I was posted in Karimganj and at first, I had no problem joining there. Karimganj is located along the Indo-Bangladesh border in southern Assam and this was my first experience of living so close to the border. I had no idea about the place, except that Mou’s ancestor were settled here. Mou was my next door neighbour when we were kids. It was very difficult in the beginning and only a few of my office colleagues could speak Assamese fluently and most of them either used Sylheti ( a dialect of Bengali) or a mix of Assamese and Bengali. I knew a little bit of Bengali so could understand Bengali but Sylheti sometimes became incomprehensible to me. I decided to speak Bengali as much as I could so that I become fluent in Bengali first and then proceed to learn Sylheti so that I can communicate with the local public.
It was a sub-urb and had practically no place to hangout after work. I had rented a place just 200 metres from office, so walking from office to home would hardly take 5 mins even if I stopped for a puff on my way. I had large amount of time to spare. So, I just spent my time reading books. Thankfully, I had internet connection to order books online. Like all people who like to read, I was also a lazy person and doing anything except reading books was too much effort for me before I came to Karimganj. I could not read books all day, I had to do something other than that. At times, I used to go out with my office colleagues at the only restaurant in the town that served a couple of so-so kind of chicken recipes. At other times, I just counted the minutes convert into hours and hours convert into days. People basically lived there a boring lives and someday they died, or rather ceased to breathe.
I hated this place.
I loved eating out and before coming here, a major part of my income went into that. I decided to learn cooking various dishes that I enjoyed eating or fancied to eat someday. I browsed the internet and downloaded various recipes and started making a list of things that I need to have in my kitchen apart from the ingredient lists. I also grouped the recipes that needed similar ingredients.
I got the things like utensils in the local market where you would find a lot of made in Bangladesh items. There was a co-operative departmental store in Karimganj and I grabbed whatever ingredients I could find from my list. The departmental store was close to 50 years old and it was a regular co-operative store till few days back running at loss. The new Chairman of the co-operative committee took the lead to convert it into a departmental store where they kept a variety of items to sell converting it into a profit making store.
As I was browsing the shelves of the departmental store I suddenly met Ka.
“Seems like there is a party at your place today!” She said looking at shopping basket.
“Uhhh! Just decided to eat something different today.” I replied.
I first met Ka when she came to our office regarding data for some survey she was doing for the NGO she was working for. Being the Data Analyst, she was referred to me and I provided her the data. She was an average looking girl with a round face and a dark complexion. She had dark and beautiful large eyes that had a certain kind of appeal and never failed to attract me towards her. In top of that, she used to apply kajal that used to accentuate the lethality of her eyes. The fact that she was a plus sized girl never bothered me.
I finished my shopping, paid my bills and while coming out of the store I asked if she would like to join me next day for lunch at my place. It was a dangerous thing to ask a girl to visit a bachelor boy’s room but it was a risk worth taking.
“Let me see!” She replied.
“You can bring along your friends if you want.” I said, trying to push my luck.
“Okay! I will let you know in the evening if I can find someone to come with me.”
“You have my number right?”
“Yes. By the way, what are you serving us?”
“Well, that’s a surprise. I don’t even know if you guys would like it but I can survive solely on that dish for months. That’s for sure.”
“All the best and may God save us.” She smiled as she said this.
After that, we parted to leave for our respective homes. While returning home, I was thinking about her last statement. I was just hoping that it meant that she was coming.
At 7 pm, I got a call from her confirming her visit next day. She also said that none of her friends were free so she will be bringing along her aunt with her. This let me down for a moment. Then she said, “Don’t worry! She is only 1 month older than me” and gave a cunning laugh.
“I will start cooking from 11 am and will be done by 1 pm.” I waited for a while, took a deep breath and continued, “You can either join me from 11 or 1. Your choice!”
“Okay! See you tomorrow then.” She said enthusiastically and disconnected.
I had decided to prepare Gosht Shahi Korma so I woke up next day early morning and bought some mutton. Being a Muslim dominant area, halal cut mutton could easily be found in Karimganj. On my way back, I bought some yogurt, fresh onions and coriander. Since, kewda water was not to be found anywhere in Karimganj, I got some rose water. As soon as I got home, I marinated the mutton with spices, yogurt mixture and rose water and kept it under refrigeration. After that, I went for a bath. I changed by bed-sheets and organized my desk.
At around 12 noon, Ka and her “aunt” arrived. She had conspicuously dressed to torment me. She had a different hairstyle than when last time we met. In our earlier meetings, she used to have a schoolgirl braid but today she had tied a tight bun and a couple of curls were falling at her face. She was wearing a body fit high neck sweater and jeans. I had a feeling that she was not wearing anything inside the sweater. She was clearly seducing me and I was shamelessly looking at her with lustful eyes. In our earlier two meetings, I could see only her eyes but today the only thing I could see were her boobs. I came out of my dreams when Ka introduced her aunt Paulomi. I was kind of embarrassed.
I had just taken out the marinated mutton out of the refrigerator and was chopping the onions at the time they arrived. To avoid eye contact, I went to the kitchen and switched on the stove. While the oil was heating in the pressure cooker, I asked Ka about her name.
“I am the first child of my parents and hence they named me Ka as it is the first consonant in Bengali. It also signifies someone who leads bravely from the front.” She said with a certain pride.
“Interesting!” I replied while frying the onions.
After frying the onions and mutton for a while I added water and closed the pressure cooker lid. While the mutton was cooking, I sat in the dining table with them.
“So, what are you making?” She asked.
“It’s something inspired by Gosht Korma.” I replied.
“So are you serving it with rice or rotis?” She asked, but before I could say anything she said worryingly, “Whatever it is, that will take time.”
“Don’t worry! I will get the rotis from Baba‘s shop. We will get it after the Korma is ready.”
It’s very difficult to get it right while making Korma unless you are a professional chef but it turned out perfectly like I wanted. The mutton was soft, the aroma perfect and the taste could only beaten if it were made in clay oven and earthen pots. I garnished it with cinnamon and fresh coriander and served it with rotis that I had just bought from Baba’s shop which is located just down the gully.
We thoroughly enjoyed eating the food. I was enjoying more since I was also having my fantasies regarding Ka in addition to the perfect outcome of my cooking attempts.
“Since there are no good restaurants here, we just meetup, cook and eat.” Ka’s aunt said while eating, “So, it was not a tough decision to visit you.”
“Ummmm! The food is awesome. ” Ka said.
“You cook really good and passed the test with good grades. So, would you like to join our group? We meet every Sunday. No joining fees, just a passion to eat and an ability to cook.”
That was a huge blow below the belt, literally. I heard something break.
“I will try to attend this feasting sessions with all sincerity but I might miss a few as my job has no fixed hours of working.” I replied as diplomatically as possible.