Category Archives: Bengal

Mouth-Watering Quick Baked Fish Recipe

By Ankit Chandra

I have been trying a new baked fish recipe recently, courtesy Anjali. It’s very easy to make and tastes awesome !! As for the name, let’s call it “Fraud Mallu Fish”.

So here are the ingredients you need:

Fish : We use Salmon fillets
Thyme : around 2 tbsp
Basil : 2 tbsp
Garlic powder
Try Maggi Masala powder: half of the packet
Olive Oil
Balsamic vinegar
cooking red wine

Steps:
1. Pre heat oven to 400 degrees
2. Get a piece of whole fish fillet. You can cut it into smaller pieces if you want, we make it as one piece. If you are using the fish as a whole, poke it with a fork to create holes through which oil etc. will seep in.
3. sprinkle the Thyme, Garlic powder and Basil on the top of the fish, use enough quantity to cover the entire fish well.
4. Mix Balsamic vinegar, cooking red wine and Olive oil in a small cup and pour evenly over the fish. The herbs and spices used in step 3 will help hold the liquid on top of the fish.
5. Bake the fish for about 15-20 mins, testing for whether it has cooked or not.
6. Once cooked, sprinkle Maggi masala on top of it and enjoy.

This is healthy and tasty and takes only 25 odd mins to make !!

A Day Dedicated to Sons-in-law (Jamai Shoshthi)

Sampurna Majumder takes a sneak-peek into another custom of Bengal – Jamai Shoshthi!

jamai-sasthi

All of us celebrate Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and so many other ‘days’. How about a day dedicated to the ‘Son-in-law’? Well, it might come as a surprise, but yes there is a day, dedicated to the well-being of sons-in-law. However, this is peculiar to the land of Bengal.

The land of Bengal, (both West Bengal in India and Bangladesh) celebrates numerous festivals throughout the year. From Poush Parbon and Makar Sankranti in January to Borodin (Christmas) – it’s all about celebrating life.

Celebrated either in the months of May or June (depending upon the Bengali Calendar), Jamai Shosthi is all about strengthening the bond between jamais (sons-in-law) and their soshur bari (in-laws). The daughter, along with her husband (the son-in-law), arrives at her paternal home and the occasion in celebrated over a grand feast after completing certain rituals.

It begins with greeting the jamai with a phota of curd and a brush of a haatpakha (fan) and tying a thread across his wrist.

Jamai Shasthi Indian CeremonyElaborate meals form an essential part of the occasion – luchi, kosha mangsho (mutton curry), ilish maachh (hilsa) and bhaat (rice) and, of course, mishti (sweets).

And of course the jamai arrives with bhaar of rosogolla. So, all the jamais, what are you waiting for? Grab a bhaar and board the first train to your soshur bari to celebrate “Jamais Day”.

In Pictures: Calcutta’s Fading Trams

Kushal Sakunia profiles the fading Tram services of Calcutta (now Kolkata) in this memoir

Pic 1

Kolkata is the only city in India that still has trams. This year, the city’s tram service is celebrating its 150th Anniversary. However, over the last two decades, lack of investment,
inadequate maintenance & a sharp fall in passengers have led to a decline in their status.
Pic 2
The first tramway service in Kolkata was run between Sealdah and Armenian Ghat Street on 24 February 1873. The service was discontinued on 20 Nov. Again Metre-gauge horse-drawn tram tracks were laid from Sealdah to Armenian Ghat. The route was inaugurated by the Viceroy, Lord Ripon, on 1 November 1880.
Pic 3
By the end of the nineteenth century the company owned 166 tram cars, 1000 horses, seven steam locomotives and 19 miles of tram tracks.
Pic 4
Electrification of the tramway was done in 1900. Calcutta Tram is the oldest operating electric tram in Asia. By 1943, it had a total track length of 42 miles.
Pic 5
There are seven tram depots and nine terminals and one workshop. Today, the fleet has a more than 300 trams, but rolls out around 125 trams a day because of low passenger traffic & lack of funds for maintenance.
Pic 6
According to the state transport department, though CTC earns about Rs 50 crore a year from its tram and bus services, it spends a lot more on salaries to its workforce of about 6,500.  There is a yawning gap between earning and expenditure. According to reports, it sometimes finds it difficult to pay its employees on time.
Pic 7
Over the years, a number of services have been shut down. With the CTC finding it difficult to find funds for the daily maintenance of an old fleet, more and more tram cars are being taken off the road.
Pic 8
The trams in the city carries around 16,000 passengers a day, but the traffic continues to fall.
Pic 9
The image of the good old tram trundling along rickety roads and a rain drenched Maidan may vanish forever under the horrific image of a tram full of the stench and stink of fish and vegetables. The CTC would soon be using the second-class compartments of some trams as goods carriage to ferry goods.
Pic 10
In a bid to rescue and revive its old glory, the CTC has recently rolled out air conditioned trams. It has to be seen if this struggle for survival yields any result.
Hoping this make you relive the charm if you had been a user ever 🙂

Kolkata Biryani

Sampurna Majumder writes about Biryani with aloo!

