"Achey Dukkho, Achey Mrityu,
Biroho dahan Laage,
Tobuo Shanti, Tobuo Anondo,
Tobu Anonto Jaage,
Tobu Pran Nityodhara,
Haashe Surjo Chandra Tara,
Basanta Nikunje Aashe,
I have lost my father recently, hence grasping all such phrases and words that can work as a bit of healer. It is not so we were fainting with grief every now and then. What is haunting us is that it happened all of a sudden. The happy go lucky, young at heart turned 74 on 10th January. He had a normal life going for morning walks, visiting and taking part in club activities of which he was a founder member everyday and watching sports and few soaps on television. On that fateful day, he was watching an IPL match and was extremely happy with the victory of KKR. With all smiles he was chatting with my brother till 11.45 pm at night. Who imagined he would not wake up next morning and go into comatose stage? That is what we are unable to accept at the moment. The ever smiling, pure at heart, very friendly, wonderful story teller had a severe cerebral attack in his sleep. So, we are trying to find solace in the above lines.... there will be pain and sorrows... departures will be unbearable.... yet the world keeps going... birds chirp at the wake of dawn... life blooms... spring arrives... sun shines... the moon and stars smile. Looking at his picture, I try to draw strength thinking it is his physical being that is gone, he is with us... the soul never departs.
This post might be a long one as I wish to narrate few things about him. He was born in Comilla district of Bangladesh who came to Kolkata to complete his degree course. He and the brother next to him played football on behalf of a lesser known club of Kolkata. Watching his legs lying still on the bed, I went back to those stories he told me long back. We touched him, talked to him but the very talkative, wonderful story teller did not even look at us for the next seven days he survived. Our mom is a family oriented person who never can think beyond her son, daughter and the family. The dad of the house was totally different, a broad minded, friendly, very honest human being who mingled with people with an ease. He had a variety of stories for all age groups.We have never seen him speaking ill or criticising anyone ever. No, this is not an after - death glorification, anyone who knew him a bit would agree with me. There was no place for words like depression, worry in his dictionary. His daughter suffered from acute depression before and after marriage for varied reasons, he used to be her strength saying there is nothing called sadness mamoni, go ahead, be happy and carefree. It is difficult to see the same person passing away so silently.
Can you see that front window at the the second storey?... it is from that room he was taken to the hospital and never came back alive... That is his humble house in the outskirts of Kolkata.... just as any middle-class home there with few trees, plants and terrace garden.
He loved mangoes and banana too much... jackfruit came next. He was a fish and rice person. My mom and sister-in-law says he recently developed a fondness for kheema dal and eggs. Above all, he loved prawns. I wish to blog on each one of them. My maternal grandma, now 90 loved him too much. In her golden days, the excellent cook would prepare Prawn Malaikari, Mutton Curry, Hilsa together for him and he ate them all. He loved gulabjamun and all kinds of pithe.... sweet and savoury snacks. Take a look at his mango tree full of mangoes yet to ripe. Mom made jars full of pickles with raw mango, berries, elephant apple, he who loved chutneys and pickles is no more to have them. Looking at his mango tree, I remember even two to three years back he drove away whoever came to steal them.
Do you wish to see where he lay still before going away for ever?.... and how we or his son offered him water and food for all the eleven days before the final rituals? We consider Tulsi plant as holy... that symbolises my dad at the moment..... there it goes.....
You know when his daughter was living in Kolkata, whenever she came he opened that gate each time with a welcoming smile. He had a smile for everyone. Thats my mom's Tulsi manch... now she says I worshipped God with so much of dedication... what did I get? I say you were married to a very genuine, honest person just as me. The paa-in-law and son-in-law had similar traits.... both been angry, upright, good at heart. Our parent's pillars of strength had been their son-in-law and daughter-in-law... the way they dedicated themselves so that the rituals are done perfectly is rare. Daddy was too proud of both of them.
Thats how offerings are made to our forefathers so that they reach heaven peacefully. You know I went to the cremation ground... we saw our father turning into ashes, few bones and the charred naval... it was tough... very tough to see your own going to an electric oven. I cannot ever forget the course of events, neither do I wish to.
