Month: October 2020

Festive fun with COVID twist!

Aoshtomi fun on Titas’s terrace garden

The festivities arrived with the cool autumn breeze, clear blue sky and Corona Virus still hanging in the air. The fact that there would be no pandal hopping this year did dampen my spirit initially. But surprisingly this Pujo turned out to be one of the best for me. As going out was not an option, we looked inwards and planned to organize small get-togethers at home, with close friends and neighbours in the safe zone of course. For when you are eating and drinking mask is not an option.

First the double whammy! As my birthday this year coincided with Saptomi I called everyone over to my place. Being the Birthday Girl, I decided to take it easy and gave my friend Sanjay charge of the party. Sanjay gladly agreed and delighted us with grilled chicken breast, paneer in mushroom sauce, prawns, garlic bread, spring rolls and more. I got a pink cake that I have been craving for since I was a girl and was showered with gifts, feeling like a young girl. Age is a number indeed!

Aoshtomi, so much fun making khichudi and labra on Titas’s terrace garden, reminded me of the long-forgotten picnics when we would go to someplace like riverbank or tea garden and cook. Years back, the whole extended family and friends would embark on a picnic or chorui bhati early morning in a bus loaded with all the utensils and ingredients. After reaching the picnic spot, men would dig a hole in the soft mud and make a chulha. Women would start cooking – daalchawal, veggies and mutton for a mouth-watering late afternoon lunch. We kids’ would just run around and have fun.

On Titas’s terrace garden kichudi  and labra were cooked on a gas stove, in huge utensils that belonged to Sanjay’s dad. Some people helped chopped veggies, some like me cheered and took photographs. Titas nervously stirred the labra as Roy Meshomoshai is not easy to please when it comes to authentic bong food. Men helped stir the huge pot and finally, we had the perfect labra. Arpan was in charge of khichudi that turned out to be delicious. The late afternoon meal with begun bhajachatni and of course kichudi and ladra was very satisfying. Titas’s special dessert, kheer from Manipur (Chak-Hao Amubi Kheer) made with black rice (that lent a blueberry colour to the desi kheer), brought the meal to a perfect end. We were so full that we had to cancel the drinks and snacks that we had planned for the evening.

Pujo was a three-day affair this time and day three was again a blast for me, first rushing to Sanjay’s parent’s place to sample the Vijaya Doshomi fish and mutton then heading to my colleague Lovina’s place for lunch. A bachelorette for our colleague Puja who’s soon to get married, Lovina made the juiciest pork chops and pork ribs and a whole lot of other things while I sipped white wine. I came back to Sanjay’s parent’s place again in the evening for my share of dessert. 

The celebrations came to a perfect end (for now) with Lokkhi Pujo at Sanjay’s parent’s place. We bowed before the golden goddess that Mashima worshipped in the puja room for peace, prosperity, and a vaccine for COVID and some magic remedy for the rising pollution. Prasad was elaborate, from fruits and shinni to Kochuri, Potoler torkari, Ghugni, chatni, payesh, mishti and more.

A good festive season indeed though rising pollution is proving to be damper, giving us itchy eyes and sore throats even though we are mostly indoors. So much has changed this year, and not everything about that change has been bad. We have made new friends, learnt to make do with what we have, connected with people around us and realized the value human touch in an increasingly virtual world. I had hoped that the air would be cleaner this winter, but it seems we have a lot more to learn! 

Sharing the quick Recipe of Chak-Hao Amubi Kheer, Manipuri Black Rice Pudding-

  1. Wash the Black rice multiple times till you get almost clean water.
  2. Soak the rice for 2 to 3 hrs
  3. Boil milk on slow heat in a stove, add bay leaves, cardamom.
  4. Add the soaked rice and let it boil, keep adding milk if it thickens.
  5. Once the rice is cooked, you will get a creamy purple kheer, add sugar as per your taste, add some dry fruits if you like.
  6. Serve with LOVE, the most important ingredient.