Kolkata Biryani

Culinary delights of India leaves its own imprint on history. Annexed by various invaders across borders and boundaries, Indian cuisine has over the centuries have become somewhat a melting pot.

The culture of feast in India was largely introduced by the Muslim invaders like the Arabs, Persians and Afghans. Developed during the 15th to the 18th century, Mughlai cuisine continues to enthral gourmets as well as laymen across the Indian subcontinent. Once accepted in India in its full form the, the biryani underwent several variations depending upon the region such as Awadhi Biryani, Hyderabadi Biryani, Kolkata Biryani and so on. Needless to say, my focus lays on Kolkata Biryani in this particular note.

My last trip back home cajoled me to pen down this sumptuous note on the famous Kolkata Biryani. This time I took a stroll across landmarks such as Park Circus and the New Market area with my cousin T. T also cultivates a good taste for food just like I do. From Park Circus we went to New Market and initially wanted to try some chicken pasta. However, once we arrived near the famous Elite cinema T started cribbing about having something else and then our eyes fell on the famous Mughlai joint Aminnia. Biryani!!! Aha! Without any second thoughts we both stepped into Aminia and made ourselves comfortable at cosy corner. We placed an order for the royal biryani and some haleem (a gravy dish made out of lentils and meat).

As the royal delicacy arrived we could not resist ourselves from gulping it down. However, we savoured it at the same time. The boiled potatoes are unique only to the Kolkata biryani. It is said that the biryani was brought to Calcutta by Nawab Wajid Ali Shah in the mid 1850s. However, abject poverty in the then Bengal forced the commoners to replace meat with potatoes. Thus continues the legend of Kolkata biryani. Almost two centuries now, the tradition continues till date. Some of the best places to have biryani in Kolkata are Zeeshan, Arsalan, Aminia and Shiraz.

An Era Passes Away With Rituparno Ghosh!

rituparno-ghosh6

We laughed at him because of this dressing sense…made fun of his mannerism because it seemed strange to us…loved his films because they were par excellence…and today, we cry at his passing away at such a young age! Of course, we would have mourned his passing away at any age; simply because, icons such as he are rarest of the rare.

For most of us, Rituparno Ghosh was a butt of ridicule when alive! However, hearing of his sudden death evoked a strange sense of loss in me. My first thought was “Oh no! This is not true!”

rituparno-ghosh1What was in this man that brought out such personal feelings in an otherwise impersonal person like me? Is it because he made path-breaking films? Or, is it the sensitivity he showed towards the female characters in his films? Or, is it because he had the courage to live the life of a non-conformist – something that probably all of us wish to do but are not able to do so?

May be, it is all of these and more that actually made me feel sad. His erudition, his understanding of human nature, his ability to set trends and the fact that he exhibited the chokher-bali-by-rituparno-ghoshkind of potential that Satyajit Ray and Mrinal Sen did – had kept everyone enthralled and in his grip. The Indian film industry – irrespective of its spatial location – had always been male-centric. He was one of the very few directors who offered splendid roles to women – be it Aishwarya Rai, Indrani Haldar or Ananya Chatterjee.

With Rituparno Ghosh’s death, another era in film-making has passed away! At this point of time, I am reminded of Steve Job’s Stanford Speech of 2005. Therein, he had said that “death is the destination we all share…no one has escaped it…it’s the single-most best invention of life…it’s life’s change agent…it clears up the old to make way for the new…your life is limited so don’t waste it living someone else’s life….”

Perhaps, great men from all spheres of life think similarly! I SALUTE Rituparno Ghosh for being what he was and for doing what he thought best!

Calcutta Chromosomes – III

This is the third part of the series – by Sampurna Majumder 

calcutta-coffee-house

Days passed by. Our bonding became stronger with each passing day. It was K, S and I. Three of us became almost inseparable. Be it bunking classes, or bitching about classmates, or cursing the political system, complaining how back-dated the university is and possibly doing nothing about it…. All this and much more.

