"Feast: With a Taste of Amir Khusro" | With love, from Pakistani cuisine
It is said that ‘the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,’ and the same applies to women as well! Food being the ingredient which unifies everything in life, without it, life is like a curry without salt. Likewise, Bisma Tirmizi in her novel ‘Feast- With a taste of Amir Khusro’, has portrayed the tales of a thirteen-year-old girl Ayesha’s cogitative journey through her eternal love for regional food.
“The tide is low, it is the end of November and the sea is pushed way back, the waves roll at a distance. The sun hides behind a stubborn cloud and I yell ‘Move Cloud’ and to my chagrin, the sun intervenes and say, no need to look out for me child, I look after myself, much like you. No one can stop me from shinning, no one can stop my light” – an extract from the second chapter reveals a deep conversation between the dreamy protagonist the sun. The novel traces the bond between authentic cuisines, traditions, and the memories of Ayesha which happens to surpass culinary romance and venture into a philosophical panorama of life.
In ‘Feast: With a Taste of Amir Khusro’, the protagonist has compared her life to Dum Biryani, Fried palla fish, Namkeen ghost and her never-ending list of foods which inspired her; and with each passing day, her philosophical desire for culinary romance develop onto the next level. Sandwiched between two brothers, the protagonist relishes the life in Karachi with her parents and Dadi, who refers to her obeseness as ‘baby fat.’ The novel comprises the fascinating journey of Ayesha and her universal love for food lacing up with some authentic mouth-watering recipes of Murgh Mussallam and Roghan Josh, that have been carried out by generations since the time of the Mughals. It also recounts the different places and their magnum opus, embracing the paragon of culture and tradition in Pakistan. “The massive cemetery is dotted with shrines, tombs, and the scenic path is a treasure trove of ancient historic handiwork... It is a perfect union of Persian and Arab influence and the traditions of the Indus-Aryan Sanatan Dharma. The confluence is depicted in much of the craftwork here,” describes Ayesha on her visit to a cemetery in Sindh.
Apart from the cultural philosophy, the author has outlined the morals of our society towards an individual through the novel where an obese food lover is forced to think of shedding the extra kilos from her body to get into perfect shape. “What changed in my relationship with myself, my family and society that made me want to find under layers of flesh? So many questions but not enough answers, some were simple where some were not.” “I have never heard food and its relationship with people being so described. It makes our relationship with each other, and particularly with those, we love, almost tangible and alive. Should I go to Italy on a food tour or just in Pakistan and understand my relationship with food through the people that surrounds me?”
As time passes, Ayesha meets Faiz and soon wedding bells start to ring for them. “Each song was more romantic than the last... But my forever favourite wedding song was the bittersweet ‘Ambwa Tale’ by Amir Khusro. It’s a centuries-old ballad laced in the welcome of the bridal palanquin, set under the shade of the large mango tree in the porch of the bride’s father’s home.”
One of the most heart-warming poetry the author has penned in the novel has given below:
Some call it kismet, some call it fate,
Some call it Samsara, it’s the sweetest bait,
The stories of passion are as old as time,
Feast an enchanting vessel, delightfully sublime.