After having spent two birthdays away from my parents, I was lucky to be able to celebrate it with them, this time around. As much as I’d like to say it was divine coincidence, I can’t quite. The biggest celebration for us Bengalis, falls at the same time as does my birthday. Unlike me, my parents see that as something wonderful. As a kid, I didn’t quite agree with them. Solely because it meant there would be a holiday on my birthday. Now, I don’t really care. Birthday’s don’t mean much to me.
The fewer people that wish me, the happier I am.
Despite pleading for a bunch of books rather than making a big deal, I was given a Polaroid camera and a lavish dinner. I’m not complaining though! Food is my deathly sin, one I will gladly face Satan for.
Having arrived at The Hub, my parents decided on experiencing the buffet. I chose to go A la Carte. For the appetiser, I decided on the Atlantic Smoked Salmon with a Maple Mustard Emulsion, Sour Cream and fresh greens.
Can we just take a minute to appreciate how beautiful this dish looks? It tasted even better! I think I went into a trance of sorts while eating this because I had cleaned up the plate before I even realised. The salmon was cooked perfectly and the mustard emulsion was the perfect kick, balancing the sweetness of the salmon and the tanginess of the sour cream.
Next up, for my main course, I decided on the Pan seared Sole with steamed lentils, pan fried mushrooms in sherry cream with crispy pancetta.
The first thought that struck me when I first laid eyes on this dish was, ‘That is one pink dish!’ I hate the colour pink but that didn’t stop me from diving into my food. The colour of the food didn’t dampen the tastes one bit though. The sole was placed on top of the lentils and mushrooms. My knife sliced through the meat like butter and the sherry cream, oh my! It was so silky and light. It went brilliantly with the rest of the dish and made sure my palette was clean with every bite I took. Being a fan of mushrooms, I just wish there were more in the dish. Somewhere between the pancetta and lentils, the taste of the mushrooms often got lost.
Oh and to go with these divine dishes, I decided on a glass from the 2012 bottle of Pater Sangiovese Toscana. It blended in very well with the dishes I chose to try and it did a wonderful job of satiating the wine lover in me.
For my dessert, I chose the Crème Caramel with Cherry Compote. Unfortunately, I was half way through the dish before I realised I had forgotten to take a picture of it. I can assure you of this though, it looked as beautiful as the rest of my courses did.
Once we had finished our dinner, we headed out where we stumbled across this art installation.
The inspiration and idea behind this installation was:
Every year Calcutta dresses up for the annual autumn extravaganza celebrating the spirit of victory; the victory of Good over Evil, Hope over Despair, Love over Loss. These overwhelming emotions are represented in the form of the mother Goddess Durga slaying the demon king Mahishasura, most importantly diminishing his ego in the process. The tales of this battle resonate in the ears of the children who grow up in the otherwise sleepy neighbourhoods of Calcutta. These stories have become very relevant today, given the many battles we are fighting at both the individual and societal levels. Whereas every epoch has its own problems and their corresponding solutions, our contemporary moment has witnessed the intensification of issues on a planetary scale. Are we exhausting our capacity to live sustainably and in harmony with each other and our surroundings? How are we placed to accept difference - different people, different beings, varying cultural norms, multiple religious temperaments? The mythological metaphors represented in this installation invite us to re-evaluate ourselves on these lines. There are demons and thus there is Hope. One cannot dismiss the growing awareness in recent years towards the shared goal of empowering India's women. A lot of positivity and productive thought has been spent on the cause. Owing to the presence of social media and the platforms for freer expression, as well as due to altering family structures, many urban and rural women in the country today are moving past oppressive patriarchal norms that have historically disadvantaged women in both the domestic and professional spheres. This installation is a tribute to such a blossoming and powerful new sense of womanhood. The representation of the feminine soul as a Bengal tigress also references the wild cat that has been fighting its own battle of survival in our forests. Relatedly, the recent tiger census shows a considerable growth in India's tiger population. We hail the efforts of conservationists, women's rights groups, and everyday people who have contributed to such betterment. The Goddess, here shown as a tigress, is a powerful woman, a mother, and a warrior. More power to her adds more power to us.
I enjoyed my birthday a lot. It was a quite evening spent with my loving family and that is all my heart needed. Add to that, there were no reminders of the fact that I had turned a year older and still was as clueless about life as I was before.