Missing Ma’s Macher Jhol: Stuck In The Lockdown, Indian Artist Reimagines Her Favourite Food Memory

Missing Ma’s Macher Jhol: Stuck In The Lockdown, Indian Artist Reimagines Her Favourite Food Memory
Sukanya Paul's 'Macher Jhol'

Do you remember the taste of your childhood? That one dish that your favourite elder used to make for you and used to feed you with so much love? The smell, the taste, the feel, the way it was broken into little, tiny pieces for you. Every day, upon coming back from school, my mother used to get two little plates for my sister and I, used to put a little bit of rice, dal, okra(or some other vegetable), and sattu ka chokha. Having made tiny rice balls, she used to tell us the story of a tiny sparrow she used to call Chunchun Chiriya. In some stories, Chunchun used to be fed by her mother, in some others, she would insist on flying alone before she was ready. Mesmerised in the stories, before we would even realise, we would have finished our lunch. I still remember how my mother’s hands used to look as she put the rice balls in my mouth and how she used to clean my sister’s tiny mouth with one little stroke of her flattened palm. Thanks to all her fiddlestickery whilst eating, she always seemed to have some food around her little mouth!

“Macher Jhol (Bengali fish curry) reminds me of childhood days. As a kid, it was quite difficult to eat fish by my self, so my mum used to break it into small pieces and feed it to me. Fish is one of the staples of a Bengali household, so it was on the plate quite often. Filled with ludicrous dramatic machinations, I used to give my poor mother a hard time as she used to try to feed me. My mum then used to tell me stories about how eating fish would make me more intelligent and creative... I don’t know if all that was true or scientifically-backed, but coming from my mother—the only person in the world who seemed to be all-knowing, the most perfect person I knew—I believed in her and in the magic of the Macher Jhol. I ended up eating it every single day before going to school,” says 27-year-old animator and artist Sukanya Paul.

Born and brought up in Calcutta, Sukanya is now finding herself all on her own in Mumbai, quarantined away from her family, missing her mother, and her Macher Jhol. In order to honour the memory of her mother and her beloved childhood companion, her delicious Macher Jhol, she went on to illustrate the Macher Jhol out of her imagination. What turned out was this spectacular rendition of Bengal’s staple meal.

Sukanya Paul's 'Macher Jhol'

Says Sukanya about her artwork, “It’s an experiment to co-relate the similarity between painting an art-piece to that of cooking a dish. Macher Jhol only acquires the right flavour and colour upon being cooked gradually, and in order to re-create the same, I put all the elements slowly and gradually which eventually helped enhance the quality of my art. I am an animator, and doing art is the only thing that keeps me going even through hard times. This is why, I tried to use my imagination to find the joy of making the Macher Jhol through painting it.”

Upon being asked more about her style, she said, “the colours and the diversity that I come across on the street of India everyday inspires me the most. I try to portray the same richness and the vibrancy through my art. I believe that there are so many stories of so many people that can be told using art as a medium. You might find a lot of visuals in my work that can be called magical or surreal. It’s because I tell my stories from the point of view of a woman and how her everyday urban stories are, if not as much, at least equally magical and interesting as any epic or fairytale. Over the last few years, my friends and faculty from the National Institute of Design have also inspired my art to a large extent, my mother’s Macher Jhol being an example.”

We also made Sukanya answer our Quick-5 trivia, ‘coz why not! Here’s what we got.

Indian contemporaries of yours whose work you admire: @nargis_studio

Your favourite piece of work of your own: Metamorphosis, which was made in 2017 when my life was going to a major transformation

Track you’re currently listening to: Otherside, Red Hot Chilli Peppers

Favourite midnight munchies: Khari and chai at night

Your greatest vice: Sometimes I sleep for more than 12 to 14 hours a day.

You can view more of Sukanya’s art on Instagram here.

Find her Behance profile here.

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