Nostalgia is a part and parcel of every immigrant's life, rather treasure trove of every immigrant's life. I carry a piece of Assam in my heart and wear it on my sleeves. Special occasions and festivities often transport me to my homeland, especially to my large family with all Uncles and Aunts, to our house and our big courtyard in Assam. During this time, my homeland Assam celebrates Magh Bihu with great zeal. Magh Bihu is a harvest festival just like Thanksgiving in the USA, where the end of harvest season is widely celebrated. I reminisce those wonderful times, how in the guidance of my Koka (Grandfather) we used to build a makeshift house in our courtyard, my Pehis(Aunts) and Mom prepared Bihu delicacies. How the whirlpool of flavor straightly tantalized my senses with roasted sesame, ground sticky rice, and the sticky and syrupy smell of jaggery. During the day our house help collected all the winter veggies whether it's olkobi or pohulkobi or tender potatoes from our kitchen garden and got ready for the night feast. Deuta always used to get Meat and Fish. Fresh river fish used to be the star of the meal and without fatty mutton or duck, you can't imagine the Magh Bihu feast. Even though, nowadays chicken is widely used but the chicken came to the Assamese food scene much later.
As the day turned into dusk, the night which we call Uruka, the bhoj preparation starts and side by side we start eating kathalu (yam). It can be either roasted in the wood fire or fried, sliced a little bigger than chips, and sometimes prepared as a patty with rice flour, onion, fresh chopped green chilies, salt, and a hint of coriander leaves and fried in mustard oil. Bubbling black gram dal (mati dail), delicately prepared light and sour fish curry, whippy and thick oily mutton curry with spices like black pepper, chilies, cardamom, and cinnamon cooked in a wood fire. A simple veg curry from the kitchen garden is also part of the feast. You won't imagine even without a hint of spices, it tastes so luscious and delectable. A bed of simple garden fresh salad prepared with tomatoes, onion, and cabbage always accompanied the feast. The night is filled with good food, laughter, music, and poetry, and our innocent jokes while we eat together with our neighbors just like one big family. The next day we used to wake up early and take shower to light the meji ( bonfire) and after the meji, we drink tea and enjoy all the delicacies ma and Pehis(Fraternal Aunt) made, sewy pithas to crunchy loodos, followed by jalpan(light meal). Ma used to offers a prayer in the Namgar (an assamese temple) for the well-being of the whole family.
The nostalgia took me to my childhood in Assam. Here I am, after 25 years far away from my family with my own family of four with two kids. Today on the day of bhogali Bihu here at my home in Connecticut, I cooked all the food as my mom used to cook during Bihu. This year Bihu without Deuta (Dad), my Aunt came and celebrated with Ma to not let her be alone. Here, I set up the table and laid all the food in front of my kids, I re-lived those good old days. They loved it and asked for more, of course without meji and the bhela ghar. Yes, something when they will grow up to look back and reminisce.