There’s a certain love for the river that every Bengali feels. Perhaps that’s why subconsciously I have chosen to live in cities that have a river flowing through it. Come to think of it, poems have been composed, novels written, even films made about rivers – all over the world. And I find solace and inspiration on its banks, as much as I find it while staring into the green forest from my balcony. Right now in Bengal (both in Bangladesh – a country, and West Bengal – a state in India), many Bengali’s celebrate the season for ilish (hilsa in English), an indigenous variety of herring. It’s a time to rejoice as it is every Bengali’s soul food. Much like salmon, the hilsa lives in the sea and swims upstream to spawn.
This morning I woke up craving mustard steamed hilsa. I could close my eyes and recall it’s rich flavor and texture. And so is this connective remembrance that brought back memories of my grandmother. Sounds of frying-chopping-cutting-grinding coming from the kitchen downstairs, as well as soft smell of mustard that would carry through our house – filling up every single floor. Perhaps that’s what makes our Kolkata house a home. The aroma of traditional cooking, of hilsa, of food memory.
But then as I sipped my coffee and looked at the ash tree infront, from my balcony, I realised that this is home too. The familiarity of the Swiss sun (which shines differently) – makes this a place of nostalgia and comfort. I have grown into my adult life under this sun, and my bond with it is as strong as my bond with hilsa.
And thus this morning I had a proper Waking.