I was at my hometown Chandannagore 10 days back and went to my mamar bari (house of my maternal grandparents). It was almost 4 or 5 months since I had been there. Once again, first nostalgia overtook my senses while remembering a part of my childhood back there and then there was happiness. There used to be a huge mango tree in the plot of land owned by my grandfather in front of my mamar bari. Every season, the entire family and extended family waited eagerly for the sweet mangoes from that tree. In summers, coming to Mamar bari or someone visiting us with a bag of mangoes was compulsory. It was not only the mangoes which remain etched in memory, it was also numerous half baked/ half cooked ghost strories which had the mango tree as their residence. Summer nights, load shedding and dinners in candle nights in mamar bari meant the mango tree and its ghosts too. The land has now been sold and the mango tree does not exist anymore.
Now the happy part. The otherwise unnoticed mango tree at the courtyard of mamar bari has now grown big and this time my mami was ecstatic to pass on some of the mangoes to me to carry back home. Although a slice of my childhood is gone and the resident evil ghosts can’t come back now from the huge mango tree, the mangoes were not finished.
Kacha Aamer ambol was a regular feature at home during summers. I miss Baba whenever this is made. He struggled all his life to make the perfect balance of the tanginess of the unripe mangoes and the sweetness. As per him daant toke jabe – or to losely translate in English, his taste palate will get sour. Kacha aamer Ambol is a summer dish which is served at the end of the meal and the tart of the mango rules the dish with fleshy mango pul in a light syrup. Lighter than a chutney, this is ideally not to be had mixed with rice. Kacha aamer ambol was always served with a separated bowl of sugar for lunch. Baba needed that extra sugar which he would add to it on top. Ma would frown and I would enjoy the process. Baba would keep on adding sugar still such time Ma would shout at him that he is making the Kacha Aamer ambol to an aamer payesh.
Baba’s chair at the dining table remains vacant for nearly 3 years now. Tugga has grown up now loving his chutney and ambol. Sugar in a bowl doesn’t get served along with Kacha Aamer ambol anymore. Tugga loves Kacha Aamer ambol so much that once he finishes his share, he would like to take a few additional spoons from the big bowl of Ambol without anyone’s knowledge. I have been most comfortable in playing the role of a facilitator in my life and I often wonder if I could make these two men from different generations have a conversation on Kacha aamer ambol.