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Hot potatoes in winter

It was getting dark. So, the game was stopped and every one was served with hot and spicy allur baja on banana leaf. I got astonished when I tasted the dish. It was so different in taste from the one that is prepared at home.

By Ranita Sinha, Kolkata

Here comes the month of December and January, which reminds me of an incident I experienced during one of my visits to my parental village.

To visit a village during the winter season, I suppose to be an ideal time. Because of this time harvesting is complete and all the houses are filled with paddy, grains, potatoes etc, more or less for the whole year. Moreover, looking at the faces of the people it gives an impression as if a mysterious contentment is crossing their faces. There is no sign of poverty. The surrounding seems full of life and activity.

During one of my visits to the village in the winter season, one day, my cousins told me that they would show me something, which, I had never seen before. They asked me to get ready to accompany them in the evening.

As planned my cousins along with some of their friends came and I accompanied them towards the empty paddy fields. I was just wondering what they were going to do. But a few meters away from us I saw almost all the young boys and girls of the village were present there and were busy doing something.

As I went nearer to the spot, I saw some were busy peeling potatoes, some digging the ground for a chulha, some collecting dry bamboo for the fire etc etc. I thought to myself that we were going to have a picnic that night and was very happy, but to my utter surprise I found only potatoes scattered all around the spot.

I asked one of the girls present there, what was going on. She told me that since new potatoes were out and that every house is having a plenty of it, so they every year make it a point to have a feast on potato, contributed by all, not in cash but in kind.

At last the chulha was ready. A big Khang(to fry the potatoes) was put on it, when the Khang was hot, mustard oil was poured. And after the mustard oil came to the smoking point, lots of jennum (a herb) were added on the oil and than the potatoes were put, followed by salt, turmeric, and whole lot of green chili.

Seeing all this I thought to myself, what the hell they were doing. This potato fry is prepared more or less every day in every household. Than, what was different in what they were doing; without uttering anything, I just watched them.

Some of my cousins than asked me to take part in the games what they were going to start. By the time the game started, the preparation was also complete. So, everybody, who ever was present there, joined the games. I do not remember the name of all the games but a few I do remember- reddy, bondi, dudu(kabadi). I participated in all the games and it was indeed a great fun.

Most of us were totally exhausted and it was getting dark. So, the game was stopped and every one was served with hot and spicy "allur baja" on banana leaf. I got astonished when I tasted the dish. It was so different in taste from the one that is prepared at home.

May be the taste was different because of the bulk quantity in which it was prepared or may be because all friends were having it together, which made it more delicious, and memorable. Whatever may be the reason of the "delicious" magic but the taste was awesome, titillating to the taste buds. The grand feist has etched a mark in my memory, always fresh in my mind and soul.

I am not sure if this "allur baja" is practiced in any other Bishnupriya Manipuri villages. But yes, it was there in the villages of Patherkandi, about fifteen years back. I would be thrilled if anybody comes and tell me that it is still prevalent in the villages of Patherkandi. I really miss those wonderful days, the days which are still dear to me.



  1. its really nice timing at least for me to read this writeup as i m heading to my village home.Landing in kolkata already started giving me the feel..... nice one , well timed..

  2. Ranita just rocks,
    the way she is bringing back all our memories!

    I still miss the alu-bhaja and kabi-bhaja of the bora seller who used to come at school tifin time.

  3. what happened Risikesh and Ranita? why this long silence? please come back and keep posting.

  4. Thanks Ashim for the concern. Actually Ranita is not well, BN has gone to Silchar and am busy in a new job.

    We will strike back. VERY SOON.


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