Daddy started his career at State Bank of India, Asansol in 1965. He stayed there for few years and then in Kolkata and different parts of West Bengal. There were few others who joined with him on the same day or month. Till date they had been friends. The uncles and aunts visited us in the hospital and our parental home to say we are there. It has been a fifty years of bond, I could only say stay well, we cannot lose all our guardians. He was a promoter of girl child which was rare in early 70's. Within his financial limitations, he got dresses from the upscale markets of Kolkata for his daughter. Of late he found a daughter in my brother's wife Bidisha De who is a mathematics teacher at one of the Delhi Public Schools in Kolkata and a lovely, warm lady. He was much ahead of his time who gave his daughter sex education in a unique way which many of his contemporaries could not think of. We had free and open discussions on Aparna Sen's 36 Chowrangi Lane or Parama or why the teen age bride of Balika Badhu reacted that way while watching the Khajuraho figurines. I am so thankful to him for such an upbringing. Now I regret why I did not spend some more time with him... called him at a higher frequency. I told my brother he loved you more so his last talk was with you. Yesterday, before leaving I could not tell them that dad is visiting me all the time, I can see clearly his smiles, gestures, everything..... he stands near me and calls me 'mamoni'... thats how he addressed me.... yet we are having a normal life... eating, bathing, smiling... just that I cannot look at a ripe mango or willing to have prawns at the moment.
Before I write a recipe on one of his favourite dish, I must thank those people who stood strong beside us in our hour of grief. I was still to reach Kolkata but my / our friend was already their in the ambulance with my family, one was there at the airport to receive me at 12 am. Our friends and few relatives were there constantly for us during these fifteen hard days by calling us regularly, messaging, visiting the hospital, getting second opinion from other doctors, standing strong beside us during his funeral, keeping aside their other commitments... excuses and attending our ritualistic ceremonies. I will not thank them as they patted my back and said we are there for each other always. I wish to mention each one of them in different posts in due course. Our friends both in Kolkata and in the island took care of our respective families so beautifully. Pain is when few did not bother to take care, even if they had time for every other thing.... merry making and else. I felt that was an insult to my dad's departed soul. I find it too difficult to cope with it... feels so very broken, specially when I am unable to share it with anyone. The wise man at home always says S lower your expectations. He stayed with us all of 11 days and supervised everything. Our relatives said my mom has two strong pillars beside her... her son-in-law and daughter-in-law. Hence I feel sad for her but not worried because I know she is in safe hands. I will share few snaps of her terrace garden on Mother's Day may be.
I will be wrong if I do not mention our Cristine today. She managed our home with such expertise... she cooked, cleaned, did prayer and took perfect care of two elderly people and our son.... and yes with a smiling face. She is part of our family indeed.
Coming to today's post, I wish to blog on few of my dad's favourite starting with a prawn recipe as it was his most favourite. I wish to share a simple recipe of medium sized shrimps cooked with cauliflower and potato. This is a light curry that you can have any day of the week. I am not as expert a cook as his wife who hardly allows me to cook in her presence. Looking back, when I spoiled ingredients while trying to prepare something, mom would scold but my dad would stop her and say how will the daughter learn if you do not let her? The daughter did learn, cooks for so many people... yet she hardly lets me cook... as I said she hardly thinks beyond her kids and family... all her attention is how to give us comfort which I definitely do not agree with because we need to look beyond... open wide our eyes to the world. I have seen similar traits in few other people too. Coming to today's recipe... let us cook together this scrumptious curry with prawn, cauliflower and potato and enjoy with a bowl of rice.
Prawn / Shrimp : 350gm
Cauliflower : 1medium
Potato : 1big
Tomato : 1medium
Ginger Paste : 1tbsp
Cumin Powder : 2tsp
Coriander Powder : 1tsp
Turmeric Powder : 1tsp
Red Chilli Powder : 1tsp
Cinnamon Powder : 1/2tsp
Cardamom Powder : 1/4tsp
Salt : As Required
Cumin Seed : 2-3pinches
Fenugreek Seed : 2-3pinches
Bayleaf : 1
Oil [authentically mustard] : 5tbsp
Clean, de shell, de vein and wash the prawns / shrimps. Marinate with little turmeric and salt. Cut the cauliflower into medium sized florets. Peel and cut the potato into cubes and wash.
Take the cauliflower florets in a microwave proof bowl, add enough water and microwave at high for 5 minutes. Let cool, discard the water. Rub little salt on the cauliflower florets and potato.
Heat oil in a wok and lightly fry the prawns / shrimps, take out. Lightly fry the florets and potato in batches. Take out and place on tissue paper.
Temper same oil with fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds and bayleaf. As you get the aroma, add the ginger paste and saute for 2 minutes. Wash and chop the tomatoes and add to the wok. Saute till it melts.
Add the turmeric powder, red chilli powder, cumin powder, coriander powder, little salt and stir for a minute.
Add the lightly fried potatoes and fold in well. Add 11/2 coffee mug of water and cover cook at low heat for 2-3 minutes.
Now add the cauliflower florets and cover cook at low heat for another 2-3 minutes. Open cover and add the lightly fried prawns / shrimps, cinnamon and cardamom powder. Gently fold in. Let cook for a minute.
It is done. Serve fresh and hot with piping hot steamed rice. Do try to use fresh prawns / shrimps for this dish as they add an extra bit of taste to the curry that you will not get from frozen ones.