The name Sunderbans conjures up pictures of the dark, mysterious jungle and the Royal Bengal Tiger for most; but for me somehow, it has always meant a long, long boatride. This winter, as my father planned a two day trip to the Delta, we all were superbly excited.
After the long car ride till the jetty, as we finally boarded the boat, my heart jumped with joy at the prospect of the lazy boatride through the seemingly calm waters of the sluggish river.
So after we started the journey, it was lunch time, and oh! boy, what a spread it was! The Bengali fare of Bhaat, Daal, Bhaja, Torkari, Maachher Jhol, Chingri Kosha tasted like heaven in the rocking boat. It was only after the meal that I realized that all the food served, was cooked inside the modest boat itself.
So I had to climb down from the deck and visit the kitchen, where the cook was busy preparing our evening snacks. Evening snacks consisted of the humble Muri (Puffed Rice) and Peyanji (Onion Fritters). As the evening breeze brushed our cheeks, we gorged on the fritters, interspersing the mouthfuls of muri with sips of overly sweet tea in paper cups to wash it down. The sights and sounds of the dense forest, closing in on us from both sides, added magic to our munchings.
My parents weren’t too comfortable with the prospect of staying in the boat all night, amidst the dark waters and the impermeable, eerie islands, so we shifted to a hotel for the night. But next morning we again hopped onto the boat.
While having Luchi and Torkari for breakfast, the greatest comfort food ever made, we asked the cook and his helper how and from where they procure the ingredients. Their stories of tricking snakes, escaping crocodiles and walking alone at night, with a flickering torch-light, for hours to reach their homes from the market at a far-off island, left us spellbound. It was only then that we realized the sheer amount of effort, risk and honesty that went into the making of each morsel we had on the boat, and it truly humbled us.
Our journey was almost over when the lunch was served. It was one of the most special meals that I shared with my close ones, amidst nature at its unadulterated best. It was a family lunch that I will remember for a very long time.
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