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Manipuri Fish Curry In South Delhi’s Sikkim

Manipuri Fish Curry In South Delhi’s Sikkim

friends sharing time together

“The hushed phone call asked me to come down fast, or else the COVID cops would catch her. She had a box full of Manipuri fish curry for me… and that is how we northeast girls share ‘home’ fun!”

A newly married couple makes a vow to each other, “In the name of God, I take you as my wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, in sickness and health, to love and cherish you” and so on….”

friends spending time togetherWe the gals from the northeast make similar but silent, unspoken promises to our friends that we have made here in Delhi, “I will be there for you; in your sickness and health, to laugh and to cry, to eat and roam around with you, to crack jokes and even provoke you…  but I will fight if out someone other than me does that to you, dear…”

Now, now, you’d think it to be a spot too fishy if I just served you up with a Manipuri fish gift to a Sikkimese woman.

The initial three months of lockdown was tough even for the bravest one of us.

One by one, we all witnessed,even the most resolute ones, crumbling down as it got way too difficult to adapt to the’ new normal’.

“Hey Sashi… you there?”

“Guys, I will seriously die if I have to keep eating my own hand- cooked food. I am perpetually cooking in the kitchen and I am no longer finding any taste in my food.

“My appetite seems to have really gone down and it worries me.”

I typed this in our group chat that comprises girls from different states of the northeast.

“Hey Sashi… you there?”

Friendships which have spanned over a decade now, and in such cases, formalities don’t bother us anymore and we can get as real as we want to.

I think the foodie side of me had started getting cranky, and the lockdown was playing havoc on my mind and to many people like me, residing alone.

“Hey Sashi… you there?”

Next day, I get a call from my friend Pooja, asking me to come below my building.

“Hey Sashi… you there? Come down fast!”

She was standing there, her face partially concealed by a scarf and mask covering from chin up till it reached the eyes, almost.

Before I could say anything, placing a bag on my hand, she scurried off, telling me in a muffled voice:“I just came to give you this. I have to go back;or else the cops will catch me.”

When I reached back to my room, I opened the bag – it had a big tiffin box that gave me a delicious Manipuri-style fish curry.

There was another tiny plastic container that had chutney made with fermented soybean and raja mirch (or the Bhut Jhalokha, (the hottest chilly in the world, going by the Guinness Book).

I wanted to cry out of sheer delight and the gratitude for being blessed with such a friend.

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The next day, I got a tiffin box from another friend who had baked a cake, followed by different items coming each day from each one of them, until I had to tell them to stop it and I had to try really hard to convince them I am okay now.

Every time when I leave home in Sikkim to come back here to Delhi, my mom repeats the same piece of advice: “Be good to your friends. And stick together. Help each other out.”

Now what matters is one Manipuri friend calling up a Sikkimese woman like me suddenly, and telling me she has a lunch-box full of Manipuri fish curry, so could I please quickly come down from my third floor apartment and take it, before the cops catch her?

When she packs snacks and food to take it with me, she again says the same thing: “Share these with your friends. Make sure you give it to them too.”

And suddenly, she changes her mind, not trusting my lust for home food,,and she starts making separate packets, labelling them, murmuring to herself, “This is for Hema, umm this for Pooja, and this namkeem for Reema… she loves namkeens…”

Once I reach here in Delhi, I quickly message them all, not trusting my own avarice: “I’ve got some home food for you guys. If you don’t pick it up in next two days- I will not be held responsible if they disappear!”

Of course, they rush to pick their packets the same day!

In ‘normal’ weekends, before all this damned  COVID-19, if you ever happened to visit Safdarjung Enclave or pass by the different alleys of Humayunpur, Arjun Nagar or surroundings, you would have heard the sound of guitar, people singing, dancing, and of joyous laughter coming out from different buildings.

Now what matters is one Manipuri friend calling up a Sikkimese woman like me suddenly, and telling me she has a lunch-box full of Manipuri fish curry, so could I please quickly come down from my third floor apartment and take it, before the cops catch her?

That’s northeast women in South West Delhi!

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