Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 3, Issue 37, Tuesday April 25, 2006




Halcyon deshi summer days

Grishsho…I love grishsho! I love the haze, the heat, the humidity, the long days and the evenings spent half-listening to favourite music tracks while catching up on some fun reading. I don't know why I don't seem to have as much free time in the winter my schedule stays the same maybe it's just that time seems to move more slowly in the heat, and that I change my priorities from 'clean my room' to 'don a ratty, cotton tee and gypsy skirt that's seen better days; fix some refreshing, chilled jug of lebu'r shorbot or if I'm feeling lazy, Tang; and just chill in front of the TV'.

Grishsho or summer in this city of ours stands for so many, myriad of snap-shot memories or events. There's inhaling the fragrances and appreciating the blazing hues of the lush flowers in perfect bloom the regal rojonigondhas, the sunny shonalu and kodomphuls, the fiery red krishnochuras and rongons (the latter which I used to pick as a child to suck out the honey nectar inside), and the sweet-smelling beli, bokul, jui and gondhorajs. There's eating something really cold on a really hot day, which tends to send an ache right through your jaws and head, but feels oh so great. There's standing for hours-on-end under the invigorating beat of a cool, cool shower, feeling the rivulets of water roll down your scalp and skin, soothing your over-heated body. There's the sudden increase in TV commercials and press ads for ice creams, icy soft drinks, air conditioners, and prickly heat powders.

There's the onset of thunderstorms and rains from Pahela Baishakah onwards, falling in synchronized plunges into the lakes and ponds, and which bring with them one of the bestest grishsho smells ever bhija maatir shoda gondho. Too bad you can't bottle it up and market it, haha. And you hear the timeless composition of Mother Nature the roll of thunder, the rimjhim and tapurtupur of brishti, the cricketycrick of crickets, the croaks of frogs pure music to the ears.

There're the fresh, fresh summer fruits and veggies. I love the variety and all the beautiful colors! I remember as a kid eagerly awaiting my father's return from the kaacha bajar with sopping bags teeming with luscious aams, juicy lichus and pungent kathaals. Brings back some delightful memories of being a carefree kid on a sultry summer afternoon, gulping down all the yummy treats till it felt my tummy was gonna burst. I still over-indulge these days! Guess some things never change, thank god!

Then there are a few items on the 'I-can-definitely-do-without-these-during-grishsho' list. There's the dratted load shedding which goes with the territory of summers in Dhaka city, making the heat more unbearable. There's the chance of getting food poisoning after having some questionable looking glass of juice from a street-side vendor. There's bugs, particularly mosquitoes and ants, which suddenly seen to come alive in the armies! There's having your clothe stick to your skin, all clammy and irritating. But these 'concerns' seem paltry compared to all the great things about summer.

All in all, grishsho kaal has it's own addictive charm. So I'm gonna pull up an easy chair, nurse a glass of chilled float in my hands, and just take a load of my feet and lie back to enjoy the season in all its glory. Care to join me?

By Simin Saifuddin

Diary of a food obsessed person

Dearest Diary,
By now you must have figured out what a self-satisfied person I am. Well maybe not fully…there is only one aspect of my life I would change (I am sure you can guess which “weighty” issue that is), otherwise I would deserve to get the award for the “World's Most-Satisfied Person”, but then I guess, that's what makes the world go round. You don't get to have it all.

Anyway at present, the award belongs to my mother. Everything she is or has, is the best. This attitude of hers used to bug me before, but now that I am beginning to become “her”, I can relate to her way of thinking, life, style, attitude, or whatever you may call it.

Anyway, the first satisfaction of my life is that I am a woman. (I am sure there is a song I can break into, which celebrates me being a woman). Boy oh! Boy, if I ever get to meet my maker, I will be on my knees, blubbering incoherent thank-yous in all languages. Fat and all, I don't care. I AM A WOMAN!

Can you imagine, if I was a man, I would have no gadowal sarees, no Jimmy Choos, no color palette, no bling bling, no mood swings, so many nos. Rather, I would have to go to work… regularly to bring home the “daal-bhaat”, please a boss or the wife, have to be born witty or with a good looking face to have a life, basically, it would have been really tough for me to survive as a man. A woman really has it easy. I can already sense some brick-bats coming my way, but back off ladies, it is only my opinion. Nobody has to agree with me. So ease off and chill, the undergarment burning women of the world.

Anyway, my second satisfaction of my life is my agreement with the China policy, the one child policy. I don't know how at that young age I took such a huge, selfish, decision to have only one child. To me it was like more children, more responsibility, more heartache. I cannot do anything halfway. Everything had to be perfect. So with my one and only child I think I gave him the best of the best of me, and to me that was one of the most satisfying experiences of my life. And now in hindsight, I can proudly say, while giving myself a hearty pat on the back, I think I did okay. My nineteen-year-old product, has turned out nearly exactly the way I wanted. I have done the groundwork now, I have turned over all the responsibilities to the Almighty. I am now officially home free.