The October Feel

October always feels special. It’s not just the cool autumn breeze and the ushering festivities, October is much more than that to me. October is my birth month. I moved into my own house and started my blog in this very month. I didn’t plan for any these to happen in October, they just happened. Of course, our birth is something we don’t or can’t plan. I did plan to buy a house though and worked hard for it. I contemplated starting a blog and finally went live with The Retro Feeling. Though I didn’t consciously coincide building a physical home and the house of my memories and imagination with my birth month, it seems October’s kind to me, allowing some of my pieces to fall in the right place.

Ever since I can remember, birthdays have always been a big deal to me. I excitedly look forward to my birthday. I dream, I meticulously plan the year ahead (or I used to till a few years back), I hope that all the pieces will fall in place eventually. Some pieces do fall in place, some don’t, causing a lot of pain and heartache – a job interview that I was confident I cracked, a boy who I thought was the love of my life, destinations that lured me but shied away. There have been many sparkling pieces that teased me but refused to give in. They hurt me, frustrated me, angered me, and sometimes made me behave most embarrassingly, memories that I would like to erase if I could. The mis fallen pieces of the heart are the most painful ones always.

Celebrating with friends

Almost a decade back, when one such piece fell out of place, I decided I should at least buy a house, work on something that I could possibly control. By then I had changed many accommodations – from a PG to a one-room set to rented apartments. I still remember moving into the one-room set vacated by a friend, pulling the luggage up the stairs on my own as the cabbie refused to help, spending the next couple of days cleaning the apartment as the last occupant left it in such a mess. Moving from one rented apartment to another, facing annoying questions from prospective landlords about my supposed ‘boyfriends’ and marriage plans. Shifting houses is always a pain, involves a lot of hard work especially if you are doing it on your own. And for someone like me who likes the house spic and span it can be even tougher. Whenever I would move into a new place, I wouldn’t rest till everything was the way it was meant to be, much to the annoyance of my sister who lived with me for a few years. It would be tiring and backbreaking but immensely satisfying by the end of it.

Sanjay who organized my b’day bash

Sitting in one such rented apartment, thinking about all the hassle of moving to a new placed every couple of years I decided to buy a house. ‘Enough with all the shifting and the supposed landlords scrutinizing my life,’ I told myself. As luck would have it, I mentioned about my resolve to close friend of mine, Sanjay, who happened to know about a new residential development in Gurgaon that would fit my budget. I visited the place and decided to book an apartment. My dad supported me with the initial deposit. Then followed the home loans, chasing the developer and finally after 6 years (instead of 3) I became the happy owner of my apartment. It took me two more years to finally move into my own house. The uncertainties of moving to a newly developed locality, the fear of not being able to do it right held me back.

My friends came to my rescue again. Right from accompanying me several times (as I have a terrible sense of direction and it took a few trips for me to figure out the way to my own house) to shortlisting the carpenter for woodwork, Sanchita was a huge help. I probably couldn’t have done it without her. Again, my obsession with getting everything perfectly done made things harder. Coordinating with the carpenter, the online furniture stores, buying the right curtains and the cushion kept me on my toes.

And finally, I moved into my apartment on October 28th four years back, after a sleepless night of arguing and fighting with movers & packers who demanded the entire payment before putting the furniture in place. My sister caught hold of a Panditji for Griha Prabesh (as my mom insisted on it) while I kept chasing the movers & packers, the electrician and the plumber to ensure that the house was up and running. The kitchen was fixed, thanks to Poonam who came all the way from Noida to help me set the kitchen. Believe it or not, by evening my house was almost all set, the washing machine was running, Tata Sky was playing and sitting on my own bed was all the solace I needed after months of hard work.

Moving into my own house did give me a sense of security. Some pieces are still out of place, causing a lot of heartaches, but at least I am home. Maybe The Retro Feeling stems from these many pieces, ones that fell into place and the ones that didn’t.

