In honor of girls’s historical past month and Ramadan, we’re publishing this quick story by award-winning creator Adiba Jaigirdar. We had the pleasure of interviewing and connecting with Adiba within the midst of the pandemic, and she or he has remained a supporter and a buddy of the literary vertical and Brown Woman Journal. This quick story by Adiba encapsulates the spirit of friendship and neighborhood in a time of celebration. Adiba’s subsequent e-book ‘Do and Donuts of Love’ will probably be out on June 6, 2023.
[Read Related: Author Interview: Adiba Jaigirdar of ‘The Henna Wars’]
It’s not Ammu yelling my title again and again that wakes me up on Eid morning, it’s the candy aroma of payesh, floating up from the kitchen, by means of the floorboards, and making my mouth water.
It solely takes me a couple of minutes to roll away from bed and down the steps, peering on the huge dish of payesh proper in the midst of the kitchen desk. It’s what I’ve been trying ahead to for all of Ramadan — Ammu’s well-known payesh recipe.
“Safa, don’t you dare contact that,” Ammu calls from the place she’s standing, by the range, making a recent batch of porotas for our Eid breakfast.
“However it’s been so lengthy since…” I begin to plead, however Ammu cuts me off.
“Dress, prepare, and after Eid prayer, we are able to have some payesh,” she says, although her voice has already misplaced a few of its fervour. After I look at Ammu, she has that acquainted look of nostalgia. Sadly, I do know precisely what she’s remembering. “If solely it was the payesh that your Nanu used to make…” she says softly.
I heave a sigh, and say, “okay, I’m going to dress,” earlier than slipping out of the kitchen as quick as I can. In our home, you may’t actually speak about payesh with out Ammu’s long-winded story. It all the time begins with how she needs we had the ‘actual’ payesh recipe that our household — the Jahangirs — have been identified for round Bangladesh, for the reason that Mughal period. It’s the recipe that’s been handed down for generations in our household. That’s till, after our Nanu unexpectedly handed away two years in the past, the recipe appeared to vanish.
That is the place Ammu’s long-winded story ends: her bitterness that her older sister has the recipe however refuses to share it with Ammu.
Now, we are able to solely have Ammu’s payesh. Despite the fact that she has spent the previous two years making an attempt to recreate our household recipe, she insists that there’s one thing lacking. A key ingredient that made our Mughal-descended recipe well-known round all of Bangladesh. So, Ammu’s payesh comes with a bitter footnote — a wierd form of loss that individuals exterior of our household would most likely by no means perceive.
Again in my room, I shut the door and take a deep breath. As a result of in the present day isn’t simply any atypical Eid. As we speak is the day that I reunite my household.
However Ammu doesn’t know that but.
I fling open my wardrobe and pull out the costume that I had purchased on-line weeks in the past. It’s a protracted violet kameez with floral stitching working down its size. Silver embroidery strains the cuffs of the sleeves, and the ends of the costume; making it sparkle when it catches the sunshine. It’s good.
Higher but, it’s a part of an identical set.
My cellphone pings simply at that second. As if, my companion in crime can learn my thoughts.
“Prepared for in the present day?” Marwa’s textual content reads.
My arms hover over the keyboard for a second. And though my coronary heart is thrashing slightly too quick in my chest, I sort again “completely prepared,” and put the cellphone again on my bedside desk. I’m hoping that performing like I’m completely assured in our plan will truly make our plan 100% profitable. However in truth, I’m unsure how Ammu will react as soon as all the things is in movement. And I’m unsure if I’m a ok liar to persuade her.
But when all goes to plan, by the tip of this Eid day, Ammu’s payesh story goes to get so much shorter. And Marwa and I received’t have to cover our friendship any longer.
With that thought in thoughts, I modify into my Eid costume.
“I don’t perceive this Eid occasion enterprise,” Ammu complains through the drive from the mosque to the neighborhood heart, the place the bi-annual Bangladeshi Eid occasion all the time takes place. “In Bangladesh, there aren’t any Eid events. It’s simply visiting your loved ones and buddies; not this ‘occasion purty’ with digital strangers.”
