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Bengali Dreams

May 19, 2014


A true friendship allows many things. If it didn’t, it wouldn’t be true. It allows camaraderie without having to try to fit in; it allows listening and sharing when the going gets tough; it allows asking, knowing you will receive (hopefully most of the times); it allows the silence of unspoken words; it allows you to just be. My friend, Nita, has the most amazing laugh. The sound of her laughter attracts you to her immediately. The laugh begins somewhere in her belly, moves slowly up her throat, gathers momentum and gurgles out musically, reminding you of the tinkling of many bells. I wish I could laugh like that.I tease Nita about her weight.
She nods and teases me about mine. It is a two-way circus.

We struggle with middle-age flab, or is it late-age cellulite? I vow to lose the extra fat, promise to diet, and endeavour in whatever way possible to shed the excess load. I gently and firmly remind her to off-load hers too. Encouraged she embarks on a plan that shows results. Secretly, I do the same. We share tips and smile at the pants that now fit. But have we really conquered the fight with the flab? We enjoy luncheons together at interesting places that cater fat-free-food.
We meet at a mutual friend’s place for lunch. Nita refuses the tasty chilli- mushroom on toast that is passed around. She declines the fresh watermelon juice which I find invigorating. I am surprised. At lunch, she opens her own tiffin-ka-dabba. I instantly assume that something delicious is going to pop out. I‘m taken aback to see lauki ki sabzi and chilla emerge. Nita informs me that her stomach has taken a vacation to a hill resort recuperating from a severe bout of indigestion. She groans and moans and offers a flimsy excuse that this is due to food eaten at a friend’s party. She lays the blame squarely on the fact that it was cooked early in the morning but served late, at 3 p.m. and mumbles under her breath that this is the factor solely responsible for the belly rumble.
I am suspicious that there is more to it than meets the eye, or is it the stomach? The details tumble out without me having to prod further. She had been invited to a puja at a Bengali friend’s house a few days ago and had dreamt non-stop of the Bengali delicacies she would gorge on. So much so, that on the morning of the event, she skipped breakfast, her taste-buds dripping on overdrive. Unfortunately, the entire morning seemed to stretch endlessly and it was mid-afternoon before lunch was served. Nita’s stomach was gnawing with hunger. Armed with the memory of ‘Bengali Dreams’ of the previous night, she went into attack mode. It was the charge of the Light Brigade! She assaulted every dish on the table and struck at every salad. She pounced on the raj-bhog, devoured the mishit-doi and ploughed into the array of sweets like a military tank confronting the enemy. After the raid was over, she packed some of the favourites and plied into them well into the night licked her fingers clean. Then, she dreamt some more.
The next morning, she couldn’t get up. The show of aggression had taken its toll. The stomach declared defeat and waved the white flag in surrender. It was time to retreat and lie low. She dug into the trenches, waiting for the enemy to disappear. The incursion over, the war hero emerged battle-scarred with the tiffin-ka-dabba in tow.
We laugh out loud and wonder – could this be greed and gluttony? Nah! I console Nita – it’s just age catching up! After all, what are friends for!

August 20th 2011

tiffin-ka-dabba – 3 in 1 lunch box
lauki ki sabzi – Indian marrow vegetable (bottle gourd)
raj-bhog – Indian sweet
mishti doi – sweet curd


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