As this post goes live on an October evening just the day after my birthday, it’s not just about looking ahead and planning meticulously anymore. It’s as much about pausing, looking back, savouring the memories, for somehow time takes the pain and the ugliness away. It’s also about tossing all the plans to air and letting life happen, for sometimes the best plans’ are ones that we don’t make!                      

It’s been 2 years…

I didn’t realize that The Retro Feeling has turned 2 till I got a congratulatory message from WordPress. It just feels like the other day when I posted the first piece, almost as a response to my friend’s challenge. “You have been talking about it forever. If your blog doesn’t go live in the next 10 days, I will assume it will never happen.” I was stung by the remark, my reputation was at stake, I had to start the blog no matter what.

When pieces fall in place 🙂

Thus, started this interesting journey. I didn’t have a clear plan, but I knew what I wanted to write about and once I started the pieces started falling into place. I was able to post one blog a week, no matter how demanding work was. More importantly I realized I enjoyed writing; it gave me a sense of release.

What started as a nostalgic trip, became much more than that. It’s not just about looking back, it’s also about moving on, taking the pieces of the past with us, stringing them together with the challenges of the present and the aspirations of the future. I am very glad to have found some eager readers who look forward to new posts from The Retro Feeling.

Titas with Katha

Why retro, why nostalgia? Was everything about our past just perfect? Not really, however with time flaws fade away. Though I yearn for my school days, exams were not something that I eagerly looked forward to. I remember how I would crave to be independent, get away from parental control. Those were the days when future seemed so rosy. Yes, those days had their flaws but there was something about their lingering laziness that draws us back. When we have rushed half-way through our lives, winning some battles, losing some fights, we tend to look back and ponder. We wonder if all the rush was worth it and that’s where nostalgia stems from I think, a gentle ache or a longing to relive the days gone by, to reclaim the things that we have left behind.

The Retro Feeling is not meant to be a soliloquy. It is meant to be a platform where people could share their views, write about things that matter to them. I feel honoured and humbled that my friends and acquaintances come forward enthusiastically to contribute to the blog. A special thanks to my friend and neighbour Titas Mazumdar. A banker and a mom Titas takes time out to contribute regularly to the blog. Her posts are heartfelt and have been greatly appreciated.

I need to mention my dear friend Chandana Dutta who contributes occasionally, inspires me with news ideas and puts me on to interesting people and subjects. My friends Sanchita, Poonam and Sanjay have been supportive all along. I can’t thank them enough for believing in me. And of course, my friend who prefers to be anonymous, who pushed me to start this blog.

On our second anniversary, The Retro Feeling is wearing a new look. Hope you like it.

So, what’s next? I only know that there will be more interesting reads, more people joining me in this journey, I sincerely hope. As we move on, we will keep presenting glimpses from the past and the present, for they are intertwined.

Keep reading, let us know what you think and feel free to contribute!    

My Tryst with Natural Remedies by Gargee Vidyarthi

I have always been keen on natural remedies as have sort of distrust in the modern medicine.  My faith in therapeutic ways of Nature was strengthened when I visited Novdanya Farms in Dehradun in the year 2013.  There I got first-hand experience about how nature has everything for us.  That set me thinking and then in the year 2016 I read an article in Times of India about these women who were using various Natural Products at home.  From then onwards there has been no turning back.  I started with Garbage Enzyme, a sort of Phenyl with multipurpose uses. It can be used as a bodywash or to remove stains etc. This enzyme’s use are many and this convinced me that I could make the shift from using chemicals to natural products

Thus, my journey to minimize chemicals started. I switched to soap nuts or reetha for washing clothes and its effectiveness in cleaning them and removing stains is amazing. The clothes did not lose their colour or fade away.  Now I use reetha water along with, washing soda, vinegar and baking soda for stubborn stains.

The shampoo that I make with reetha/amla and shikakai ensures that my hair remains soft and healthy. My daughter who is in college has perfected the art of making the shampoo even in hostel and she actually gave me the input that we should increase the quantity of shikakai as this results in softer hair.

