When Pompi didn't like her payesh. My first letter to my niece

Next time we will go for the luchi begun bhaaja first


With my mother writing blog posts with stories for my niece and my wife doing the same on Facebook, I thought I would follow their lead and write my first letter to my niece. 

Since she can't read it yet, you can till then.

The newborn princess

Dear Khukumoni,

I hope I can still call you that when you are all grown up. 

In my previous blog post about you I had written about the first time we met. That was a few days after you were born in Gurgaon. Your jethi and I had gone to see you. You would snuggle in my arms, eyes shut, your tiny hand resting on my belly. 

Your dad, pesky brat that he is, joked and said that my soft tummy reminded you of your mom's tummy when you were inside her tummy. Well, my belly was rather soft to be fair.

I summed up our first three meetings on that blog post  and this is what i had written:

  1. 2 weeks old:  She would lie in my arms, eyes shut, hand resting on my belly
  2. 3 months old: She'd cry for 5 sec when I took her in my arms, and then calm down and lock eyes with me, as long I held her in my arms. Till I sat down when she would bawl and I would have to get up and walk her
  3. 4 months old: She'd lie in my arms, or on the bed, hold my finger and not let go of it and keep smiling broadly 

Here's what happened the next time we met.

Six months old

This time we met in Kolkata. A city your parents were born in, but not you or me. 

You had come to meet your great granny and my didu. I am her eldest grandchild. You, her first great grandchild. 

Another bond that we share. 

You had handled your first flight without a fuss your dad told me and I was so proud of you. Your jethu liked flying when he was a baby too.

There's more. Your thammi also says that you get up from your sleep these days and smile and play by yourself. Just as I did, when I was your age, she says.

Jethu and Jethi 

It was time I introduced you to my world. A happy world. The world of food. 

Your jethi had decided to be your mentor in fashion while I had said I will introduce you to good food.

That's your jethu, the one surrounded by food
Your dad...always at your beck and call
Your jethi with her friend Manishita
They will teach you how to shop
Then you and I will go to eat!

Your parents? They were busy changing your diapers, planning your vaccine shots, waking up with you at night to feed you. Being a jethu is the more fun job. 

Though your parents might disagree.

Our 4th date and a food review

We met  you at this restaurant called 6 Ballygunge Place. They served Bengali food. When your jethu was small like you, he would not touch Bengali food. Like you, he was a probashi (expat) baby. The only exception being his didu's luchi chholar dal.

By the time you were born, he had begun to love Bengali cooking. Specially what your mummy cooks. And dadu too. Your thammi's machher mudo diye dal inspired him to begin cooking and replicate it in faraway Mumbai. 

6 Ballygunge Place is a restaurant that your jethu's friend, Kaniska likes. His tastebuds matches mine and you can trust his recommendations in food too. I do hope that the place remains good by the time you read this.

You were napping in your pram when I reached the restaurant. I joined the others and had the lovely morola maach bhaja, luchi with alur dom and begun bhaja and a spicy prawn curry and a lips-macking mutton curry. The quality of the produce used was good, the seasoning perfect and flavours vibrant. The patoori had basa and not bhetki and that's never a good idea. The food was served hot and fresh. The service was nice too. Though we had booked a buffet lunch, they served us at the table, which impressed me. This helped as we had people of different age groups and mobility with us. Also they didn't hurry us though we had overshot our booking (jethu had reached late as always) and thnks to the family who were due in the hall after us. They were most sweet when I went up to them and requested for a bit more time. Sunday afternoons in 6 Ballygunge Place were busy.

I am telling you all this because when you grow up, these are things I want you to look out for in a restaurant. If you do find them, then stick to the place. Tell people about it.

Glimpses of your first family meal at
 6 Ballygunge Place, Kolkata, 27th October 2016
(there were others too in the next table)
Mesho dadu, BM Didu, Boro didu
Dida, thammi, jethi, Jhooma (didu's day help) & Monishita aunty

You woke up while I ate and I run to your pram. I sat on my haunches, which my weak back didn't allow. Seeing you made me forget all that. I extended my fingers and you grabbed one with each hand. And held on to it tightly. Your friend was here.

Then you saw more people and you got scared and started sobbing. I took you out, whispering into your ears, "jethu is here, we are in a restaurant, our happy place."

You stopped for a bit and then bawled again. I had to call in emergency services and your dad ran out and took you and rocked you till you quietened down.

I will love you even if your turn vegan
But try not to!


I was eating when your dad came back with you and I got up and went to you. I was eating some mutton then (mutton in India is goat meat and you should know this) and I showed you a marrow bone and told you about the delights that lie inside and how one needs to suck the bone to reach it. 

You looked at me intently. Soaking in what I told you. The photo of us is precious.

When your dad was born, your thakurda (my dad) had wished it was a daughter
Now, your dad has made up with your mummy and now you,
And with jethi earlier, daddy is very happy I am sure

Then I gave you a little piece of luchi and begun bhaja and you grabbed it from me. You had just begun eating solids back home.

