The original Bengali book Randhen Sanket (literally translated ‘Cooking Instructions’) was my grandmother’s wedding gift to all her female relations. My grandmother, Amala Bala Dutt was fourteen years old when she married and died at the age of ninety – during her life-time there were many girls who married and she would dip into her rapidly diminishing pile of this cook-book till it became a family joke. She was very proud of this book. Because her aunt had written it.
Amala Bala and her aunt belonged to one of those illustrious Bengali landed gentry that one reads about today. I have myself visited their ‘country seat’ just once. My grandmother had insisted on rounding up her grandchildren, over-riding the objections of our parents, and whisked us through miles of monsoon mist and swampy lands to reach this palatial building that stood on the banks of one of the swollen tributaries of the Hooghly river.