Finally, it was over. The 20th year celebrations of the NGO where I work. It was exhausting. Draining. And I wanted to spend Sunday in a way I never- ever have, except perhaps when I was down with fever - in bed. I did a good job of it too, till upto 10am. When I jumped up and rang a friend. He asked me to come over within an hour and we (he, his daughter and moi) could then go to a picnic at Mallickpur. His in-laws were having a picnic and his wife had gone on ahead to help with the cooking.
A picnic. Ah! That sounded nice. Haven't been to one in ... maybe... 15 years or is it more like 20. Atleast not those ones where we go with madurs to laze on and hata, khunti and big dekchis and people do the actual cooking there itself! How I love those (as long as I don't have to do the cooking or even the jogar). And I had heard about the home at Mallickpur. Might be physically tiring but mentally, it would be such a break. No more presentations, map litho paper, wiro binding, logos and font size and proof reading (I had to develop and print a bunch of stuff for the 20th year programme).
We inched slowly towards our destination through incredibly congested and narrow roads and not to mention bright hot sun. And to top it all, there was this huge blood donation camp organised by TMC and the entire proceedings were being announced over loudspeakers attached to lamp posts.
And then suddenly, KD took a left turn and turned into a narrow lane (too narrow it seemed to me, for his large car) and the dirty noisy road vanished. The single road snaked narrowly through lush green foliage, past huts and thatched roofs and kochuri pana filled ponds and then stopped at our destination. A rambling two storeyed house, looking very much like an ordinary old small-town home...not much thought given to architechture or spacing, just built in an incredibly haphazard space wasting way (well that was not a drawback since space was enormous). And then, we stepped through the kitchen and onto the back and viola! The huge space behind dotted by tall 'taal gaach', eucalyptus, banana, papaya and host of other trees I cant name, was filled with elderly men and women. Some on chairs, others on madurs by another large kochuri pana filled pond and a sudden jungle of bamboos leaning way over it! And the cooking? Well there were four young men cooking with large kadais, hatas, khuntis and a gigantic boti - obvioulsy there was going to be lots of fish on the menu.
My friend's father in law was the 1st batch of Narendrapur Ramkrishna Mission and he was having an old boys picnic. It was so nice to see them all together. We had missed breakfast: Peas - freshly shelled, slices of coconut and pakoras. But lunch time came quickly and the cooks laid out tables, spread table clothes and served us food. First the men (to be honest, they wanted the ladies to eat first...but most were lolling on the madur and didnt want to get up) sat at the tables and all of them in unison, said their daily prayer from some 45-50 years ago at RKM! It was so sweet.
And then came our turn with the ladies . The menu: Polao, thick finger chips, begun bhaja (fried brinjal) sliced vertically complete with tail, topshe fish fry, Rui fish kalia and a navratan korma, chutney & the obligatory fried papad and payesh (kheer) and although there was no paan, we were served paan masala in small packets. And we sat under the mild sun fitered through the trees, eating al fresco with the odd dried leaf falling on us, a twitter here, a cheep-cheep there, a dog barking in distance...so serene, so placid...
And did I mention, there was a man there with a 'da' ( large knife). He had come in early and climbed the various 'taal' trees and had got an enormous amount of daab. And so we drank daab water instead of water!
And then came the best part. Surrounded by those beautiful trees, no hint of the hot sun, a cool breeze blowing and best of all, no horns, no noisy city ruckus...under a tin roof, on a coir mattress on a hard wood khaat, a long undisturbed full-bellied siesta! I woke up so refreshed, so renewed that I swear I felt years younger...sprightly infact!
The old boys association in between all this eating and lolling around, conducted their association meeting and have fixed up their next meet and venue and I am sure, the menu. But it's three months away. I have time yet to find out about it and gate crash once again. Till then let me savour this unexpected treat as I bump along in autos, choking in the fumes of 'kaata tel' (Adulterated fuel) in city polluto.
[It's never too late to learn and I stand corrected: Taal grows on Taal gach and Daab and narkal grown on narkal gaach or Coconut trees].