Should have stuck to feeding you luchi and begun
Your mother didn't seem to mind

Begun bhaaja is our friend

We love luchi

You dad, also known as 'Hand Cleanser man', came running and snatched it away. "She will put touch her eyes with oil sokaed fingers," he yelled. He was more protective of you than any Bengali mother ever was of her son. And that's a tough act to beat.

In retrospect, he was right. You didn't have teeth. How would you eat the luchi begun bhaaja, it struck me later.

Your daddy is wise.

Thammi and dida
Remember, grandparents are the cooler ones
And are the ones who will indulge you
While your jethi and I will baby your mummy and daddy
That's dark hot chocolate btw, nicer than payesh


Enter the payesh

Our lunch done, it was time to feed you. There was some homemade payesh for you and I pushed everyone aside and put a spoon of it in your mouth to feed you.

You were silent for a couple of seconds and then started bawling! Your dadu came and fed a bit more of the payesh and then a cousin mama. You bawled more and nothing would make you stop till we all left.

And the Payesh-Man

Then a funny thing happened. For the next two days whenever I would go to you, you would look at me, wait for a second, and then start sobbing with the vigour of an Italian opera singer. Not once, not twice, but every blessed time.

The only time you would stop would be if I held GPS, the teddy bear, in front of you. You would look at him intently and not cry, even though he was just a silly toy.

"But he is our friend".
By the way, you loved the room too, you future luxury blogger


I was perplexed. People said I probably reminded you of the payesh.

Perhaps the rice had have hurt your throat. You couldn't chew after all. You had no teeth. You were a daat fokla buri (toothless old lady). 

You must have been traumatised.

My friend Soma, who has a little girl slightly elder to you, tried to console me and wrote to me from the US saying that children of your generation don't seem to like payesh. Her daughter, Ahana, had chosen luchi and Amul cheese over payesh the first time she (Ahana) was offered payesh apparently.

This was Soma pishi's advice to me:

"road is tough ahead. But with good food, tintin and many books you will win her. You may have practice some dance moves as well, and try some singing 😉"

Ahana didn't like her payesh too
One day I hope to meet the two of them in person


Tip: Payesh is not the best way to my little niece's heart

Georgy Porgy

Someone we really missed was our dadu and your greatgrandpa
He was waiting for you since the day your parents got married
He would have told you fun stories. He was quite cool

We all collected at the ITC Sonar the day after the lunch to take a family picture - thammi, mummy daddy, jethi and me. I hit upon a strategy. I let everyone pose with you and would then quickly slide behind you while you were still smiling and got ourselves clicked. That explains all our smiling faces in the pictures you later saw when you grew older. You couldn't see me you see. Sorry, for fooling you but these photos were precious I am sure you will agree.

1982: That's your grandpa. He'd have been so happy to see you
Don't worry, I will step in for him and spoil you silly
That little monkey is your dad & the handsome dude with brooding eyes, me
And thammi, Your dad has printed and framed the pic


2016: The start of our family photo shoot session
The world gets a little glimpse of daddy's princess

Debankar Paul, our butler at ITC Sonar
He kept a ballon tiger ready to welcome you in our room
And patiently took a million pictures of all of us
And supplied endless cups of tea
And looked after you till your cab arrived
Even after Jethi and I had left the hotel

This routine continued for the next two days. Your jethi left for Mumbai for her meeting and I had stayed back to spend a day more with you. Except you would look at me and start crying after a couple of seonds. I would have to go to your thamma any my didu...who thankfully didn't cry when they saw me... for sympathy while your parents calmed you down.

Being the first born is special and welcome to the club

I was told that a few days before this you had glared at your dad, and did not smile at him for three days, after he first tried to feed you dal.

Jethi introducing you to cappuccino, always in a takeaway cup,
And telling you about the many Zara and Starbucks outings
That the two of you will have

You seem to have a point of view on food, like me, oh 'blood of my blood'. 

That's a Game of Thrones reference by the way. Google it and if you watch the show, wait till you are 40. It's for adults.

Hello oh blood of our blood


Bhaab?

As I was about to leave Kolkata, you saw me and give a little smile. I quickly smiled back and ran before your remembered the payesh and started sobbing again. 

Your smile stayed with me as I flew back and helped ensure that I was not the first man whose heart you broke. Well not entirely to be honest.

Back in Mumbai, I kept getting pictures of your smiling face on whatsapp as I waited eagerly to see you again and write next chapter of the story of our beautiful friendship,

Love,

Jethu

PS: When you grow up, I will make you a nice payesh, but I am sure we will have many happy meals together before that. Also, quick question, did you cry because I didn't stop at the airport Hamley's while coming to see you unlike in our previous meetings?

Our first family dinner outing together was at the Peshwari at the ITC Sonar
You slept like an angel in the pink pram
I think you would have liked the dal


Notes:


  1. Jethu means father's elder brother. Jethi is Jethu's wife. This is a term of endearment. In formal terms, it is jyathamoshai
  2. Bhaab means friends in children talk in Bengali. Aari, the opposite
  3. A phone video jethu and jethi shot of the buffet at 6 Ballygunge Place. 
  4. My last blog post about meeting you
  5. Post from when you were a month old
  6. Read this to know why Jethi calls you Pompi
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