Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Pishimar Peper Chechki

Picture credit: Aruthy Maity: A Widow From Medripur


Kothai amar laal shidur
Amar haath bhora churi
Amar sonar goina
Amar laal paar sari
Kothai mor shami
Kothai amar ghar poribar

Sab chole gelo
Unar shaasher sathe…

- Julia A Dutta

I do hope things have changed. I do hope that she is no more the mashima or the pishima who is dressed in white sari without a border, sitting in one corner of the house, minding grandchildren at one point and overly attached to her son on the other. How can she not be? After all she lost her husband at 22 years and has had to live her life only with her children, being looked after by her husband’s brother. The question of remarriage was only for the elite upper/middle class. Not about her. So she learnt to make her life colourful in her own little way, adding meaning to her lack-luster life like the colourless white sari, the necklace of tulasi beads around her neck and her empty hands, those hands which were filled with sonar churi and bala and her neck with a thick gold chain, even her fingers wore a ring or two, but alas!

Yet, never can you ever forget a Bengali widow’s (I hope of yesteryears now) kitchen, the total vegetarian cuisine, without meat, fish, garlic, onions and masur daal. It was really the dish to relish at the very beginning of a meal. For those who are vegetarians, you can only imagine what a deprivation it must be for a woman whose tongue is suited to non-vegetarian meals from her eighth month onwards, to be compelled to eat only vegetarian meals when the rest of the household is doing otherwise. Only the flavour of the mutton curry can be hers for usually, her kitchen would be next to but separate from the non-veg one. For those of us who are non-vegetarians, it is unthinkable that one woman in the same household can be treated with such silent torture, year after year after year. To attack ones taste buds is like killing the living soul. And yet! This is not a post to moan the state of Bengal’s widows; it is one to showcase how she could transform a boring vegetable to the most exquisite dish for a meal.

Pishimar Peper Chechki


Raw papaya – large size but not ripe yet
Sauf – half teaspoon
Jeera – Quarter teaspoon
Ginger – Half inch piece
Green Chillies – 2 (Optional)
Red Chilli – 2
Bay leaf - 2
Dalchini – 1 stick
Elaichi – 2
Coconut – Grated 2 tablespoons
Haldi – 1 teaspoon
Salt – to taste
Sugar – Half teaspoon
Shudh ghee (cow) – 1 tablespoon
Mustard oil – 2 tablespoons (you can use any other oil as well)

Scrape and cut the raw papaya in four pieces. Grate and keep aside. Grind sauf, jeera, ginger, 1 green chillie together and put aside. Grind dalchini and elaichi and put it aside in a covered small bowl.

Take a large frying pan and put it on the fire. When it is hot, put the oil and allow the bubbles in the mustard oil to subside. Now put the red chillies and the bay leaves and brown both. Once that is done, put the masala and stir fry till it leaves the sides of the pan. Quickly add the grated papaya, haldi and salt and keep stirring till the masala and the papaya have mixed well. Add a cup of water and cover the pan till the papaya has cooked completely. Now add the elaichi dalchini mix, half a spoon of sugar and stir fry just a bit longer till all the water has dried up. Take it off the fire. Add the grated coconut. Stir and place it in a bowl and cover it.

Your Pishima’s Peper Chechki is ready to eat. Serve with hot rice although the chechki need not be steaming hot itself.

For More Bengali Recipes:

It is every Bengali’s duty to ensure that while we enjoy the Bengali Widow’s Kitchen, we do not deprive her of her right to delicious non-vegetarian cuisine. Nor ever clothe her in white by force or ever take away the ornaments on her body. All these are her birthright!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Some Day

Some Day
I thought I would tell you some day

The vacant spaces
In my house
Is full of memories….

Each object lies
In exactly the same spot
As you left it
When last you visited
What together we called
Our home…..

If anyone were to ask me
If the rising sun
The hazy morn
Or even a walk
On the dew-wet grass
Reminded me of you

I would draw a blank.

For in the swans
The squirrels
The puppies nestled close to their mother
I feel the warmth
I have known so intimately….

Whenever an object you left
Is moved even a centimetre
From where you placed it
When last you visited our home
Or the sun is invisible
Hiding behind the mist
Or the clouds
I feel restless

I lose my centre
I am lost.

If anyone were to ask me
If I remember you
Sometimes? …..Ever?

I would draw a blank.

-Julia A.Dutta