|Home | Issues | The Daily Star Home | Volume 5 Issue 3, Tuesday, January 19, 2010|
We, as mere mortals, step into unknown territory at the strike of thirteen. The familiarity of the familiar poses as strange yet intriguing questions. Through the years to come, we venture out to discover and unravel the sphere of the unanswered and what appears to be then, incomprehensible.
They say, we never understand these teenagers but what they fail to realise is that they too had to pass through puberty. It increasingly becomes difficult to discuss teenage-oritis.
Teenagers are unaware of their own issues and thus strategies to deal with the unknown cannot be dug out. How do we, partially if not completely ignorant, converse regarding the trivial encounters, which are vague to us?
The psychological strain to let go of a few habits while adapting to new ones is a challenge on its own. Early teens are allowed to make certain decisions yet are refrained from the others. How is the line between which decisions to make and which not to distinguished?
The inquisitive searches and experimentations begin. Identity crisis, settles in. The early teens are prone to errors because they have yet more ground to cover. What currently appears right and momentary might leave behind irreversible scars. It is vital to discard the possible errors on judgments, to stay on the right track.
Without a stumble along the way, without a fall, a man does not learn to walk upright and steady. Mistakes engrave a path of learning and comprise an integral part of growing up. Without a fall one would not be able to fathom and uphold the enriched values of life. To regain the strength to stand firm on the ground requires support and motivation.
Only when faced with the failures and ultimatums of a fall does one realise the utter necessity to rise back up and rectify the self-inflicted infections. Teenagers are prone to be drawn towards the taboos of alcohol and drugs. This tendency is initiated with an inquisitive and experimental nature, innate in most teenagers.
The mind wanders about what is restricted and thus, never having experienced it, ventures out adventurously to taste the forbidden. Being in the middle of the teenage battle, one needs to sieve out the dos and don'ts.
Peer pressure acts as a controlling source at this point and holding on to one's integrity becomes critical. The crucial restraining power to hold on tight is the key out: never forget who you are and where you come from. Just because everyone is stuck within misconceptions or simply doing what they are, doesn't mean you have to as well.
By now, the decision guru is on your side and you are able and willing to differentiate, then determine. The years of the early twenties begin to dawn on one but having survived through the teenage years, the dread doesn't appear as overwhelming as it should have.
What is in store is a mystery, but the preparation for what to do next for what is yet to come begins. You are once again stuck in the phase of what to let go from the past and what to carry with you into the next phase.
Personality at this stage is fully formed and the experiments far behind, yet it one feels somewhat upside down. Responsibilities, if not acquired by now, should be on your agenda. You are viewed as young adults from the outside but still a child resides in you.
Your socks should be on and rolled on up to the knees by now. The constitution recognises you as adults and so it is time to pull that chin up: act like you are one. Oh! You can finally laugh at your stupidities.
Lessons are well learnt. Individuals are faced with various assortments of teenage-oritis but remaining calm and poised throughout is your code. Carry a bag of positivity with you as you trod through the tunnel of teen years and know that no matter how dark it might appear to be now, there is a lightened end to every tunnel. Gear up!
A new beginning
As the first decade of the new millennium draws to an end, I stopped to ponder about the food riches that I have been lucky to savour, and those that I have been considerably less fortunate to encounter.
Arguably, this is prompted by an article in LA Times about the 10 worst food trends of last year. I do not want to limit myself to last year. I want to talk about the last decade.
Amazing. Only the other day, we were all freaking out about the famed and dreaded Y2K virus. What cataclysmic changes will it bring? Will I recognise my desktop anymore? I have known people who stayed up the night staring at the screen, waiting for something to happen.
Of course, nothing did. Let me correct that statement. Something did happen. My food consciousness was awakened. All this while I had loved to eat, to cook a little. But it was largely unknown to me what it meant being a foodie.
To dream food. To imagine taste. To visualise dishes. That all began when I went to live in Bangladesh. Living alone, and the pure act of survival, brought out the foodie in me. Also, going from the relative Indianness of Calcutta to the sheer eclecticism of a national capital had its fair share of influence.
Korean restaurants, Japanese cuisine, ice cream beyond choco bars, pizzas (I came from Calcutta of the late nineties, remember?), burgers (read the earlier parenthesis), the best Thai food this side of Chao Phraya. The list is practically endless.
And above all, the lure of Hilsa and shutki. Creatures of opposite poles, but equally sensual. I learnt much more. I learnt that pitha is not necessarily sweet. In fact, it is delectable with duck curry.
I learnt that you could make roti out of rice flour. In the same breath, I learnt about the day our fate gets decided Shab-e-barat.
I learnt about a national obsession called bharta. Apparently, you can take anything, mash it to smithereens, add green chillies and mustard oil and it becomes bharta. You know what? It tastes darn good too. How can I forget the restaurant opposite Mymensingh rail station proudly proclaiming eight kinds of bharta?
I learnt the pleasures marriage hold. Our honeymoon was in Malaysia where the bounties of South East Asian cuisine were unfolded. Dim sum, Penang Laksa, Som Tam, Nasi Goreng, Pad Thai. All in Malaysia. And subsequently, in Thailand. Trips back to India enabled me to keep in touch with the booming economy back home.
Slowly, it was time for me to come back.
And I was welcomed back with a plethora of restaurants, both in Calcutta as well as other cities of India. Real fruit based ice cream, fabulous sweets made of dry fruits and nuts, fresh jaggery with milk, good Chinese, international chains.
I rediscovered New Market, the veritable Calcutta institution. I do not go for the clothes. I go to buy fruits and vegetables. Where else will you find fresh rosemary, milk white mushrooms, waxy zucchini, large basil leaves? Where else are walnuts and figs so affordable and abundant? Where else will you find an absolute treasure trove of glace fruits waiting to be stirred into cake batter?
I discovered about fifty first-rate breakfast places in Calcutta and not one of them is a proper restaurant. Sure, Flury's has its heritage, but give me the street side Chinese breakfast any day. Hot momos and soup on a rainy morning. Very little can hold a light to that. The little sweet shop deep in the lanes of Bagbazar selling puri for precisely three hours in the morning. Stove starts burning at 5 am and is extinguished at 8 am. No questions asked.
Many incidents crowd the mind. Many meals. Many baby naans. Many smoked fish. Many Russian salads.
Now, sitting at the cusp of the new decade, I look forward and wonder what new barriers will food break? Molecular gastronomy is already a thing of the past. People are looking more and more for simplicity.
Ornate food design is passé. Micro servings are also a thing of the past. It is truly the age of food where you know the origin, when the ingredients play a much larger role than process. When taste will reign supreme, not presentation. And for heaven's sake, let's not begin to plate food.
It is wonderfully magical to take food out of a platter into individual plates. You know the food you are eating is communal, is shared. Now, that to me is alchemy. How else do you tell others that you love them?
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