Friday, May 1, 2015

Meeting Bengali Royalty

I walked into the dining room, tapping away at my smartphone, hoping to send out one last email before lunch. I hit send only to find an empty room. I headed to the dining table where bowls, plates and cutlery had been laid out. I lifted the lids, curious to know what was on offer for lunch. I found and served myself some curry, a vegetable dish, rice and a thick pudding. As my hunger and impatience increased, I took a tiny spoonful of the dessert and the world fell silent. 

In that strange, liminal space of eating and experiencing pleasure, the milky sweetness punctuated with toasty, crunchy nuts in the nolen gur kheer brought the same ineffable joy as playing with an innocent, mischievous little boy; his tangled curly hair bobbing about while the dimple in his cheek played hide and seek. Running after this glorious child, we came up to an elegant lady. She was tall but not imposing with a sweet smile and wise eyes emanating a dignified sensuality very much like the sweetness of well caramelized onions tempered with the aroma of whole spices draping succulent meat in the kosha mangsho.
Walking behind this queen-ly presence, at a respectable distance but secure in his position was an older man with a poker face but shrewd eyes. A little sampling revealed the standing of the cholar dal as the pre-eminent political adviser. Smooth in dealings but imbued with the self assured power of unprocessed asafoetida and dried red chilies, this dish left its mark on me.
Then unbridled laughter of a group of teenage girls diverted my attention. Some 6-7 carefree maidens danced past us, balancing pots of water on their hips, unmindful of the royal presence. Each bite of the mashed veggies, each burst of the dhania, kalonji and saunf in the chochori was like bright vermilion and the tinkle of silver anklets. Here were the plebians amidst royalty but neither great nor small; important only in their own version of things. 

I came to; dazed by the heady experience, sucker-punched by the images and impressions dashing around in my brain, on my palate. But there was the plate and the food; proof I had not been hallucinating. 

To this day, I remember that encounter in all its sensual glory and never again can a Bengali meal be enjoyed without a wistful recollection of the day I met Bengali royalty.


  1. Completely blown away by the analogies you have drawn. Fabulous. And yes, thank you for writing this :)

    1. Oh hello! Just saw this..
      Thank you for reading. I'm glad you liked it. :)