Food, tv, family and more

‘ There is no love sincerer than the love of food’

– George Bernard Shaw

We, in our family have a curious relationship with food. It is almost like a love- hate relationship. My wife eats food to lose weight. My son eats only when he is hungry and I eat when my wife calls me to the dining hall.

If I am busy writing something, I forget about my own hunger or hunger forgets me. Either way it works. If I am reading I sometimes prefer munching almonds or cashews. While watching tv we all eat something. In most cases the food if served hot would turn cold till we finish off it while watching tv. This I observed happens most when the tv channels are set to ‘infotainment’ mode. However my wife watches bengali tv series with ease and finishes off her plate of food quite successfully without making it wait for long.

The Sports channels are great for foodies I guess. The exciting cricket matches make us all to eat all types of food ( and non foods even like finger nails).

Mostly at home ( barring the breakfast) we eat food while watching tv, so tv and food somehow got attached in our case, or should I say we keep them within parentheses.

Talking about family, my in-laws are great foodies, specially my brother in law. Any new restaurant opens in our small town, he will make sure he visits that on the day of the opening itself. If not on that day then next day sure. He believes in ‘ eating -out’ . The flavour of home cooked foods does not appear as lip smacking as the flavour of restaurants to him. My mother in law loves to cook but if her arthritis allows her. My father in law , have one thing in common with me, he cooks only when feels like.

Talking about feelings associated with food, I love the smell of spices. Not sure how it got so much into me, but the smell of spices led to strange wanderings. Once I wandered off the trail while touring a place because I got the smell of cardamom there.

The smell of mustard sauce is another which creates a subtle feeling in me. I can’t help it. Another smell from kitchen which would invariably create an urge to go and find what’s being cooked is the smell that emanates the moment garlic and onion and chillies are simmered.

My parents being residents of East Bengal ( now Bangladesh) , we had that preference towards fish easily found in rivers and ponds. Salt water fish were rarely brought home. The thrust or direction of home made foods was always towards vegetables like ‘banana flowers’, gourds of all kinds ( the bitter one was a must) and lentil. When my wife came in and took over the kitchen turned multi cuisine. From typical East Bengali we turned Bengali first and then gradually Indian, as far as food is concerned. Idli, chana masala, naan, rajma, mughlai and tandoori dishes – all started happening. Later the chinese and the american and tibetan dishes also started becoming part of our lives.

Thus we got evolved so far and with tv constantly supplying us more information and ideas on cooking, I am sure we are going to get more globalised.


“ Believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it.”
Rainer Maria Rilke – Letters to a Young Poet

The letter from Debbie arrived yesterday. Debbie alias Debosmita.

After moving to New York, three years back , pursuing her studies, Debbie at least kept one promise.

She kept on writing letters. Initially they were frequent. But for the last one year so, Debbie’s letters had become infrequent.

I was also very much eager to get letters from Debbie. At least initially. The pains and pangs of separation had bitten into me quite a bit. Never thought that Debbie would go away like that. But she had her reasons too. Very strong plausible reasons.

She had that novel opportunity of pursuing her dream – a doctoral research on Sylvia Plath. Secondly she had no one to look forward to at the time of happiness or sadness. Of course , I am there somewhere in her heart, but how can I be selfish like that to plead or implore her to stay back, for a relationship with no future?

‘ Look Sushant, ‘ Debbie told me the night before going away to United States of America.

Her voice had the tone of sadness and melancholy. She had been weeping.

Me too.

‘ Here I got no one to care about me, after dad’s passing away and brother’s marriage, barring you. And with you I can never stay…’

‘ yes… I know…’

I said feebly.

‘ moreover, this opportunity…just think, can I ever miss that?’

‘Nah! Never!’

I had retorted.


I stopped short of making any comment on that.

She understood.

‘Yes…Sushant… had you been older than me or at least of my age…it could have been acceptable in our society…but marrying a boy five years younger than me…we will be ostracized…’


I had said.

‘ but don’t you worry…I will send you letters…as promised…’

She had assured me.

For three years since then Debbie and I had been somehow keeping in contact with each other through letters.

Occasionally she would send emails if there is an urgent news or information to give to me.

Very rarely she would call.

Letters were what we both agreed upon as the best media of communication.

For a person like me who has only one dream to follow and that is to follow literature all through my life, exchanging letters seemed most poetic.

Besides we had a dream which we both dreamt together.

We wished one day our love letters would be turned into a book or compilation like that of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Browning.

We also knew that in hand written letters only we could somehow bridge the distance betwixt us. Her smell would come to me. My hand writing would help her to feel my mood or mental state.

