Static, stoic sunlight was streaming through the vast emptiness around and wreaking havoc in the endless Sahara. Wearing burning blisters like a raincoat, the traveler was running clueless in search of a drop of water in the barren land. But the cup was full of sand.
After sprinting a light-year around the back side of the moon, crying a million rivers for a single drop of water to drink, the traveler saw the sea painted midnight blue. An ancient- exotic-dreamy delta, emerged from the secluded sea a thousand years ago, nestled now against the hillside surrounded by tall, stately larger-than-life trees. This graceful land, kissed by eight hundred rivers, was so glitteringly green that seemed to hold all the grace of the world. Heart-stoppingly picturesque hamlets, doted with humble huts scattered all over, were hugging the flatland like a sun-bathed tapestry.
A clean, crisp breeze spiced by the aroma of the earthy spices and Hilsa fish curry tiptoed across the traveler’s fatigued eyelashes.
Sun-drenched, dark skinned, soft spoken people offered the traveler plethora of sweets along with water that smells like home.
Their sweets, “Shondesh” are as uncommonly soft and snowy as the fondest dreams; an elixir, a cure for all ailment, like an answer to prayers. They are compelling in their plainness; fancy words don’t come into play.
In a nonstick pan, over very low heat, add 2 tsp ghee (clarified butter); heat 2lb ricotta cheese (ছানা), handful sugar, 2 cardamom pods, stirring constantly. Cook for about 20 to 30 minutes or until the mixture begins to leave the sides of the pan. Remove from heat, make desired shapes using molds while the mixture is slightly warm. That crimson red fantasy glaze in the center of each flower is a dot of liquid food color. Serve. Refrigerate.
In the pouring rain, a train run past through the rain-blurred misty skies. Food was served. Lentil rice and beef curry: worshiped, marveled at, devoured by the people of this monsoon-land.
This dish composed of:
Beef 2 lb with/without bones (cut into small chunks.)
1 medium onion paste, 2 tbsp garlic paste, 1 tbsp ginger paste (to get a pop of invisible depth of flavor that takes you by surprise)
½ tsp turmeric powder, ½ tsp red chili powder (to get that bright-flavored lightness that you are going to remember the next day. And the day after. Forever)
4 cardamoms, 1 stick of cinnamon, 4 cloves, 2 bay leaves (to perfume the curry so that you have a pretty good idea where you are)
2 tbsp yogurt/curd (to get that pulse-quickening intensity of irresistible smoothness)
½ tbsp toasted cumin seeds (to perk up the intense flavor simply and wonderfully)
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil/vegetable oil/Ghee (clarified butter)
1 large potato (optional)
Mix everything together in a large pan and stir on medium heat for 15 minutes. Put the lid on. Cook for 1 hour or until the meat surrenders into tender, juicy chunks.
A pool of crimson gravy gathers around the pan, if you pour 1 cups of warm water at this point. Add potato chunks. Let the chunks swirl across the pot absorbing the gravy. Put the lid back on and cook for another 20 minutes.
Serve with rice/roti.
To the cast adrift and alone traveler, this perfect meal was like the first supper on the resurrection day.
With a deep nostalgic delirium, emotional upheaval spread through her heart, very early next morning the traveler headed back out to the Sahara, to the pitch black forlorn lagoon that reflects no twinkling stars. But she had fallen under the spell of ‘Bangladesh’, the shining monsoon-land she just left behind.
I- the traveler- From here walk with my face unmasked, soul uncovered and take back that sparkling starry trail which leads to where I belong; my home, to my peaceful people who meet, greet and feed total strangers like one of their own; I’m bonded with these fearless fighters who never stop smiling amidst devastating floods, lurking droughts, looming tidal bores, famine, oddities, hidden fears, leaders pocketing relief money…
My Bedouin-self yearns to return home before I grow older and my heart gets colder.