We have two Labradors and this is the second year when they have not got ticks etc. the reason is that they bathe regularly with neem water and eucalyptus water. Their fur is softer and shinier.

Slow cooking in Mitti Handi

The success with these products prompted me to change the way I cook also. One day I chanced upon to see a video on Mitti Handi (Earthen Pots) and I decided to try and cook in them. Lo and behold the taste was better. I have changed my way of cooking completely now and indulge in slow cooking. No use of pressure cookers for me. I cook dals, non-veg, vegetables in handi’s only.  I use handis both on Gas or Chulha. Truly speaking, the food can be kept outside without refrigeration for a long time. 

I now dabble with creams also and make cream with aloe vera gel + coconut oil or sesame oil. This cream is wonderful and when made with sesame oil acts as a Sunscreen Lotion also.  I use kaajal as well as eye liner which is homemade and this kaajal keeps my eyes healthy.

My tryst with Natural Remedies has been beneficial in more ways than one. I am able to save a lot of money but the main benefit has been health. I try to minimize chemical use and be in touch with earth.  Life has actually become simpler and joyous.

The joy that one gets when making something with our hands is what keeps us grounded with life and nature. It is because we have lost our connection with mother earth as our homes are also far away from the earth due to skyscrapers that our mind and our bodies have also drifted away.

Shifting from chemical and preservative is lot easier than one thinks.  Yes, it does require patience and desire, yet the benefits are tremendous.  Hope that you all will also make the shift. happy Shifting.

 Sharing recipes of my products:

Reetha Shampoo

Reetha – 100 gm/         Amla –  100gm/   Shikakai – 200 gm/ Hibicus leaves – A Handful/  Aloe Vera (Fuesh Gel) – 100-150 gm/ Methi Dana – Handful/ Curry leave – Handful

Soak everything together in warm water overnight and then boil on very slow heat for nearly 1 hour. Let it cool and after the shampoo cools down strain it and use it.  It stays fine for nearly 20-25 days.  Use it like normal shampoo though it may not lather so much but it cleanes and conditions the hair beautifully.

Hair Oil

Coconut oil: 100 ml/    Sesame oil:  100 ml/     Bhringraj :       10 gms/     Brahmi  :       10 gms/      Methi dana :   10 gms/     Kalongi       :   10 gms/     Dry Amla    :    100 gms/     Curry leaves :  a few/    Mehendi leaves : a few/   Hibiscus leaves and flowers : a few

Mix everything together and boil till on slow fire till all the leaves are burnt. let it stand overnight and then strain and use it.

Arpan in Apron- with a BIG Smile and a Spatula by Titas Mazumdar

Gone are the days when work was defined as per gender and strict parameters were set. If I being a female can take the car keys, drive amidst traffic without being abusive, login to my work station, pay my house bills why can’t my better half change the diaper, cook a meal once a day, do the laundry?

Is it too much to ask for? I don’t think so. It’s just the right expectation which couples have to set from day 1 they start their journey together. Things just fall into place.

Arpan with spatula

Year 2002 –Arpan my Husband now and Boyfriend/Fiancée back then, moved to US for his PHD and I was pursuing my B-tech/Applied physics at Kolkata. Arpan was never exposed to cooking until then. Bong guy raised by Grand Ma /Mom and then moved to Hostel and then all of a sudden to a foreign land had to learn basis life skills to survive. Bongs in general I have seen are super foodies and no wonder hogs on  Non-veg. Staying with south Indian friends in his initial bachelor days was definitely not easy when you have to survive mostly on Curd rice and Podi. In this situation, you are not left with any options but just learn cooking.  And our Long distance romance- Kolkata to Florida was mostly on teaching him basic life skills which is cooking. It started with simple food like Daal Tadka, Begun bharta, Pulao, mixed vegetables, —but do you think this Bong girl who till that time never stepped out of her parent’s nest knew how to cook? The answer is “NO”.  My recipe book was my Grand Ma. All those recipes shared with Arpan back in those days over Yahoo Chats, ISD phone calls were my Dida’s recipes which made Arpan quite a big chef which I realized once I reached US 2.5 yrs later.