Now the third satisfaction of my life is, I am so glad I am in my liberating forties. Don't scoff at me diary, no, it is not a case of sour grapes. I don't know who called it “the liberating forties”, but I can relate to it so well. It was like… those invisible shackles melted away into oblivion the moment I had turned forty. I finally felt I grew up. I finally could bargain with the sneaky shop keepers and not cringe. I finally could ask the waiter to change my soup because it was not up to my expectations and to get my doggy bag, and I finally could say “NO” to those pushy salesmen who made me buy stuff I would never use. Those were the major turning points and the smaller perks were also great. I do exactly what “I” want to do now and I say what “I” feel like, and basically terrorize everybody and anybody (my poor family and friends) around me. Hallelujah! I have finally arrived!

So there you go diary. Now if I only lose my extra girth, I will wear my mother's crown to perfection.

So, to all the semi-satisfied women of the world, (yeah! Women), work towards your goals with mathematical precision, be positive, laugh a lot, have my husband cloned, hang around with good people (having good friends is such another big satisfaction) and, above all, have faith. The rest of it will then fall into place. Take it from a person who can say… “Been there, done that”.

So have a good day, the Sam Q way.

Buttery orange cake
220g softened butter
2 tbsp grated orange rind
1 ½ cups icing sugar
4 eggs
2 cups of flour
1 tbsp baking powder
¾ cup fresh orange juice
Glace Icing
1 ½ cups icing sugar
2 tbsp orange juice

1. Pre-heat the oven

2. Beat the butter, rind and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time until combined. Fold in the flour, baking powder and orange juice. spread the mixture into a greased (22cm) pan.

3. Bake in moderately slow oven for 1 hr 10 mins. Cool cake in pan before taking out.

4. Glace icing: sift the icing sugar into a bowl. Add orange juice and mix till spread able consistency. You may need more than 2 tbsp of orange juice. Spread the icing immediately over the cold cake. Decorate with thin orange slices.

For the love of food

By Kaniska Chakraborty

Fishy, very fishy

“Mache bhate Bangali” is an age old adage we grew up with. Generally speaking, I do not disagree with it at all. There are not many comparisons with a delectably done Koi Mach with steaming rice, or Chitol Macher Kofta, or even, the ubiquitous Taki Macher Bhorta. Mouth watering stuff!

My family is no exception. Both my wife and my mother swear by fish and rice preparations. The weekly fish market visit is a ritual. I usually walk a little behind them; my wife, with her dupatta against her nose to ward off smell, my mother with the years of fish buying experience written all over her demeanor. They will go from stall to stall, inspecting fish and asking for the prices. I’ll let you in a little secret here. My wife does not know fish from her kundalini. All she knows is ilish and anything else looks foreign to her. But that does not stop her from going up to the fishmonger and asking questions knowledgably. And I watch the whole scene from a safe distance, only stepping up to foot the bill.

You must be wondering where I am going with all this. Who wants to know my family’s shopping habits? Well, so happened that this fish loving, fish buying family went for dinner at a fine Dhaka eatery. I ordered, amid much protest from my family members, a special fish and rice dish. Protest, you wonder?

I don’t blame them for protesting. You know me. I am very experimental with food. I had ordered something called sushi! Yes, dear reader. Raw fish with rice, with horseradish and pickled ginger. One fish dish that does not go down well with Bangalis. But I am an exception. Blame it on my mindset. I just love the fresh taste of succulent raw fish topped on a beautifully glutinous ball of rice. You know what, to begin with, it looks incredible. Add the fact that an average plate of assorted sushi is made of different fish. The pink of salmon, the translucence of cuttlefish, the reddish brown of tuna, the bright orange of prawn, a mélange of colors.

Not only that. There is a ritual associated with it. To start off, you have a small bowl in which you mix soy sauce and osabi, the horseradish. Then you pick up a sushi and dip it in the mix. Let it stand in it for a while. Then pop it in your mouth. And you have satori. Suddenly, the meaning of universe is clear. All problems cease to exist. You come close to nirvana. I must say here that I am strictly against biting into a sushi. It just spoils the effect. The whole thing must be put in the mouth for the best result.

Well folks, sushi is fish and rice. At least in the very basic form. It is an acquired taste, but once you acquire it, becomes addictive. My family saw the point, but they struck one deal with me. They will only delve into sushi which are made of rice and cooked fish. Yes my friends, that can be had too. You can have nicely fried fish wrapped inside rice.

My love for shushi continues. My family’s love for macher jhol continues. We have found way to have our respective likings coexist. Weekend lunches are strict fish curry and rice affairs while the occasional evening out almost inevitably ends up in the sushi place, where I revel in raw fish, and my family in the cooked variety. Nonetheless, we remain true to mach ar bhat.


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