But then there are occasions when memories come opening all floodgates.

I would feel restless to get her near, to plant a gentle kiss on her nape, to caress her, to get the smell of her long brown tresses.

Probably she felt that too.

Once she sent me by courier a parcel.

Opening that I found a CD of a movie titled ‘ The Reader’ and a short note.

‘Watch it…and when would I grow old, you would feel me more…’

I watched the movie and wept copiously.

Then once I sent her my first published novella.

How much elated she became!

She ordered twenty books for her friends there.

Then one day she sent me a postcard from Provence.

‘So you are traveling ?’

I wrote back.

Few weeks later she sent pictures of different places of France.

The season of Fall had turned the maples red and orange. The sight of streets blanketed by leaves created a poetic frenzy.

I wrote her a poem.

‘Now that I do see

How you are faring

So far away from me,

Now that you under the cover

So cosy, of leaves and flower,

Perhaps you should send me

Out of your heart and memory’

Receiving that she sent me a picture of a sun rise over hills.

I did not understand then what she had meant.


But that picture postcard again evoked in me a poetic flow.

I wrote a poem ‘The sunrising’, which after reading Debbie thought to be somewhat akin to a metaphorical poem.

I argued it could be somewhat akin to a John Donne poem.

Metaphysical poetry was never liked by Debbie. Her favourite poets were Tagore, Wordsworth, Keats , Shelley.

Among the romantics, she only kept a distance from Coleridge.

While metaphysical poetry always excited me.

‘John Donne and Andrew Marvell, revolutionised poetry’

I would claim.

Debbie would just smile and say ‘You are just a kid still….where from would you get the poetic intuitions if you never read Tagore or Wordsworth? If you want to learn more about life and poetry read them.’

So I started reading them and what wealth that to me their poetry brought.

I got seeped into poetry because of reading Tagore and Wordsworth and Keats.

And that flow came to my writings.

Debbie appreciated that.

She sent me poetry books of Walt Whitman.

I sent her a copy of my second novella.

Letters of her became infrequent after that.

I wrote her four or five times a week.

She sent me no replies.

For six or seven months I got no news of her.

I sent emails. They stared blank at me from the out box of the mail folders.

I called twice.

The phone rang but no hand picked it up.

Gradually when I was accepting losing Debbie as my fate.

A letter came like a sparkle of light afloat on water.

‘Dear Sushant,

I am extremely aggrieved that I could not send you letters. I was busy .

I read all your letters. They gave me the flowering power of love and hope.

They gave me the strength.

I am writing this with a wish. A wish that may appear strange to you( or may not as you are a poet and writer).

You know why the trees grow?

They grow to bear fruits and flowers of love.

Now that we have, for so many years , took care of our sapling of love and helped it to grow bit by bit, with all love of our hearts…

I wish you send me the seed to grow a tree within me.

Can you do that?


I was both taken aback and thrilled receiving such a request from Debbie.

Debosmita had always remained more composed and collected than me. She had remained all through very methodical.

But how could I turn down her.

Her request.

So I did send the seed.

That too almost one year back.

Yesterday Debbie’s letter came with the quote of Rainer Maria Rilke.

‘Dear Sushant,

You would be happy to know that a girl has been born. I am sending a picture of her . I have christened her as ‘Sharodiya’ for she bears the beauty of the autumnal blue sky and white floating cottony cloudlets of our dreams.

Love ,

Debbie. ‘

I read the letter at one go and looked at the picture of that pinkish face of a cuddly little thing.

How many times did I murmur ‘Sharodiya’ I did not know.

But I kept on muttering and kissing the picture.

How did I wish to go all the way to New York, just to have a glimpse of the girl.

Just to feel the sky of autumn right there at the city.

I thought of arranging for my passport and visa.

The amount of money kept in my savings account out of my monthly salary would be just enough for one way air ticket.

I thought I would give Debbie and Sharodiya a surprise!


A phone call came.

Debbie’s phone number it showed on my cell.

I picked it.

Someone called from a hospital with conspicuous american accent.

‘Mr Sushant Sengupta?’


‘Debosmita Banerjee has passed away a few minutes from now. Please arrange to arrive here as soon as possible’

‘But …but her letter…her letter… it came only yesterday…’

I just mumbled but soon realised that it did not matter to the caller at the other end.

I did not remember what happened to me then.

I probably slowly sat down on the floor.

I was feeling dizzy.

How Debbie turned into an angel !

How she left a Sharod blessing for me…

Finding Draupadi

Arunangshu found a newly bought lipstick on his mother’s dressing table.

He picked it up. Standing before the mirror he was thinking of applying the lipstick on his lips.

