Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 3, Issue 23, Tuesday January 10, 2006




Dearest Diary,
So another new year, another Eid, and another Hajj coming up.
You must be wondering diary, why suddenly, I have brought up... Hajj. Actually, since I performed Hajj a couple of years ago, I always wanted to put my Hajj experience on paper, but somehow I never seemed to get the opportunity to do so.

So today, as Qurbani Eid is just around the corner, I was thinking about how I celebrated Eid, the year I went for Hajj.

As everybody else, I still get excited wearing new clothes on Eid day. But as far as my memory serves me, that was the only year I did not wear anything new. But, surprisingly it did not bother me one bit that year. I was just happy that I completed Hajj without any serious mishaps.

Our prep for Hajj started I think three months before the journey.

The first stop was 'Chadni Chawk', to buy Kaftan pieces and materials for the Abaya and the head-gear or as Liz would say, the skull cap. We simply couldn't call it anything else.

Lace trimmings were bought, the tailor was summoned at home, grand-parents were trained to handle their grand-children, fare-well dinners were attended, 'doas' were memorized and, snap! it was time to leave.

Amidst hugs, kisses and tears (interpret that as bawling), we left Dhaka.

I am a self-confessed big-time fuss pot. But this trip I promised to myself that I would be the epitome of good behaviour. As expected, everything moved at snail's pace after we reached Jeddah. So, after holding on to our bladders, as if our life depended on it, we reached our destination.

I looked up the multi-coloured, never ending steps and I thought to myself, well there goes all my good intentions and resolutions. And then the first crisis.

A suitcase falls on my brother-in-laws head and he starts bleeding. Okay! Be calm. It is just a cut, not a concussion. But, his wife, who happens to be my sister, seemed to have gotten more hurt than him.

All her ministrations seemed in vain because my BIL kept on repeating, in his clipped English accent ,that he was okay.

Finally we get to our room and the first thing checked out was the bathroom.

It wasn't that bad, but I wish I could just ask the person who designed the rectangular bathroom, why the 100 pot was in the middle, the shower right in front of the door, and the basin way in front? And to get to the basin you had to gingerly, with your face flattened against the wall, inch yourself away from the pot to reach the final goal. What was this person's intentions? Shower, S*** and brush, or brush, S*** and shower?

I want to know, yes, I still want to know what was happening in the inner canals of this non-person's mind, while he designed this building. Anyway, Zakaria, our Man-Friday, who I promptly re-named Zack, saved our lives.

He got our cleaning essentials, our morning cuppa, hot and steaming, bang on time, picked up our laundry, got our lunches and dinners from the nearby restaurants, saving us from having food from the plastic pails. We stopped going out for meals because, we women of the group, sat with our spouses, laughed, spoke loudly, and Jeddah wasn't ready for that. The word 'subservient' was not applicable for us.

The looks we were getting.... made us decide to bring food in & be our rambunctious self inside our temporary home. Anyway, after all the rituals, Hajj was completed. Feeling very accomplished we went towards Medina.

From then on our lives changed drastically. We changed our ramshackle hotel for decent accommodations, had breakfast at the Sheraton buffet, lunch at some fast food joint, and dinners from Indian restaurants, and after Esha prayers, shopped till we dropped. My sister, who has a real nose for shopping was known as the 'bhabi from Mymensingh'.

So after 24 prayers and fun filled days we reached Dhaka as glorious heroes, back to our children, friends and families, all safe and sound.

And one particular prayer, which still brings a smile to my face, is the one I heard my sister say while on a private talkathon with God, was, "Allah, I want to come back to your house again with my children, but please make sure "Hilton Hotel" is written on our karma them. Amen to that.

So diary, I do not know about anybody else, but we all had a blast while doing Hajj. But I am glad, I only have to do it once in my lifetime.

So diary, a very happy new year. May we all be happy, safe and healthy in the coming year. So have a good year the Sam Q. Way.


Achari Gosht
Mutton/Lamb- 800 gms
Onions 4 medium sized
Tomatoes- 4 medium sized
Ginger 2 one inch pieces
Garlic 8 cloves
Fresh coriander leaves- ½ cup
Red chillies whole 8
Mustard seeds- 1 tsp
Fenugreek seeds ½ tsp
Cumin seeds - ½ tsp
Fennel seeds (saunf) 1 tsp
Cloves 5
Mustard oil- ½ cup
Turmeric powder - ½ tbsps

Method of Preparation
1 Wash and cut mutton into one-and-a-half inch sized pieces. Peel, wash and chop onions. Wash and chop tomatoes.
Asian-style chilli
beef skewers
Soak bamboo skewers in water overnight to prevent burning.
1 kg beef steaks
¼ cup (60ml) mild sweet
chilli sauce
1/3 cup (80ml)
1/3 cup (80ml) soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
¼ cup chopped fresh
coriander leaves

Cut steaks into 3mm slices across the grain. Combine steak slices with remaining ingredients in medium bowl; cover, refrigerate 3 hours or overnight.

Thread steak onto 25 skewers. Cook skewers, in batches, in heated oiled griddle pan (or grill or barbecue) until browned all over and cooked as desired.

Beef Rendang
1 kg beef steak
2 medium (340g) red onions,
4 cloves garlic, peeled
4 small fresh red chillies
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon chopped fresh
lemon grass
1 teaspoon ground turmetric
2 teaspoons ground coriander
400ml can coconut milk
1 cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon tamarind pulp
8 curry leaves
1 teaspoon sugar

Cut steak into 3cm cubes. Blend or process onions, garlic, chillies, ginger, lemon grass, turmeric and coriander with 1/3 cup (80ml) of the coconut milk until smooth. Combine steak, coconut mixture, remaining coconut milk, cinnamon stick, tamarind and curry leaves in large pan; simmer, uncovered, about 2 hours, stirring occasionally, or until steak is tender. Add sugar; cook, stirring, about 15 minutes or until steak is dark and most of the sauce has evaporated. Serves 4.

Gulab Jamun
Khoya/mawa- 1½ cups
Cottage cheese (chenna)- ¼ cup
Soda bicarbonate ¼ tsp
Refined flour (maida) 3 tbsps
Green cardamom powder- ¼ tsp
Sugar 2 cups
Ghee/pol to deep fry

Method of preparation
1. Grate khoya and mash chenna and keep aside.
2. Mix the two along with soda bi-carbonate, refined flour, green cardamom powder and a little water to make a soft dough.
3. Divide into sixteen equal portions and shape into balls.
4. Prepare a syrup with sugar and two cups of water. Clear the syrup by removing the scum, if any.
Heat sufficient ghee/oil in a kadai. Add balls and deep fry on low heat till golden in colour.
6. Drain and soak in sugar syrup for at least twenty minutes before serving.

Chef's Tip
Temperature of the oil should be low or the jamuns will remain uncooked from inside. You may stuff gulab jamuns with saffron and pistachoios or mishri.

Photo: Munem Wasif


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