Yummy prawns

Year 2003 Dec – Arpan in Mumbai to meet her Lady Love. I just joined Mumbai TCS in Jul 2003, staying with my roommates and learning to cook to satisfy my taste buds. The role was reversed and by then Arpan was a renowned cook in his bachelor circle and often gave me lessons over our daily phone calls. Arpan stayed in Mumbai for a week and one evening we planned to cook together. And yes that was the first time ever we were cooking for each other. Arpan chose Fried rice and I chose Palak Paneer to impress the other one. Not sure it was love or something else but those half cooked Fried rice and runny Palak Paneer cooked out of the most important ingredient “LOVE” tasted heavenly. And we both were assured that after marriage food will never be an issue, both of us can please each other with this newly acquired art of ours.

Year 2005- March- I was in California for my 1st onsite assignment and Arpan used to visit me every month from Florida. We purposefully used to book those hotels with cooking facilities, so that we can cook for each other. I used to go for early morning shifts and Arpan used to surprise me at lunch with his new learnt recipes every single time- Shrimp Okra, baked Salmon, roasted chicken.

Year 2006- Feb- we tied the knot and I moved to Pennsylvania and rented a house. No more room mates, no more fighting for space. A house of my own, my first house along the rail lines of Secane Station in Philadelphia. Arpan was still perusing his PHD hence he used to stay 15days with me at Phili and another 15 days at Boca Raton, Florida for his research work. Those 15days of his stay used to be our Food holidays…Whatever Arpan learnt from his Canadian roommate, French senior or Iranian class mate used to be on our dinner table. Rarely did he cooked anything Bengali or Indian- it used to be variety every single day like  Fried Calamari, Oysters in white wine sauce, Grilled Lamb, Ghormeh Sabji,  Beef steak and the list goes on and on. After work cooking used be our stress busters. It was like both of us competing for master chef competition but slowly with baby steps we unknowingly became passionate cooks, trying various recipes at home. Then those weekend potluck or any friend coming for dinner it was like who will cook what, and trust me, we never repeated any recipe for the same set of guests.

Yes food and love for food made Arpan an expert in most of the foreign dishes- anything to do with grill, bake, steam, roast- he is always ready to take the lead. Only for bong food he looks forward to my cooking. The load got well distributed over the years and I can happily say we equally share our Kitchen. I did a good job of a taster and food critic I guess, 15 years of our marriage and yes every day dinner delicacies are from Arpan …. Mostly my logoff time is late, so dinner is Arpan’s job and he does it with love especially those Thai curries, cream of mushroom, tomato basil oat soups to name a few.

Once upon a time he used to cook to impress his lady love but now for his little love- Megh. Megh will go gaga for daddy’s white sauce pasta. I still remember first time when Arpan made Alfredo sauce from raw eggs- newly learnt recipe from his half Italian friend…he sacrificed few dozen of eggs but was still not able to get to the perfection. What the heck, we now use the easy recipe of white sauce by Sanjeev Kapoor.

Biryani has always been disloyal to Arpan, that’s his biggest sorrow. Every single time it’s a disaster. But I fall in love over and over again for his Grilled pork, Greek lamb, Mutton stew, Beef Kebabs. But one little thing I must share about his cooking, whenever he enter the kitchen for some special dish, I can bet on this, every single time I will get a surprise and every time those are not happy surprises.  I always tell him that he can never replicate his own dishes, every time its different one because he doesn’t believe in you tube recipes, or noting down his own recipes, he believes in his intuition which sometimes go haywire.

Arpan’s greatest cooking wish/dream is to open a roof top restaurant which will not have any menu card. Whatever he wishes to cook on that particular day, which will be of course some fusion dish , will be served to the customers who wants to risk their appetite for his dishes… keeping fingers crossed, I am waiting for that dream restaurant too.