“Sure, Ammu, I do know,” I groan, glancing out the window and making an attempt to not roll my eyes. I do know that will result in a whole lecture about not being respectful to my dad and mom. “In the event you made up with Khala then we might…”
Ammu cuts me off by glancing again at me with a stone-cold glare that I’m fairly positive has the flexibility to kill. It’s the identical glare she sends my method each time I even point out that she has a sister. That I’ve a khala. That these individuals exist and reside in the identical metropolis as us. That we may very well be celebrating collectively, however the years-long feud between our households has saved us aside.
“No extra speaking,” Ammu declares, staring straight forward. She’s clutching the dish of payesh to her chest now as if it’s her lifeline. Contemplating how a lot she has sacrificed for her payesh, I suppose it form of is her lifeline.
However, as I look out the window on the rush of timber and automobiles and buildings zooming by, I can’t assist however take into consideration what our Eid celebrations was like. And marvel how Ammu is so okay with letting all of that slip by means of her fingers.
The excitement of my cellphone distracts me from my ideas.
“We’re right here!” The textual content from Marwa reads.
“We’re 5 minutes away,” I textual content again shortly, earlier than glancing at Ammu. She has her lips pursed — clearly nonetheless aggravated that I dared to carry up Khala on a day as particular as this. My coronary heart beats slightly quicker on the considered what she’ll say when she spots Khala on the occasion. She hasn’t come to one in every of these events within the two years since their fall out, and it’s because of Marwa’s spectacular lies that she’s there now. Not understanding precisely what’s ready for her.
I can inform the occasion is already in full bloom as quickly as we pull into the parking zone. There are barely any areas left. And the within of the neighborhood centre is sort of a burst of color. Whoever embellished the place for our Eid occasion did a wonderful job. There are multicoloured balloons and streamers hung up across the room. A large banner on one wall reads ‘EID MUBARAK!’ and the opposite aspect of the room is stuffed up with youngsters’ drawings from the annual Eid artwork competitors.
“Too many balloons,” is Ammu’s solely statement as she shoves one in every of them apart as a way to place her payesh on the big desk, in the midst of the room. It’s already stuffed with totally different dishes — however I do know everybody’s dying for Ammu’s payesh particularly.
I heave a sigh and look across the occasion. By way of the throngs of individuals hugging and cheering and laughing, it’s not simple to identify two individuals. However I do. In a single nook, closed off from everybody else, stand Marwa and her mother. Khala doesn’t look pleased in any respect, although she’s sporting an expensive-looking sari and a full face of make-up. And Marwa is trying round impatiently. She’s sporting a salwar kameez that matches mine completely — besides as a substitute of violet and silver, her outfit is blue and gold, completely complementing her bronze pores and skin.
When Ammu’s again is turned, I wave to Marwa. Her face breaks out into a smile as quickly as she sees me. She waves again, earlier than motioning to her cellphone. My very own cellphone vibrates with a textual content.
Marwa: “Meet me by the bogs in two minutes.”
“Ammu, I…must pee,” I say.
“You couldn’t have gone earlier than we got here right here?” Ammu says with a sigh. “Okay, go.” She waves me off. However simply as I’m leaving, I discover that she’s already making an attempt to push her bowl of payesh on our Bangladeshi neighbours. Not that the payesh wants a lot pushing. It will not be the recipe descended from the Mughals — however it’s nonetheless fairly rattling good.
“You’re late!” Marwa says as quickly as I’m in her earshot. She pulls me to the little nook simply by the bogs — virtually fully out of sight.
“Ammu needed to speak to method too many individuals after the Eid prayers,” I say. “I attempted to cease her, however you already know what she’s like.”
“Cussed,” Marwa mumbles below her breath. We each know all too effectively about that. “Did she carry the payesh?”
“Wouldn’t it be an Eid occasion with out it?”
She smiles, though I can inform her coronary heart’s not fairly in it. Identical to me, she’s nervous in regards to the plan. About how each our moms will react — after declaring one another enemies years in the past and refusing to even be in the identical room collectively. All due to a dessert recipe.
“What if this doesn’t work?” Marwa asks the query that we’re each excited about. In spite of everything, convincing each of our mothers to carry their payesh to the identical Eid occasion so that individuals can style them each and present our moms the way it doesn’t matter who has the household recipe or not, looks like a good suggestion — in idea. In execution, it has method too many probabilities of falling aside. There are such a lot of elements that Marwa and I simply can’t management.
