When I woke up, the bus already left Kapashia a long way behind. I was looking out for the bridge over Shitolokkha to know that I’m at my destination. It took me another half an hour of searching Google Maps to realize I’m way past my destination. I thought I should panic but strangely I didn’t. It was afternoon and the bus was running through the villages of outer rim of Gazipur district. Everything was a lush dark green. The names of the places I was passing were quite magical. Every few kilometers there is a Bazaar which usually constitutes some temporary shops, a bank, a barber shop and may be a very old tree to sit around. These are a few names: Miar Bazaar ( Mia’s Bazaar), Lata Pata Bazaar ( Shrubbery Bazaar), Bagher Bazaar (Tiger’s Bazaar). I heard the conductor say the name of the next stop, Tok Bazaar. And I decided to get down there; after all I didn’t want him find out I was 20/30 kilometers past my stop.A couple of years ago I heard of a restaurant here in Tok Bazaar. It’s specialty was it catered only traditional Bengali food. Only problem was I couldn’t remember the name.
It turned out Google maps actually had a restaurant in the vicinity and it’s called Hotel Niribili. Tok Bazaar was even smaller than the other bazaars I passed by before. It stands on a turn of the road. Big trees loom over head blocking the already small amount of sunlight that’s slanting sun was sending this way. A tea stall/ grocery shop stood on four wooden legs on one side of the road and on the other side a roof made of rusted tin stood on four bamboo; no walls. Some old man sat under a banyan tree beside that. On my inquiry they showed me a smaller dirt road that sprouted from this one and went into the village. After some walking I found the place. It was an unlikely place for a restaurant.
It is far from the maddening crowd and like its name Niribili ( নিরিবিলি: Secluded) indeed; it’s built like a traditional Bengali house complete with a yard and veranda and tin roof. The proprietor’s name is Tota Mia ( Tota: Parrot, Mia is a common last name or family title). According to the signboard in front it’s been here for 30 years. So why someone in 1986 decided to open a restaurant here in a place which even now considered backward. Back then there wasn’t any highway splitting the National Forest Reserve and this place must have been basically a jungle. I didn’t ask him. Not only because I was hungry but also because I like some questions to remain questions.
Their specialty was Varta(ভর্তা). It is a Bengali starter item made of mashed items i.e. Potato, Dried fish, Beans, Tomato, Papaya etc. You boil your veges then mix it with spice, onion and occasionally a bit of Mustard oil and then eat it with plain steamed rice.( Interestingly, when you type ভর্তা in Google Translate it says it means Bed Fellow in english) It is a starter in a full course traditional meal but most common folks who can not afford such thing eat only this mixing it with a bowl of rice. There were 22 different varta’s on one plate. Another plate had 22 vegetarian items which were mostly what we call Vaaji( ভাঁজি). Slightly fried vegetables. There were two more plates. One with sliced lemons and whole green chili peppers, another with a Chutney of dried Jujube; two staples of traditional Bengali cuisine. Later came Dal. A thick soup of a type of lentil locally known as Mashkalai.
Mr. Parrot was talking all along. Asking me all sorts of questions. According to him this place isn’t as insignificant as it looked. Mughal Subhadar’s used to come here. There was apparently a fort by the Egaroshindu river which was an important Mughal outpost back in the days and nearby there was a mosque called Gaebi Masjid ( গায়েবি মসজিদ: Vanishing Mosque) in which Djinns come for prayer every now and then . I ate my steamed white rice and varta and watched the twilight of dusk settle among the bamboo garden, listening to the chirping of crickets and tales of Islam Khan, the Mughal Subhadar and Vanishing mosque of Djinns. My fingers mixed rice with mashed vegetables and occasionally squeezed some lemon juice among them while the tongue tasted various degrees of spicy. When finally I reached the end of my late luncheon Tota Mia brought out a plate of Paesh. A dessert of rice and milk. And thus it was time to return.