The rain Goddess showered Her blessings throughout the day in Bengaluru, and just when it looked like there was respite on that Saturday evening, the sky came crashing down.
Single in status per force, I was enjoying a hot cuppa of chai and - least expectedly, the doorbell rang. And guess what - there were Prakash and his pretty fiancée Deepika. They were soon followed in poetic rhythm by Madhavan and his gorgeous wife Shruti.
I smelt a rat - why on earth were these guys at my doorstep on a wet weekend?
"Dada - we know that you cook your own meals... have heard so much about Bengali food. Just thought we would give you an opportunity to demonstrate your culinary skills to us," quipped Madhavan. Deepika picked up the thread - "It's so hard to find you in Bangalore on the weekends. Prakash tells me Dada is off to Pune on Friday evenings to meet someone very special".
So here we are - two of my young colleagues with their better halves, provoking me to treat them to dinner with authentic Bengali food.
Soon all of us settled down with Darjeeling tea and the hot samosas that my friends had very thoughtfully brought. As I kept them engrossed in a typical adda on a myriad of topics ranging from weather to music to movies, the chef in me was deep in thought, contemplating on the menu.
While my guests were busy debating about the Rupee's fall, increasing petrol bill and sky rocketing onion prices, I quietly arranged to prepare the quintessential Khichuri with phulkopi, aloo and motorshuti (by the way unlike in Bengal, cauliflower and green peas are available most of the year in this part of the country). This was supplemented by Begun Bhaja (deep fried eggplant) and Ilish machh bhaja (fried Hilsa fish - binomial name Tenualosa ilisha).
The aroma around the place was ubiquitous and heavenly. It also probably had an uncanny ability to make them rush towards the dining table. While the ensuing discussion centered around cuisines from around the country, I could sense the fulfilment in them as they relished the simple Khichuri. They seemed to struggle a bit with the tiny fish bones, but somehow managed to overcome the difficulty.
Prakash said -"Dada, we have a similar dish in Karnataka called Bisibele bath (it is a rice-based dish, translates to
'hot lentin rice' in Kannada). Shruti - who was till now quiet, chipped in and said "In Tamil Nadu we make Pongal (a popular Tamil cuisine, pong means
'boil over' or 'spill over', and is a common breakfast food) very similar to the Khichuri that you've made".
"I'm glad that we have unity in diversity in the form of Khichuri, Bisibele bath and Pongal, but where on Earth would you find a combination of Ilish mach bhaja, Begun Bhaja and Khichuri? Simple bliss!" - quipped Prakash.
Madhavan said, "We knew we were taking a chance by dropping in and asking you for a treat with homemade food, but I am glad that we did. Dada, by the way what is your schedule for the next weekend? Are you planning to be in Bangalore by any chance?"
Deepika whispered, "Don't be cruel Madhavan-Dada's special someone will kill us if you make him stay here yet another Saturday".