Sunday, August 30, 2009

Delicacies from Purbo Bongo

I have been following quite a few food blogs off late. and am quite amazed at the kind of publicity that bengali cuisine gets on the world wide web with a very decent fan following (and that includes a tam iyer friend of mine who is just ga ga over chingri :P). But I do have an objection about the fact that whatever is being publicised as authentic "Bengali" cuisine (and i agree its one yummy effort) more or less consist of what we bangals (people traditionally from east bengal) prefer to call as ghoti (traditional west bengal) culinary delights. Needless to say am completely ga ga over that bit of aloo-poshto.
But the Bangal maiya (Dhaka-Bikrampur) in me cannot take that lying down. I quite enjoy the fact that we are tagged as the people who have earned it (jeebonsongram as they say). This post of mine is an effort to enlist out a few of my favourite dishes which belong exclusively to the Bangal kitchen. Bangal cooking in general is dominated by its prefernce for everything spicy and hot. I guess that's were we have our outspoken origin and if a fellow rajasthani (mind it! they are known for their preference of the Laal mirch) called me a Teekhi Mirach for my now well known big mouth, I couldn't agree more.
So here I go and I begin with the mouth watering- Shutki Maach. I guess many of the Bangals also cannot fathom this foul smelling fish while its being cooked in the neighbourhood. But once done, you can gorge on to this piece of culinary magic.
One remarkable thing is that while Ilish remains the favourite of Bengalis across the ghoti-bangal divide, the fish traditionally is ours i-e, we bangals. We associate it with our favourite football club and not too long ago when a certain sourav ganguly had not changed the statistics and demography of the Kolkata maidan and the sporting scene in general, east bengal supporters used to celebrate their victory (and that includes the famous 5 goals) by sending properly cooked ilish to the houses of their friends supporting mohunbagan. (its very true! my father has done it often. needless to say it was reciprocated with chingri when mohunbagan won against their traditional rivals). Football, food and matrimony still keeps the old ghoti-bangal rivalry alive. Ask me! am a true blue calcutta girl, but when it comes to food or football, i owe my allegiance to my bangal genes. about the other I have no prefernce, only that I won't prefer eating sugar laden ghoti delicacies day in and day out. I want my share of spice ;-)
But coming back to Ilish, the bhapa variety is well known and quite savoured among my non bengali friends but there is one style of cooking the ilish known only to us. and for those diet conscious people out there who want to have it the low calorie way can definitely try it out. the kalojeerey phoron-kancha lonka recipe which my mom turns into a delicacy that every time i go back home, I want more of it. By now, you must have understood I am a big foodie. In fact, I have lately realised food is the only thing that keeps me going!
Chitol macher muithha is another Bangal favourite, though I must admit ghotis also have taken a fascination for this dish in recent years. and I trust my didun to cook it absolutely amazingly. That's one recipe I want to learn from her, because my mom also can't make it that good.
Lotey mach (Loitya or Lotiya as you prefer to call it) has immense medical value. My father alwys emphasised that its necessary for a healthy eyesight...but I fondly think about the fish because of its Jhuri and chochchori varieties which only we are aware of. I sometime so pity those friends of mine who had only the luck to taste the jhol (the syrupy variety), tyaltyaley at that. Trust a true Bangal like me to suggest that itsno match for the other two varieties and add a bit of Lonka bata (mashed red chillies, if i can put it that way), voila! you are in culinary heaven!
And then coming to the eternal Bangal favourite kochu. yeah! the kochu which ghotis (all of them included, and most of them are not snobs) twitch their nose at. My vegetarian friends often complain that bengali cuisine doesn't offer them the variety to choose from for their platter. I sincerely disagree with them. This year's bong food festival was an eye openeer for some of them. But you can trust Bangals to make a thousand mouth watering vegetarian delicacies out of this lesser vegetable (evidently as ghotis still consider it to be some zombie from outer space-their loss!! missing out on something). From the coconut laden warmth of the kochu bata to the spicy tiltilation of the kohur koura, its heaven on earth...those who have tasted it, knows. and Kochur shaak is yummyy in both its vegetarian (when cooked with coconut and nuts) and non vegetarian (ilish macher matha diye) forms.
And about the Bata(mashed) variety of anything and everything possible on earth, trust Bangals to rustle up a storm. It might be the seemingly innocent cauliflower leave (kopipata), dhoney pata or the potatao peels (aloor khosha) any bangal to turn them into one spicy hot bongshell of a dish! :P
and here i conclude the post, not because i ran out of fuel but because i am sincerely missing home cooked food now(pishimoni's cooking!!!). but dont worry, i might just be back with a part 2 because picture abhi baaki hain mere dost. the world needs to know about the sweets!
p.s. whoever visits the blog, in case you are a bong, ghoti bangal nirbisheshey, atleast leave a comment on this piece, i sincerely want your opinion on this and a ghoti bangaler juddho on my blog won't be a that bad idea after all. :P
Also, if anyone wants to add to the list, you are most welcome to do so.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


