“No. No. Maa. Please. Don’t torture me like this”, Rakhal babu pleaded with folded hands. His rotund belly shook vigorously, as if in agreement with its master.
Sarala Debi was having none of it. Didn’t the matriarch’s words carry weight anymore? Saturday will be a no-meat day. Period. Having had her final say in the matter, she went to take her bath.
Rakhal babu cursed his brother. All these days, Maa had been staying with her eldest son. And now, because he needed a vacation, he had requested that she stayed with her younger son for a week.
Muttering something under his breath, he sat down on a cane chair and started to read the Ananda Bazar Patrika.
The aroma of deep fried kochoris wafted in, and the discomfort was temporarily shoved aside. Alas! That delectable potato curry tasted like sand when Sarala Debi rattled off the lunch menu. Rice, moong dal, and two vegetable dishes containing aubergines and bottle gourd.
Rakhal babu’s mind wandered to the huge hilsa fish in the refrigerator. Oh, to sink his teeth into that, taking utmost care to remove the bones. What fun it is to eat something as insipid as gourds?
“Hey, Rakhal. You are coming to my reception party, right?” Agarwal had asked him earnestly.
“Erm. I will try.”
In his mind, he had decided to skip it already. What’s the use of dressing up like a dandy when all you get to eat is paneer?
Polishing off his breakfast, Rakhal babu belched loudly, rubbed his hands over his belly, and got up.
“Maa. Can I go out for lunch with my friends?”, he asked timidly.
“Na. I have come to stay with you. Don’t you dare leave me like this”, Sarala Debi thundered. With that, the deal was sealed. The tiger had to settle for a few strands of grass.
Rakhal babu’s ordeal didn’t end there. While sipping his evening tea, he glanced outside the window and saw the old man frying fish cutlets in his makeshift stall. His mouth watered, and his mind drifted off to those carefree days when he gorged on chicken biryani with his colleagues on Saturdays. He summed a Bengali song. “Kothaye hariye gelo…” Indeed, he yearned for those lost days.
Letting out a sigh loud enough to rattle the lifeless hilsa in his refrigerator, he went back to his room. If only I can skip dinner!
Every cloud has a silver lining. While chiding her son for not doing justice to her delicious cabbage dish, she declared that she would be making kosha mangsho on Sunday. Rakhal babu danced with glee. To him, mutton was nothing less than manna. As he hugged his mother, his eyes fell on the calendar. 21st June. Ah! No wonder this day seemed so long to him.
Ma Kali! Please! Do not ever make this date fall on a Saturday ever! Have some pity on poor souls like us.
Rakhal babu went to sleep in a contended frame of mind.
Don’t look for some hidden, inner meanings. There are none. 21st June happens to be the longest day (summer solstice, remember?). And it can be pretty unsettling for a fish loving Bengali like Rakhal babu to survive on vegetarian food the whole day.
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