'Two of Us' is a series on our blog that features the stories of two colleagues or friends (or, in this case, brothers!) at Assam Bengal Navigation and their journeys.
The second post in this series is about the relationship between Gautam, Head Chef - Diphlu River Lodge, and his brother, Bidhan, Head Chef - ABN Rajmahal.
GAUTAM ON BIDHAN
A video from Gautam on his journey from trainee to head chef
BIDHAN ON GAUTAM
Bidhan doing a cooking demo on food carving with ABN Rajmahal guests (spot the kangaroo?)
My brother, Gautam, and I belong to a village called Dhariketi near the Jia-Bhoreli river in the vicinity of Nameri National Park. We are from the Mishing tribe, an indigenous community in Assam known for our weaving prowess and our bamboo homes on stilts. (Incidentally, the architecture of Diphlu River Lodge's cottages is inspired by Mishing huts – a functional design created specifically to withstand the annual flooding of the river beside the Lodge).
When we were young, neither of us even dreamed that we would both become cooks, let alone chefs at a hospitality group where we have to cater to the palettes of so many different guests from around the world! The most we'd gotten close to the cooking stove as kids was when our parents were out farming during the day and had asked to fend for ourselves. I'd assist my elder brother, Gautaum, in the kitchen and make khichdi – a classic Indian one-pot lentil, rice and boiled vegetables dish – and fried potatoes speckled with poppy seeds. When our parents would come back home for a long day in the fields, we'd watch with glee as they finished every morsel of food on their plates. Their satisfied faces and compliments on our joint cooking efforts must have sparked something in the back of our minds, only later to be realised into professions for both Gautaum and I.
For a long time, my dream was to become a teacher but that didn't end up being in the cards for me. Gautam – who was already working at Assam Bengal Navigation by then – asked me to come in and speak to Mr. Manorishi Gupta (our former GM of ABN cruises) about a job. Sure enough, I found my calling in cooking at the ABN kitchen, starting off as a trainee under Gautam for two years before we parted ways to both later on lead kitchens – Gautam at Diphlu River Lodge, and me at ABN Rajmahal.
Though we no longer work together, my brother and I communicate regularly, and help each other learn new tips and tricks in cooking. I am away for most of the year in West Bengal preparing Indian, regional Bengali and Continental cuisines for our international guests on the Ganges river cruises, whereas Gautam is just 2 hours away our home village at Diphlu River Lodge, rustling up Indian, Assamese, Continental and tribal Mishing cuisines for wildlife enthusiasts who come to stay at the Lodge. When we do see each other during the off-season in our village of Dhariketi, it's always a sweet reunion.
I'm really proud of the lives that Gautam and I have been able to build for ourselves. Cooking is generally not viewed as a viable profession by us in the Mishing tribe, so when we first joined as kitchen trainees, we certainly never imagined that this is where we'd be today – with our own houses, cars and modern amenities that we never even saw with our two eyes as kids. I wish my brother nothing but the best and look forward to continuing this journey with him.
The interview with Bidhan was translated from Assamese into English, and paraphrased for clarity.