However after months and months of making an attempt to provide you with some option to get our mothers to reconcile, this was all we got here up with. As soon as upon a time, our mothers had been so shut that they named their two daughters — born inside months of one another — after the 2 hills in Mecca. For years, we grew up side-by-side, like sisters greater than cousins. Till our dad and mom determined they’d damage all that. Over a dessert that non-Bengalis assume is so simple as rice pudding.
“It has to work,” I say, with extra conviction than I’m feeling. Marwa nods in settlement.
“Was she suspicious?” I ask.
“Not even slightly bit. As soon as I satisfied her that Khala had gone again to Bangladesh to have fun Eid and that she had the prospect to showcase her payesh recipe, it was simple. She needed to get right here early to scope out one of the best spot for her payesh,” Marwa says, rolling her eyes, however I smile. As a result of that’s precisely the form of factor Ammu would do too. The 2 of them are so alike — and that’s precisely why this feud has saved up for therefore lengthy.
“Even when this doesn’t work,” I say slowly after a second. “We’re not going again to being buddies in secret.” It’s been too many months of secret cellphone conversations and textual content messages. Too many days the place I’ve lied to Ammu about assembly a buddy from faculty, simply so I can see my cousin. When earlier than, it was sleepovers each week and seeing one another on daily basis. A friendship that appeared boundless.
“We’re sufficiently old to struggle them again on it,” Marwa says, not sounding satisfied in any respect. Bangladeshis don’t speak again to their dad and mom…however ours are being ridiculous. They’ve been for too lengthy now.
So, I gave a decided nod, and the 2 of us step away from our nook, and again to the principle room in the neighborhood centre. The place all hell broke unfastened.
In the midst of the room stand our two moms — each sporting their new Eid sarees that at the moment are in disarray. They’re in the midst of a screaming match, both unaware — or uncaring — that everyone within the room, round them, is watching them with large eyes. That is undoubtedly going to be the gossip subject of the yr, doing the rounds on all of the ‘Auntie/Uncle’ WhatsApp and Fb teams.
“Ammu!” Marwa calls dashing as much as her mother, whereas I make my method over to mine. “Cease! All people’s watching!”
“You advised me that she wasn’t going to be right here. You lied!” Khala says, sending such a strong glare towards Ammu that I’m shocked she doesn’t wither away.
“Sure,” Marwa says, though I’m shaking my head at her vigorously. “Safa and I deliberate to carry you each right here, so you could possibly see how ridiculous you’re being. Proper, Safa?”
All people’s looking at me now. Aside from Ammu, who has taken all the facility of Khala’s glare and turned it in direction of me.
I shift uncomfortably from foot to foot for a second earlier than slowly nodding my head. “Sure…Marwa and I deliberate it. You each introduced your payesh, you may see the way it doesn’t matter. Persons are going to like each of them. They’re…”
“You introduced payesh?” Ammu’s voice is a whisper, however someway it appears to envelop the entire room.
“In fact, I introduced my payesh,” Khala says, propping her chin up defiantly.
Ammu turns to the desk the place all of the snacks and desserts introduced in by numerous persons are laid out. There’s a bowl of chotpoti, plates of shingara and shomucha, packing containers of roshogolla and kalojam. However proper on the sting is a dish stuffed with payesh that’s undoubtedly not ours.
“Ammu, no…” however I’m too late. Earlier than I do know it, Ammu is striding in direction of the payesh quicker than she’s ever walked earlier than. She grabs maintain of the dish, and it’s virtually like the whole room is collectively holding its breath.
She glances over at Khala, however there’s no depraved grin on her lips, no evil glint in her eyes. She virtually appears to be like…unhappy.
“It’s best to have given me the recipe,” she says, her voice so low it’s a shock we hear her. “I deserved it as a lot as you probably did.”
Khala frowns, stepping slightly nearer to Ammu. “I ought to have given it to you?” she asks. “You’re the one who saved it from me.”
“What are you speaking about?” Ammu asks. “Ma advised me that she gave you the recipe years in the past. And after she handed, I requested you for it. You mentioned you wouldn’t give it to me.”
