Potatoes Cooked for Dinner

by Sutapa Chaudhuri (November 2015)

In mustard oil, with poppy-seed paste

and diced Jack-fruit seeds. A sprinkle

of salt and turmeric over the cubed greens,

a dash of five-spices, or garlic, in the hot,

sizzling oil, swirling in the pan—


Pervading the darkened room, the aroma

of burnt chillies and mixed spices float

aimless; choked up, the vent-air chimneys

cough wheezy. Nostalgia and lost homelands

well up, crowding the eyes, watery and dim


with tears. A streak of sadness, alone and

groping, sightless amidst the habit of formal,

early dinners, hides silent in the thick richness

of a pungent, virgin oil, strong and flavourful.

Its temper cannily mellowed by the soothing


poppy, and a steaming white, jasmine rice. The

well-known aroma of a home-cooked comfort

and the secure warmth of the scented rice on

the designer dining table, spice up stale talk on

everyday matters; in some unheeded corner hide


the pale, washed out memories of long-gone

forgotten childhoods, a game of devious

hide and seek in the dark alleys of lost lives.

Suddenly, the silence shatters, an intrepid ring

of the cell-phone shreds at once the cumbersome


monotone of a solitary loneliness. The well-loved

tune of a beloved poet calls me back to life. Intimate,

the ringtone sings of eternal friendships on rainy

Shravana nights. The well-lit exchange of wishes, and

casual enquiries of well-being end in an innocuous


swapping of stories, known and unknown. Treasured recipes

roll out slick, masked in an informal, acquired imitation.

Lost connections and ghost lives haunt in myriad forms;

secretive, the tongue grows accustomed to lies, as I try,

haltingly, to translate my life to your eager ears.


The present lies obliterated; forever enveloped in darkness.




Sutapa Chaudhuri has two poetry collections — Broken Rhapsodies and Touching Nadir. My Lord, My Well-Beloved is a collection of her translations of Rabindranath Tagore’s songs.



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