The Legacy of Sunday Mutton

tangytuesday

To elucidate the aroma of mutton curry wafting from the kitchen, especially on a Sunday afternoon is nearly impossible. It’s easier to cook the mutton than even give a try to illustrate the labyrinth of emotions it evokes in me, and most people of my race. It’s a phenomenon evolved over a hundred years and a tradition well worth preserving. Before drifting (and delving) into the history of Sunday mutton curry, let me add a cheeky disclaimer that ‘mutton’ refers to goat meat for every instance I write about it. Being raised in Bengal, I had no notion that red meat in general (lamb, goat, pork, beef) is referred to as ‘mutton’. For me, goat cannot be replaced with any other animal for ‘mutton.’

Image Courtesy: Neha Banerjee

Image Courtesy: Neha Banerjee

From lores narrated in both of my families over years and reading old Bangla stories, I’ve formed a hypothesis on the origin of Sunday mutton. In the early 20th century, educated folk from rural Bengal migrated to Calcutta (the only city then) in search of clerical occupation. They stayed mostly in rental accommodations, hostels and as paying guests for five working days. Come Friday afternoon and they’d venture for the ancestral home in different districts of Bengal. When they’d arrive home, mostly late at night, their jholas would carry fruits, candies, sweets for the children, an occasional piece of jewellery or saree for the wife and daughter, and – on frequent weekends – mutton for the entire family. Children would rejoice; I have a sneaking suspicion that they’d root more for the meat than frugal candies, like me. The wife would blush and begin preparations for the mutton curry the night itself or the next afternoon. Of course in monsoons, the mutton is replaced with Ilish, but that doesn’t take away its glory in the other seasons.

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Of Rain, Calcutta, and Other Lores

It’s raining in Calcutta now. And I’m writing about it sitting in a sunny, humid, sweltering city a couple of thousand kilometers away. That itself should be proof enough of my yearning for rain, in Calcutta. Every year at the advent of monsoon, there is a part in me which unfailingly craves to be in Calcutta to savour the climate. The dilapidated city looks surreal, feels surreal, and infinite memorable moments are born with each earthward drop.

Photo Courtesy: Subhamoy Sinha Roy

Photo Courtesy: Subhamoy Sinha Roy

I have lived in Calcutta for eight years only. I have also lived in a few other metropolises of the world during rains. Miami – yes, Mumbai – yes, Hyderabad – yes, New York – briefly yes, London – briefly yes, Belfast – yes. I have watched the preparation, the actual precipitation, soaked and froze myself in those rains, and yet, whenever it rains anywhere it reminds me of Calcutta. I have eons of memories as I spent the crucial monsoons of my life in the city. The shadows of deep dark pregnant clouds on the moss-lined walls of our old Ballygunge flat used to bring out the poet in me each monsoon. They were not necessarily works of art, I must assure you, but they never failed to fill the pages of my diary. I was naive then, yes. Even an edged word from my best friend drove me to melancholy and made me seek solace in the rain. I could sit hours on the window sill and day-dream with incessant patter in the background. That is something I still do. The rains compel me to day-dream. They make even amateurish dreams seem achievable.

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