It is not only about something I pine for. It is also about something I love, I cherish. Something I perennially want to be a part of my existance. It's also not only about the people who make it special.
The smell, the corner, the solace, the book shelf dumped with my old gk today and competition success issues......all these are a part of my growing up....just like my permanent address, and I miss that South Calcutta neighbourhood where that house number is nestled in.

What do I miss most about you? I guess its Baba, his library. Ma and her new found obsession for the microwave oven and Tups! I guess she is the one I miss the most. Paku tups, puchu tups, sweetu tups :P. (Though she is going to admonish me after reading this and provide tips as to how not to address my gadhipuchi by embarrassing names in public incase i write about her something the next time around. :-))

Also, Amma. Her death mde me realise for the first time in life as to how it is to live with the feeling that the one you loved is gone......never to come back again. and trust me its eerie! miss you amma, miss having those quarrels with you.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Reflectively random

Warning: This post is about nothing in particular

It has been a year since I have been propounded the insensitive, cold, manipulative mannequin and I am at peace with it. It took time, but I fought the battle alone. Yeah! alone. My mom still ponders how come I was never my lachrymose self in this matter. But truth be told, I have become great friends with my mom and sister after the incident. May be what we try to describe as best friends. And it also calmed down a brash side of me. None, and I repeat, none is your friend in this world apart from your immediate family. I have learnt it the hard way round. There may be acquaintances and better acquaintances but nobody is your friend. And the F.R.I.E.N.D.S tune reminds me that it was just a great television show, one I would like to watch over and over again. Betrayals became a part of my vocabulary a few weeks later since this day a year ago, when I got to know the whole story and it was scripted by none other than a person I trusted my life with. Do I sound bitter or pessimistic? No dear, am just being very very practical. And I still trust people. I am a born optimist. That’s one trait in me even my worst critic would like to envy about. I am happy about the fact that it was a great birthday gift for someone. Someone I had a hunch about, I wish I was never there in the picture. The situation could have been a tad less murkier.

Optimism keeps me waiting for the elusive one. The ideal man you see. Yes! I still believe in Yash chopra romances. Facebook says it might just be a cancerian or a virgo and years ago the smuggled Linda Goodman in a boring maths class in school agrees with the prediction.

But the day holds more significance for me rather than being just a day of mud slinging match……when the Court ordered the end of ceremonial celebrations, I agreed. I remember I was merely a law aspirant then, dreaming of getting into one of the top three national law schools. And today after spending almost three and a half years in NALSAR I imagine myself being a loner. I feel detached. Single rooms kill you, literally. I was very excited about getting one. But I hate this cold, lifeless hostel.

Do I live life in pockets? May be. All of us do. Right now I seek solace in reading another suchitra bhattacharya creation or planning about submitting my SOP for the long awaited campus magazine. I don’t know if it’s an alternative to the blog that was initially planned but this definitely sounds better, sounds serious businessJ. But coming back to the celebrations, I think I still quite like the idea of a birthday! It’s just another way of celebrating the spirit of a city which has been called “Tillotoma” by some or “Mumursho Nogori” (the dead city) by some or the “city of joy” in the eyes of a visitor to the city. It is this balancing of divergent opinions that keeps the city going. Happy Birthday Calcutta! Just like you have no beginning, the end never dawns on you. Even after so many hiccups- lack of indutrialisation, the naxalabari andolan, pathetic work culture, lack of political will, intra country brain drain to places like Hyderabad or Bengalooru-blah, blah, blah……people had condemned death for the city long ago. Surprisingly you still survive. And how! The “rock” or “royaks” of North Calcutta might have died a silent death but the adda lives on and so does our argumentative tradition. Umm! The place might just be an ashtami gathering of old friends in Maddox or the wine festival in the city.