“I mentioned I couldn’t give it to you!” Khala cries. “Since you had been rubbing it in my face. You had been the one Ma gave it to. She advised me so.”
“Wait!” I exclaimed, stepping ahead. Usually, I’d by no means increase my voice like that to Ammu, however this undoubtedly doesn’t depend as a standard scenario. “You imply neither of you ever had the recipe?”
“She did!” Ammu and Khala say on the similar time.
“Nanu lied to you each!” Marwa chimes in.
“Why would she lie?” Ammu asks.
“Why would I lie?” Khala asks. “And why would I maintain the recipe from you?”
Marwa and I alternate a look. All of those years, our mothers had been preventing a feud that they shouldn’t have been. However Ammu is correct. What purpose would my grandmother have for mendacity to them each? For pitting them in opposition to one another?
“Do you assume Nanu misplaced it?” Marwa asks. “Or…possibly that the payesh recipe descended from the Mughals is only a story.”
“It’s not only a story,” Ammu protests, shaking her head stubbornly. “The Jahangirs are descended from the Mughals.”
“However did the Mughals make payesh, and even eat payesh?” I ask.
“I don’t bear in mind seeing any payesh in Jodha Akbar,” says Marwa, like a Bollywood film is one of the best factual reference for our household historical past.
“In the event you by no means had the payesh recipe…what is that this?” Ammu asks, glancing down on the bowl she’s holding.
“It’s my very own payesh recipe…I made it in reminiscence of the one which Ma made.”
“I made mine in reminiscence of the one which Ma made too,” Ammu says softly. “However…I don’t perceive.” She shakes her head, glancing down on the floor like that may have all her solutions. “Why did Ma misinform us? Why would she misinform us?”
Khala’s eyebrows scrunch up like she’s deep in thought. However for only a second. “Do you bear in mind after we had been youngsters?” she requested slowly. “And our Nanu used to make the payesh, earlier than Ma ever did?”
“I bear in mind,” Ammu says with a nod.
“After I used to consider Nanu, I used to consider the scent of cinnamon,” Khala says. “As a result of…”
“That’s what her payesh used to scent like,” Ammu finishes off, glancing as much as meet Khala’s eyes. “However Ma by no means put cinnamon in her recipe.”
I’m unsure what transpires between them in that second, however it’s like all of the years of enmity that didn’t have to exist vanishes identical to that.
“So there was no payesh recipe?” Marwa asks, glancing between our two mothers, trying slightly distraught. I can’t blame her. To assume that we’ve constructed our total household identification round this and our delight for this well-known payesh recipe that goes again generations.
“Possibly as soon as upon a time,” Khala says. “However…I don’t know when it bought misplaced. Possibly it was our Nanu who misplaced the unique recipe.”
“Or…possibly it was Ma,” Ammu says. “And that’s why she lied to us.”
“I don’t assume we’ll ever know for positive,” Khala says.
“However…now we now have these two payesh recipes,” Ammu glances down on the dish nonetheless in her arms. However as a substitute of trying unhappy and even offended, she appears to be like pleased. Happier than I’d seen her in a very long time. “Do you need to commerce our recipes?”
“Sure!” Khala exclaims excitedly.
And I watch as Ammu and Khala saunter off arm-in-arm to have fun Eid, make amends for their misplaced years and — most significantly — commerce their payesh recipes.
“I can’t imagine our plan labored!” Marwa says, coming as much as me with a glint in her eyes.
“Our plan didn’t work,” I level out. “Our plan didn’t even begin earlier than Ammu and Khala began going at one another’s throats.”
“Yeah, however…they’d have by no means had that dialog if we hadn’t tricked them into the identical room, proper?” Marwa shrugs her shoulder.
“I suppose. I believe we are able to take credit score for this. We’ve earned it.” It undoubtedly looks like our victory watching Ammu and Khala speak and laughs, as if these two years of separation by no means even existed.
Marwa grins and loops her arms by means of mine. “Lets attempt a few of the well-known non-Mughal payesh?” she asks.
“We should always, particularly now that we now have two recipes within the household.” And as we get lost to replenish on the tastiest dessert on this planet, I take into consideration how Ammu’s payesh story is unquestionably going to be so much longer subsequent yr.
Art work by Aisha Shahid