Tuesday, July 24, 2007


After a crazy couple of weeks, we finally breathed easy as there still was two weeks to the wedding. Jethu’s study was in fact a treasure trove that yielded not only some fantastic back issues of The Geographic but a plethora of great cookery books. Ratna Maima and Rinididi were back at Ramsey and when the former wasn’t fattening us up with delectable Chicken Makhanis and Malai Curries, the latter was enchanting us with her mellifluous renditions of old Bengali numbers and wonderful piano playing, not to mention a phenomenal sister act in bharatnatyam with Babandidi. An astute cook, Ratna Maima dished out the choicest delights for lunch and dinner daily with Mejo Jamma chipping in with some of her specialties.
Mejo Jethu was his usual reserved self, happy to sit in front of the television watching the news while Mejo Jamma kept prodding him all day long about a variety of things. I thoroughly enjoyed watching Food Network and all the interesting programs on it about cooking and eating.
Dave and Babandidi had just homed in on their dream home and soon got done with the legal formalities and were ready to move in. The new home was very close to Ramsey, at Waldwick and they celebrated the possession of the same with a Korean lunch with Dave while she had made some feijao for us which we relished with some bacon.
Miguel and Shintadidi dropped by once and I made Miguel’s favourite spaghetti alla carbonara which is exactly how Shintadidi described it: heart attack on a plate! But Miguel loved it no end. We also saw X-Men the movie and enjoyed it.
It’s a big house and was bustling through the summer and often reverberated with Babandidi’s shrieks when I put ice on her back but she made sure to get even with me on the next given opportunity. Jethu and Jamma of course left for work in the morning and weren’t back till evening. An attempt was made to catch the sunset at Hoboken but was rendered unsuccessful by cloudy skies though we got a view of the NYC skyline across the Hudson. A trip to Bottle King was tipsy enough due to the sheer variety of liquors and liqueurs on sale, not to mention the cheeses from Norwegian Gjetost to Greek Feta.
Butternut squash was a vegetable I had ever tried and seeing the shapely orange Guatemalan exports in the supermarket, Babandidi decided to make some soup out of them which turned out to be delicious. That very Friday I made my maiden trip to the Bronx to Shintadidi and Miguel’s, a nice apartment overlooking the Hudson Parkway and opposite a quaint little church. I had some delectable sushi and miso soup from a Japanese restaurant nearby and some terrific unagi. That was officially my first tryst with sushi and those rolls of marinated fish and sticky rice were stuck on me for good. And I didn’t know freshwater eel marinated in teriyaki sauce and grilled could taste so good till I had unagi. We tried all sorts of ethnic liquors from Korean soju to Greek ouzo. The latter was a potent anise flavoured colourless liquid that delivers a sting down the throat and a punch.
It was raining heavily when we youngsters drove back from the Bronx late on Friday. Saturday was the nandimukh of Mintadidi at Bridgewater. Jamma and Jethu had made all preparations for the ceremony. There was a little evening do planned at Dipen Jethu’s house later on Saturday.
It was thus a comparatively sedate week for us after a maddening fortnight of activity and binging. The ladies enjoyed relaxed rounds of shopping while I devoured “Joys of Cooking”, a very thorough and thoroughly informative giant of a book.
The number of footwear continued to increase around the staircase and the house had a distinct wedding feel to itself. The creek outside of course was still the same and a family of ducks paddled away unperturbed with a line of obedient ducklings in its tranquil waters. The drake kept watch from the banks. Little boys sometimes came hunting crayfishes. Externally, 27, Cobblestone Lane was still the same but inside there were churning changes and Jethu and Jamma couldn’t help but feel those subtle changes… feelings of anxiety about the pending marriage, sadness at her departure and relief at the completion of their final duty as parents. With Babandidi’s shifting imminent, soon Jethu and Jamma would be all alone but for now all they thought about was the marriage and only the marriage.
I felt distinctly at home at Ramsey and my bonding with Babandidi was phenomenal and I thought I would really miss everyone once we went back to Mumbai. We were the thickest of cousins, teasing each other playfully and I just loved playing with her hair which I think is the cutest in the world, especially the ends. She gave it back in kind, tying braids in my hair Red Indian style.
Dave arrived late on Friday so we decided to give the nandimukh a skip and join the folks directly at Dipen Jethu’s Summit residence. We were also able to pick up the ouija board that we were trying to get for a long time to do a planchette. We drove down to Summit in the evening after a late lunch and joined the party. It was a wet evening but the evening was far from a dampener. Everyone was happy and satisfied for the nandimukh had gone off well, according to plan. People were helping out in the kitchen as we were slowly getting into spook mode. Miguel, a devout Catholic, didn’t believe in such things and I, had never tried it myself although had read a lot about it. Trina and Mintadidi were plain curious. So, we got the board out, darkened the room (this was a glow-in-the-dark version) and decided to give it a try. The pointer was barely touched by us and as soon as Babandidi called out to “spirits” in the room, inexplicably it started to move about. Then, shockingly, “it” made strange revelations that left cold. I still don’t know about the validity of these intercourses but it sure is something that shouldn’t be trifled with. Even Miguel wavered in his staunch beliefs, even if it was for a brief instant. We chewed over the proceedings that blurred between the frivolous and the paranormal. Nandita Jamma had served up some amazing Italian fare with her Chicken Marsala being the piece de resistance. The Key Lime Cheesecake sharply ended the meal although the Hazelnut Fudge Cake was absolutely divine. Everyone was in the mood for paranormal discussions and the stories flowed from everyone. Ratna Maima has had several brushes with the paranormal within the safe confines of her own home, but she is by far, the last person to get spooked. An interesting Saturday soiree to say the least. In fast, we did the planchette under the auspices of the very experienced Babandidi, in Trina’s room. Poor thing, she was robbed of precious sleep that night I’m sure because it difficult to shelve such disturbing thoughts once one has switched off the lights, for under the garb of darkness our mind plays games with our senses or are they merely games?
Finally, the Chattopadhyaya entourage left Summit for base camp a.k.a. Ramsey under the cover of darkness but with a steady drizzle that threatened to disrupt our proposed plan of touring New York on Sunday. Mintadidi also stayed at Ramsey, for with the wedding a week away, there was lots of things to take care of.


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