... not even dal.
Some pointers :
* Do use a little more oil than usual ... that oil mixed with rice is awesome.
The sweetness of the garlic comes through as a surprise in every morsel.
* Do not heat the oil to smioking hot when fry the roe .... keep it slightly raw ... add the roe when just warm .... that flavour of the mustard oil comes through in the end and just blows you away. :-)