And when social historians marked the turbulent 70’s as the beginning of decline of the city, we shouted discrimination during the times of partition (its still the hot potato). time and again Calcutta and Calcuttan’s sentimental outbursts or its fascination for everything old has been earmarked as causes for its stagnation. But that’s what gives the city a character of its own, completely different from others. This is the city which makes you feel home. And that holds true for the steel tycoon who still calls himself a Calcutta boy. His namesake in Burrabazar agrees, so does the inhabitants of Bow Barracks or the people who feed Calcuttans the yummiest of Chinese. Who told Calcutta is not open to anything new or cosmopolitan! Eons ago a Calcuttan showed the world through his cinematic trilogy that life was a melodious song on the road to eternity. And unlike a recent Oscar winning production it didn’t sell third world poverty. (even I have contrary opinions on that) :-)

(Talking about anything old and rotten, our national politics can still feel the stench of a certain incident in history called Partition, Jaswant Singh and Jinnah..and Advani a few years back….does that a ring a bell!)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Afternoon bliss

This Monday afternoon got lazier than the weekend. Classes got over around 2…came back to my room, with mythili’s copy of the latest outlook in the bag. Truly speaking that was my sole reason behind skipping Dhanda’s talk. Well I had a date with Amartya Sen..and boy! I was bowled over..all over again. He keeps the argumentative tradition in us alive and kicking (sigh! I now so wish I had gone for the talk-AD! How much I respect+fear+idolize her). Coming back to Sen’s interview...I think he still remains the very much essential Bengali gentleman…now I know, my friends reading this post will shout at me for my fascination of everything bong, or linking up anything remotely close to my heart as being bong (yesh! I was the one who commented on the Bengali food festival day as – "being bong is a state of mind!" :P). but then again for me or for anybody who thinks like me he is the true essential bangali bhodrolok. Well you need proof- when right wing fundamentalists cried foul over his naming Ashoka and Akbar as the two most influential Indian thinkers/ emperors along with Buddha, for none of them being hindu he reminded me of my hero (cheesy I know) the most non-biased cricket captain India has ever seen. (Well WADA do tie them together now!)

Also, Sen Represents the changing Bengali-the thinking Bengali who prefers his/her daily dose of macher jhol along with the weekly pasta treats or may be a zinger at kfc. Traditionally a left leaning thinker (oh yes! he has been accorded the status of “one of the most influential public thinkers of our time” by Observer and the cover of his new book proclaims it in bold) he comes out in open with his contrary opinion on the Left’s stand on the Indo-US nuke deal or the constant stench of anti American stance in every sphere which marks left politics in India. He agrees to the past but understands the present demands a much more nuanced understanding of the issue. (AD influence again) However that was completely my take on his views. Though I agree Rahul Gandhi will definitely be a very good PM, succeeding a very successful one (Singh is king!). apart from all the qualities that Sen observed about the "most eligible bachelor" around in India, his dimples are too cute to be true!

Also read the review of his new book and needless to say his takes on Niti and Nyay, Rawls and Dworkin makes it one hell of an interesting proposition for a law student to read. Waiting desparately for my next month’s pocket money, or knowing Baba he might just decide to gift it to me :P.

And what do you think could have been an even better end to the afternoon- well may be reading a Shirshedu Mukhopadhyay choto golpo. I know I know, some of you are already cursing me, but this afternoon was completely out of the blue! And right now I can see a patch just outside my window. J

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


It has been there with me for quite some time now. and the realisation was not completely sudden. yes. i guess that's what being in a pan indian set up does to you. I do think in english these days, apart from bangla. actually, in both. and I guess am happy for that. just that the innocence with which the first blush of happiness or venegeance rushed into my veins seem to be too mechanised these days. "kejo bhasha" you see. but then again for a person who has always detested the monolingual way of expressing oneself, that's something i should be happy about. :-)

Monday, August 3, 2009


Boddo obohelay sajano ek raash bhalolagar majhe tumi khanik ta ujjol
khanikta niyommafik, khanikta dishehara, khanikta paglamo
ar purotayi kuashachonno.

Oti porichito amar ei dokkhin kolkatar goli, chena jana phuchkawala
tution ferot suchitra bhattacharya r hatchani wala ranga molat
shororter ager sesh borshar majhe rasta ghire fela basher gondho.
ballygunge er school ferot uchu flat baritar opor theke dekha akash ta.
ey soberi modhye kothau hariye chile tumi
ageo dekhechi onek baar
fyakashey hoye jawa schoolbag er araley, golpark er anach ey kanach ey
gariahat ey dordaam kore kena onek gulo kanerdool- pashapashi kothau jano tomar gondho
sei chena ochena pujor gondho makha, brishti bheja bash er moto

Hothat shoroter rod makha saptamir sokaler moto.

ochena theko, osposhto theko, bhalo theko.

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