Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The One-eyed Chick and Other StoriesThe One-eyed Chick and Other Stories by Basanta Kumar Satpathy

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There is no mistaking the intimacy of the author with the experiences around which the stories are woven. Be it a tenant and his children getting used to the surroundings of a freshly rented house, or a reflective commuter recounting the conversation and experiences his daily grind brings forth.

Most of the stories veer around a forlorn widower trying to come to grips with his loneliness and fulfilling the responsibilities of raising a brood of motherless children. The stories cover a range of emotions of widowhood, from those evoked by immediate and sorrowful parting of his wife to those evoked by nostalgia and reminiscence. 'That Boy' is a poignant tale of a grief for a departed son.

But take heart, the collection is not all about heartbreaking flashes from the past: Satpathy knows how to wriggle out of his painful remembrances. The story teller brings up a few laughs even when the proceedings are heavy. Then, there are a few stories which are plain hilarious.

The description of pandemonium that ensues at the Lit Fest where the author has been invited as the Chief Guest has all the signs of a masterstroke. By the time the author's turn comes to address the chaotic audience as the Chief Guest, the Chairperson of the festival has already been shooed away and the latter "had suffered a heart attack". Good sense prevails on the author as he quickly dumps his staid topic and focuses on a poem his 13-year old grandson had written. This makes his day as a modern poet and brings great ovation.

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Monday, April 17, 2017

A Déjà vu Moment in Mumbai

Some years ago in Mumbai, on a morning like today, I pined for elusive haladi patra (turmeric leaves) to celebrate Prathamashtami with enduri pitha. The much desired ingredient did not reach my hands in time, but the fall out of the failed search was an article I wrote then, which you may visit by clicking this link: https://hota-hai.blogspot.in/2009/11/leaves-of-desire.html
I had a very similar experience today morning. The Whatsapp chats were choc-a-bloc with wishes and greetings for Odia New Year, also known as Maha Vishuv Sankranti or Pana Sankranti or Chhatua Sankranti. The last two mentioned names have culinary association. The beverage Pana is a nice concoction of many tasty ingredients, the most important of them being bela (Hindi-Bel, Sanskrit-Bilwa, English-Wood Apple). For a pana worth its name, you can manage in the absence of any of these ingredients but for the bela pulp.
The other essential food preparation on the occasion is chhatua or sattu gruel. Chhatua is a flour consisting of a mixture of ground pulses and cereals, in which water, jaggery and condiments are mixed to prepare the yummy gruel, so popular with Odias. Both Pana and Chhatua have their symbolic significance for the celebrations of Maha Vishuv Sankranti, hence I started looking for them frantically this morning.
I consulted Google and scrutinised the maps to locate possible places to find these two items in Mumbai. At last I narrowed my search down to a vegetable market, and headed towards it. I scoured the whole market for the two items, but nowhere could I see any hope of finding them. Exasperated, I asked the last fruit seller I met, if he could tell me whereto find those items in Mumbai. "Dadar" was the prompt reply, and that was my Déjà vu moment.
Going by my previous experience, I didn't try Dadar and headed for home. Idea was to try shopping online . My search for bela drew a blank. But I was lucky to find chhatua (sattu) listed for home delivery. I promptly ordered that and felt happy to have at least one of the two items on the festive day.
My joys evaporated at the time of check out, as I was notified that the earliest time my item would be delivered was tomorrow morning, that is on the day following Maha Vishuv Sankranti.