1st Prize Winner of the Memories in a Dabba Contest sponsored by Ektra Superware Fine Dining. To purchase one of these gorgeous kitchenware from Ektra Superware Fine Dining, contact Area Manager, Siddhi Padgaonkar using this link.
Text by Neelanjana Chowdhury, Former Teacher, Kolkata
Slowly and carefully as I lift the covers of the dabbas which have been a consistent part of my fifty-year-old journey, memories start spilling over… gushing out, tumbling down, vying with one another, some sweet, few evoking smiles, others generating sighs… despite the sweat!
It all started in school, those exciting and tantalizing moments…just before the bell chimed declaring recess, how we rushed and clamoured to open our dabbas. With my mom’s nagging worry that her children were underfed, it usually used to be an elaborate affair.
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Soft yummy aloo parathas, fluffy pooris, delicious poha, lip-smacking coconut and mint chutney filled sandwiches are some fondest memories I have of my mother and her dabbas. Of course, some days of disgust too were in the store, bananas and boiled eggs…ugh, how I hated them!
Time flew and suddenly lunch box was frowned upon. College canteen was the in thing. Dabbas though accompanied were pushed to the lowermost dungeons of the bags but, if discovered were devoured in seconds by one n all around. Those were the unmindful, uncaring blissful days of ransacking a friend’s lunch box, full of noodles with bare hands and then grinning away!
Soon I found myself in my mom’s shoes, the creator of dabbas. Being passionate about cooking, I took the role pretty seriously preparing snacks for kids, full meals for hubby…trying and testing innovative ideas, appealing recipes which had to be healthy at the same time. Proud of my culinary efforts and preening at the fact that I was running the show quite well, was brought out of the reverie with a sudden jolt! When a close relative enquired my five-year-old one, very sweetly “What does your mom give you for tiffin dear?” Pat came the reply “bread!”. To my horror saw the lady giving a sorry consoling smile to my daughter… “Of course, your mom is a teacher too, be happy with the food she gives you”. I could hardly get a wink that day…ungrateful kids! So much of hard work, planning, fancy tiffins…and “bread” is how I get repaid!
Neelanjana Chowdhury with her daughters
Anyways, with grown-up kids now in the hostel, their woeful tales of the food and pining for home-cooked meals have soothed the ruffled feathers to some extent. The same dabbas are now painstakingly and lovingly filled with homemade snacks and yummies.
As the family is restricted to just two members, the husband’s lunch box is a grim reminder of all the upheavals of mind and heart. Pathetic khichdi when the blues hit, luscious lasagna a rarity when heady with love, dry sandwiches go great with vengeance, and those seldom doses of desserts at the onset of weekends!
Less said, the better about the bouts of memory losses which tend to cast its shadows now and then. To my utter disbelief, my husband’s personal assistant called me just a few days ago, hesitantly conveying that instead of sending rotis it seems I had packed the dough itself! 😀
This is how the affair continues to date. The sweet and sour trysts with my dabbas…encasing myriad priceless moments and the trivial flavours of life.
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