His mother ( Shyamali) walked into the room just as he was about to apply her new lipstick. She was startled. He was startled.

‘ what are you doing with my lipstick? It’s new…I haven’t used it so far. Couldn’t you have waited?’

He smiled and handed it back to her.

‘ I forgot to tell you…I am playing Draupadi in our college production…rehearsals start this evening’

Arunangshu said.

‘ That’s great!’

His mother said as she started to get ready . She would have to go out soon. Arunangshu’s father must be waiting downstairs for Shyamali.

‘ Mom…’


His mother looked at him.

‘ As you and dad had told me several times not to keep in head what other people are saying about me… my strangeness, my effeminate demeanour, still…you know sometimes it becomes very difficult to cope with bullying…’

Shyamali came close to Arunangshu.

‘ Aruna… when you got your parents supporting you to the fullest…don’t you be afraid… just keep on doing all the good works and you will see everything will fall into proper place…eventually all things do…’

‘But mom…’

‘Okay… tell me… who is the person who is bullying you the most?’

‘ well…he is Deepak… he is somewhat a body builder type… flexing muscles infront of girls to get some appreciation…he has a gang of boys…’

Just then Arunangshu’s dad came in.

‘What’s the matter?’

‘Aruna , our dear Aruna is getting upset again because someone called Deepak is bullying him…’

Shyamali reported.

Arunangshu’s dad looked at his watch.

‘We will have to go out soon to office… but as you have raised an issue…let me tell you onething… try to help Deepak… he must be helpless in one front or other…try to find that…’

Arunangshu’s dad, Shivputra , said that with a tinkle in his eyes.

Arunangshu was amazed by his father’s wisdom.

‘Yes… yes dad… I will…’

Later in the evening when the rehearsal started, the director told everyone present who were part of the play, that he had made a change in the script. Instead of praying to Krishna, Draupadi would have to pray to the Sun God , to help and save her from humiliation at the court of the kauravas when the ‘disrobing scene ‘ of Draupadi would be performed.

Everyone was surprised, to some extent bewildered.

But the director’s order can never be violated.

So Arunangshu prayed to Sun God to save Draupadi.

The rehearsal went well.

This minor change was soon adapted.

Just after coming out of the rehearsal, near the gate of the college canteen Arunangshu found Deepak standing. He was talking to someone over phone.

Arunangshu was feeling the sense of discomfort within . He thought of hurriedly passing by that place.

But he heard Deepak’s voice.

It was very soft, almost pleading.

‘Please Rupsa, don’t you do this to me…You can’t do this … please…’

Arunangshu was somewhat curious.


His classmate.

He knew Deepak was trying to woo Rupsa…but what happened.

Returning home he called Rupsa.

Rupsa told him that Deepak and she had sex . Though it was not any rash act but quite a pre planned one and mutually agreed upon, but Deepak was found to be a worthless fellow by Rupsa and with another guy really following her for the last few weeks, it had been a sane idea to dump Deepak.

Arunangshu , after hearing that decided to call Deepak.

It was not hard to get the phone number of Deepak.

He told Deepak of Rupsa’s plan, without any distortion.

‘Will you be a witness if Rupsa denies having said that?’

‘Yes I will’

Arunangshu said in firm voice.

Perhaps there was something in his voice.

It did not sound treble like.

It did not carry that effeminate tone.

Deepak was a bit surprised by that voice of Arunangshu it seemed.

‘Good… its good to find you Draupadi! Now you will see how the table turns!’

Deepak said.

Arunangshu put his fingertip on the red button of the phone to disconnect the call.

Later at night, after dinner, when mom and dad went to sleep, Arunangshu rehearsed his dialogues of the play, standing in front of the mirror.

It went well.

Suddenly he got curious to know why the director, the revered Professor of History, who is also an amateur playwright, changed the script to include Sun God instead of Lord Krishna.

Arunangshu googled.

What he found was really interesting.

According to ‘Sarala Mahabharata’ the Oriya version of the epic Mahabharata, Sun God borrowed clothes from Draupadi for the wedding of His son Shani. At that time He promised Draupadi of all kind of help.

But at the time of ‘disrobing of Draupadi’ Sun God was busy doing His own chores.

Lord Krishna then reminded Sun God of His promise to Draupadi.

Sun God then rushed to the court room and by His blazing Light created ‘Chaya’ and ‘Maya’ which was such a spectacular thing that both the Pandavas and the Kauravas and all others present at the courtroom were simply awestruck.

Reading this Arunangshu heaved a sigh of relief.

He also thought of discussing that mythical story with his parents the next day, specially with his Dad.