Gulshan, Dhaka, February 2002



Bely is tirelessly tweaking and gathering and pinning material, eventually resigned that I am not, unlike in the best fairy stories, transforming into the new-look Cinderella. Standing back, she observes me swathed in the delicate peach, tottering on her high-heeled, strappy, gold sandals, my hair crudely tied up.
“Now, Anne, you are true Bengali wife,” Hasina says. “Turn this way, and this..."
She and Bely talk rapidly over my head. Bely claps her hands delightedly and rushes out of the room. I hear excitement in her rapid, high-pitched speech, and the careful repetition of “Bengali wife” as she talks to the house girls.
“She tells that now you must learn to cook Bengali. Come.” Hasina smiles. â€œWe make samosa. Try. Is so easy. Try.”
“But Bely’s beautiful clothes…” I protest. It will be like trying to make scones in a wedding dress, trying to keep it pristine for the ceremony whilst egged on by several intoxicated bridesmaids.
“Bah. It washes clean.” Hasina dismisses my concern.
Metaphorically I roll up my sleeves and copy Parvin’s casual kneading. By the time I have flour reaching my elbows, grease spots on my chin, and a stringy, holey piece of pastry, Mitali, one of Hasina’s sisters and Reka, the masseuse, have joined us.
Mr Hoque’s head even appears around the door. â€œWomen. Chatter, chatter. So much eating. I go to rest.”
“Now, put in the vegetables—like this.” Hasina leans over and deftly hides the doughy holes under the pea and potato mixture. Laboriously, I make rough, triangular folds and, pink with exertion, hold up six samosas, for inspection.
“We eat them hot. One each,” Hasina enthuses.
Parvin takes over again and deftly fries the snacks in hot oil. She hands the cooked platter to me. Uneven and misshapen, the pastry is by no means thin and crisp as it should be.
“You serve,” Hasina instructs me. “The Bengali wife serving her guests.”
“Who is Bengali wife?” Mr Hoque appears at the merest sniff of food, rubs his hands, eyes alert. Bely, claiming responsibility for my transformation, gestures at my outfit, the hot food, speaks rapidly. Mr Hoque roars with laughter. “A blonde Bengali wife. Very good. Very funny. I must taste her first meal.”
He bites the offered samosa, chews, and nods his approval. “Okay.”
(ABBW Ch17)


If ever there was a ready-made title for a book, then this had to be it.  The furthest thing from a true Bengali wife - I had (have) neither the poise, the behind-the-scenes determination or the flair for homemaking - but the honorary title stuck; everyone knew I was trying hard.

Gulshan, Dhaka, February 2002
Srimangal, February 2002

Comments 1

 
Guest - Rosemary Gemmell on Saturday, 02 October 2010 08:42

Great post, Anne. As you say, a perfect title for your book!Hope you're well into the swing of motherhood.

Great post, Anne. As you say, a perfect title for your book!Hope you're well into the swing of motherhood.
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