Foodie and TV presenter Bikramjit Ray understands communities, their food and their women as he travels the country looking for food… and a bride
On Fat Man and 13 Brides Bikramjit Ray is looking for a good recipe, and a woman to take for a wife, “Simply because every good recipe has a great story. I met a girl in Chennai and there I ate vatha kulambu, it is made with tamarind and…” and Bikramjit goes on to explain the vatha kolambu and the prominent connection it had with Sivaji Ganesan. “It’s all about being contextual. When I eat food, I always look for a story.”
And going by his size, Ray has an epic to narrate, which goes back to his sepia-tinted babyhood. “I used to have two bottles of milk per feed. And I started cooking when I was four years old. I would stand on a stool so I could reach the kitchen counter.”
Cut to college where Ray was the only boy among the 36 girls in his class and it seems to have left him scarred and scared of romance. “I try very hard with the ladies… but a dish will never bite back,” he says cheekily before he continues, “Don’t be fooled by the size. I am actually a very meek person and somewhere I think that Bengali women are the secret of my bachelorhood,” says Ray, who, on the show, is trying to find someone who will put up with him.
Ray lays on the charm with skilful one-liners and deft repartee, and you wonder why he would need a television show to find a wife.
But while chatting about food is first nature to him, he is petrified of romance and women. It was a friend who suggested they find him a wife through a television show that allowed Ray to bring his food and his fear to see eye to eye. “Television is obnoxious, it has a very unreal quality about it and is easily swayed by the market. Marriage is such a personal matter, but on the show I am going to communities and trying to find a recipe I can take home with me,” he laughs at his joke before he adds, “And a wife.”
Food brings and bonds people together, and comes with all the cultural, social and religious connotations that it stands for. Ray has always known his passion and now he wants to explore it with the subtext of marriage.
“Marriage is such an intimidating thing in this country — it is unique how you can meet someone twice and then marry them. My parents are both gone and that is one of the reasons I am doing this show — may be not because I am worried about embarrassing them, but not to get their hopes up”.
Ray needs a wife who can enjoy food and has an open mind, “She need not know how to cook,” he emphasises, “I love cooking and had a close shave with the profession when I joined catering college and then I quit because it was too much work,” he says. In the worst-case-scenario he will just find himself a bawarchi. “My mum never cooked. We had bawarchis, but as a family we loved food, and to eat. We would finish breakfast and talk about lunch, finish lunch and talk about tea, finish tea and talk about dinner.”
And has he found a wife yet? He is shy, as he tells me about a Kodava girl he is to meet in Bangalore. Ray likes his coffee, filter and his women, south Indian. “I love southern women, they are more vociferous and strong, more beautiful and more confident,” he concludes.
Fat Man and 13 Brides will air on NDTV Good Times every Saturday at 8.30 p.m.