Communism has been ruling Bengal for more than three decades. The air around was stiff. We did not even spare that. Cursing the communist rule which possibly ‘ruined’ the state. I could feel the typical ‘Bangaliana’ seeping in to me. I was enjoying every bit of it.

K and S had a fairly good understanding of  the typical Bengali adda. Every time we met it was definitely a treat for me as well as a learning procedure. I learnt that the young Kolkatans had the habit of addressing their seniors as dadas and didis, instead of addressing them by just their first names. I seemed quite funny to me. The idea seemed funnier when they revealed that junior girl students from the departments even dated their so called dadas. I wondered if any of the bhais ever dated their didis or not?

Once we decided to the renowned age old Coffee House. I was quite excited about my maiden voyage to this famous eatery. We walked towards the connector of Bankim Chatterjee Street, where the Coffee House was located. The entry of this grand joint deserves mention. The walls on either side of the staircase seemed to resonate history. History was vibrating form every corner of this building. As we went inside, a completely new world welcomed me. Totally mismanaged  tables and chairs. No one ever seemed to fix them. The place was booming with life. People from all ages and walks of life were to be spotted. K and S told most of the Kolkata aantels, ( a term used to describe the Bengali intellectual) both the ripe ones and the ones in making were to be spotted here.

coffee_houseWe bagged a table and fitted ourselves comfortably. I ordered for a fish kobiraji and not to mention a cup of coffee. I was told that the kobiraji is a must try here. Suddenly I felt a little lost. Despite spending the formative years of my life in this city, somehow these little things were absolutely alien to me. Random thoughts passed through my mind when all of a sudden S pointed towards another table positioned diagonally opposite to us. Five Bengali aantels were engrossed in a serious argument about who is a better romantic poet, Keats or Wordsworth. One argued about Keats’ idea of ‘beauty is truth, truth beauty’ while another supported Wordsworth’s views on Pantheism. The third guy emphasized the importance of Keats’ theory of Negative Capability while Wordsworth’s idea of a poem being ‘emotions recollected in tranquility’ scored with the fourth one. K and S turned to smile at me. I was thoroughly enjoying it.

The fish kobiraji had arrived along with the cups of coffee. We three lifted the cups to make a goodwill gesture just as one does before sipping on a drink. It’s never too late to begin. I was on a high with the idiosyncratic Kolkata Kulture.

“Cheers to coffee!”

Calcutta Chromosomes – II

Sampurna Majumder continues with the series about her stay in Kolkata.

college-street-calcutta

Since the Boi Para or College Para was a new addition in my daily routine, I used to look forward to it, every evening. Reaching the university campus was an adventure in itself for me. For I somehow, always felt the ride to be bumpy all along. Though I boarded the same bus everyday, and got down at the stop nearby, I invariably lost the way, criss-crossing through the by lanes of the famous Kolkata locale.

After much ‘tribulations’ and walking through almost all the by lanes I would finally reach Ashutosh Building. Our classroom was in the first floor. Walking down the long, dark corridor was enough to take me down the stairs of nostalgia. As I entered the classroom and occupied a seat for myself, I found myself sitting amidst unfamiliar faces. Minutes later I saw K and S making their entry. My eyes greeted them and vice versa.

presidency-collegeI always found sitting in the class to be quite boring. Specially the lectures on printing. Though this was a completely new arena for me, I could not help but to doze off in between lectures. I yearned for the break very much so that I could rush down to grab a cup of tea. K and S would invariably join me. Me and S shared a common interest, tea. We both just could not stop having enough of this beverage.

Somehow the tea stall down the road just below the university building, had its own charm. Sipping tea from a kulhar (small mud pot) on a busy evening had its own magnetic appeal. Me and S would sometimes bunk classes only to catch a sip of the heavenly tea, or at least it seemed so to us. We would spent hours chatting over numerous cups of tea. We loved each other’s company.

Sometimes we would walk down to footpath lined with bookshops to indulge in shopping which would simply touch our intellect just like a tangent. We would spend hours with the bookseller to reduce the price of a second hand or probably a third hand John Grisham thriller to almost seventy-five percent. Nonetheless we loved it. I was finally experiencing what I possibly missed out as a college going Kolkatan would indulge into.

The hours after class was a welcome change for all of us. We would sit at the staircase of the central library and go on chatting for hours together. We actually indulged into what the Bengalis fondly call an adda session. Finally I was blessed enough to taste the Kolkata College Life or more precisely life at the famous College Para. I was living my young adolescence and of course loving it.