I tried, but I am going to accept that these entries will occur in a bubble outside the space-time continuum. Regularity is a myth, at least for now.
May 2021 — A struggle with attempting to put down memories on paper and coming to terms with silences. This month was entirely made of chaos, both outside and inside my mind.
I spent a lot of time navigating around guilt, love, remorse, and sensations I don't have names for. This happens naturally when anything related to home comes front and centre in my head. I’ve tried to make meaning from memories and I searched for them to naturally fall into a pattern and make sense before me. Instead, it felt like grappling with rain in the middle of a thunderstorm. In the middle of it, I still found memories that brought me joy, and I’m simply going to spend this entry jotting them down for now. Maybe when I come back to it later as a different person, they will make sense and I will find the stories I was searching for within them.
In a sunlit dining room, I take my seat at the table along with my brother; the two of us fresh from being scrubbed clean after coming back from school. Nanu doesn’t trust our ayah with handling me in the shower, so she washes me herself. I try to splash as little water as possible. I know the pain in her right ankle makes her fear she will lose balance on the slippery tiles. She also joins us at the table after changing into a fresh saree. I love following her light chiffon anchol as it flutters and flows around her when she walks briskly to the table — the only colour I have catalogued in my memory is an ultramarine blue, made effervescent with the afternoon light shining through it. Lunch is served in a jumble of mismatched plastic bowls and korai that are hot to the touch, just off the stove. Nanu hovers behind us, she begins by piling a small portion of rice on my plate, a smaller portion of korolla bhaaji beside it, and then finishes by pouring a generous helping of light and watery mosur daal over it. Steam and fragrant wisps waft up and around me, the bhaat submerged and the korolla floating in the pool of daal. I poke around my plate after it’s put in front of me, to test whether the heat has subsided. As we eat, Nanu sheds silence by commenting on the taste of the food, “Nun kom hoyeche ajke murgi te… Ei korolla bhaaji ta toh bhalo hoyeche, ajke protidin ei bhabe raandhte paro nah?”, directing most of her praise and criticism to Akhlima, who manages the day to day cooking. But when she speaks of the daal, she always speaks in praise “Daal na thakle ashole khawa ta bhalo lagto na”, she will say at least once before we break away from the table and go back to our own bubbles. In my memories I don’t remember the words she would speak when talking about her fondness of daal, it is only the visuals of a loving look/contentment spread across her face, the usual frowns or phantom impressions of worries or pain would shed. She would look happy for the brief moments when the world had fallen away and our only concerns were if our stomachs were full and our hearts equally content.
A busy kitchen on the day of someone’s birthday — possibly her brother’s or one of his many children’s. She is older, crossing into her mid-60s with phantom pains that she keeps at bay by walking in slow shuffles across the kitchen. She is making kofta polau, a favourite, almost venerated dish, among all our connected households. Her mind is alert, her eyes are always shining and concentration furrows on her now ash eyebrows. She carefully makes small round balls out of the mountain of spiced mincemeat mix placed in front of her on the kitchen counter. From a distance, physically because the heat from the stoves and overall midafternoon summer concentrates in a humid dense air within the kitchen and mentally since I’ve never been allowed to participate in cooking elaborate meals — I sense the enormity of this undertaking. The rush, the crunch of time, the smattering of small bickering over missing ingredients, and our househelp racing downstairs to catch a vegetable vendor to find a handful of coriander, some onions. At the end of it all, a silence descends on the household as the polau is left to steam and cook itself and everyone retreats from the kitchen, attending other chores around the house or taking a shower to rid themselves of the spice, sweat, and heat sticking to them. Nanu goes back into the kitchen after a short rest, she looks fresh in her linen maxi dress and smells of artificial fresh citrus. She opens the lid of the korai, inspects the rice; when satisfied with how it is cooked she sprinkles a handful of fried onions, announcing to the household with a smile that the kofta polau is ready. “Quick, come here,” she says to me, I trot into the kitchen and she hands me a small bowl containing a spoonful for tasting, “tell me how it is,” she says. I eat and in silence simply extend the bowl towards her signaling for more. She smiles, content with appreciation I act out in reaching out for more. There are no words needed, love is exchanged in small spoonfuls of kofta pulao and eagerness for second and third helpings. I learn then to not speak, to let the silence stay, and simply do things for love.