It’s been very quiet here for a while. A comfortable quiet. Sitting between Ma and Baba, the blog blurred; I needed to sneak away from this space for a while. The house is still full, but Ma and Baba have gone upstairs to bed now, D is packing away the leftovers from dinner, coffee is brewing and a little girl is tip-toeing past her bedtime; she’s drawing. So I thought I’d sit and write in.

It’s late, but there’s still some light left outside. I love this time of night, I love the silence. But I also love the smokey sounds that blow in through the window. The wind, a kettle boiling, songs from the pub; I like that silence has its sounds. Our ears are insomniacs, they’re always awake. I can choose to close my eyes shut, black out the room, the trees outside my window, the peaches on the table. I can choose to shush my voice, say nothing, not a word. But I can’t close my ears shut. If I put my fingers in, sounds will still seep in.

I wonder if sound, then, is what our senses need the most. Who knows? It’s not something I’d want to have to prioritise. I lost most of my hearing once; for a month. I was traveling on a flight from Delhi to Mumbai, with a cold and a blocked nose, when I felt a sudden, sharp pain in my ears. This was followed by what felt like a thousand red ants crawling and biting their way from one ear to another. It was almost the end of the flight, and the plane was descending. What I didn’t know at the time was that a blocked nose combined with a quick change in air pressure when a plane drops height can make your eardrums buckle and burst.

What followed was a month of sharp, piercing pain and bloody rivulets on my pillow, but what I remember more sharply is something else. I remember the muted-ness. Conversations looked like mime, very loud noises were hushed like secrets. In the midst of throbbing Mumbai traffic, I’d hear nothing. Just a pale whooshing; a wide sea of a few million people sounded like the inside of a shell from the shores of the Arabian Sea.

Along with sound, I lost something else. I lost my sense of straight. I’d want to walk to the window right opposite our bed, but would find my feet curving me away from the window and straight at the wall. My feet wouldn’t follow my mind. Like a drunk, only dead sober.

Actually, it’s a bit like this post. When I started with ‘It’s been quiet here for a while’, I wasn’t planning on going anywhere near my ear. It was supposed to be a spot of bright, summer writing. Look where I’ve gone.

But there’s food for your patience. This dish is a special one for two reasons: It has potol (parval), a vegetable that has traveled all the way from Kolkata in Ma’s luggage. And the recipe comes from Bubulma’s kitchen, so it has many memories for D.

Dudh PotolΒ 
(potol cooked in milk)

8-10 potol, sliced lengthwise into two
1 litre full-fat or semi-skimmed milk
2 dry red chillies
1 tsp black mustard seeds
A pinch of turmeric
2 tbs oil
2 green chillies

Heat oil in a deep pan and add the mustard seeds and red chillies. As soon as the mustard starts sputtering, add the potol. Stir for 2 minutes and then add the milk, salt and a tiny pinch of turmeric. As the milk starts to heat and rise, lower the flame a little. Keep stirring the milk with a rounded wooden spatula, and in between, keep the spatula in the milk as it cooks. This (in my inexplicable opinion) stops the milk from curdling. The milk must finally reduce and condense to coat the soft potol in a thick, creamy, textured sauce. The photographs should give you a fair signal as to when you should be done.
Serve hot with steamed rice.

9 thoughts on “Silence

  1. You are awake at this time of the night? So am I πŸ™‚ it must be the heat…. feels like I am back in India on hot summer night. The fan is switched on and the windows are wide open. But sleep is no where near… Sigh… good night my friend. Hope you are enjoying this surprising indian summer in Britain πŸ™‚

  2. Ahhh… lovely read Pia. Now I will try to go to bed with your words spinning stories of my own past. πŸ™‚ your posts always make me walk down the memory lane as I too have similar stories to tell πŸ™‚

  3. Bumped in here from foodgawker. Potol is one of my favorite veggies, so stopped to check the recipe and happy i did that. Absolutely stunning clicks, and wonderful write up.

  4. Ow that sounds so painful. I hope you're OK now? Having just come back from Japan, I am giving my hearing a rest, it is so NOISY over there! πŸ˜€ Beautiful photos, lovely recipe! That time of day is so beautiful! πŸ™‚

  5. I'm curious about potol. Is it at all similar to a cucumber or a summer squash? I like your thoughts about silence. It is true, silent is not actually silent. Silence has its own sound(s). In the city here it is often the hum of traffic. About an hour north of here (the country), more often than not, it is birds. I like it all.

  6. I can't say it is; no nothing like a cucumber or a squash. And I can't think of a vegetable I can compare it to; maybe a gourd. It's firm on the outside, soft on the inside, with a certain saltiness on its skin.

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