My 73rd Birthday.
Do you remember your birthday? I do, but not individually, yearly. When I was in primary and lower middle school, I used to look forward to my birthday; the annual family gathering when I knew I would be gifted philately, that year’s music recording (on 78 rpm vinyl discs), followed by a delicious dinner with spicy mutton rogan josh and ‘loochi’. The treat would end with tomato and alu bokhra (plum) chutney. In excited attendance would be my uncle’s, aunts and cousins – a full family affair.
I can’t remember the time from when, probably after my mother’s untimely demise, that birthdays became a low key affair. Sure, I would receive cards and phone calls on the eve of as well as on the day, but the actual occasion got lost in the faded memories of yesteryears. I disappointed my younger family members, and friends professing that there was nothing to celebrate; that to me it had become ‘just another day’.
However, my 73rd B’day turned out to be something special. In the lap of Svanir, and in the presence of my dear ones, I felt happy and content. Whereas earlier I was asked what it is that I wanted to eat, this time that decision was left to my family members – they obviously knew I would like. Of course, the food that the Mukherji family ladies craft out from the kitchen is always pure magic but what was totally different, unexpected and unique this time was the participation of a guest family in the event. Let me, with pleasure explain.
Svanir, our wilderness homestay, has always mesmerised guest families with our sincere welcome and sharing simple and sometimes elaborately prepared dishes from the kitchen and often garden. On the day previous to my birthday, one such guest family staying with us came to know, in the course of a conversation that the next day was my birthday. The conventional greeting was offered and politely thanked by me. We all thought that that was that. But…let me first come to the food that was served earlier on the day.
A lunch of Basanti pulao (an elaborate Bengali yellow rice garnished with selected spices and cashew nuts) with Salauti kebabs (a special mashed mutton recipe from the annals of Mughlai cuisine) was polished of the wok and frying pan by all four of the core Mukherji family in no time. After that was the siesta. At 7 pm was Darjeeling tea with Indrani’s cake.
Around 8:30 pm, I was summoned by my son to the dining hall. Wondering what could be the reason, I rushed there. To my surprise, sitting at a table were Arunima and Henry, our guests of the previous night! On the table was a home baked Mocca and jaggery cake. A wonderful aroma was floating around the hall.
As soon as the rest of the family were gathered, I cut the cake. The guests and the family sang the birthday song. My wife and I shared a slice and so did the others. The mood was … what is the right expression? Harmonious. The following photos need no captions.
Two strangers just yesterday had taken the trouble of baking a healthy, gourmet cake for an old man and his family; and driven down so late in the evening to our wilderness home just to show us how warmly they felt for us; that we ought to become great family friends. We were so touched. Indeed, Svanir has, as we have witnessed over and over, that magic wand to turn guests into family friends.
May the Lord bless all such genuine, friendship and nature loving guests. Bless the Gomez family.