This is the third part of the series – by Sampurna Majumder
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.
We 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.
How does a quintessential Bengali feel when s/he comes to Dilli for the first time? Sampurna Majumder narrates her experience.
It is said that you can always take a Bengali away from Calcutta but never the other way round. Well, so being the quintessential Bengali there was no reason behind my not missing the City of Joy. Though I loved gorging on the Dal Makhni, Tandoori Chicken and other north Indian delicacies, I did yearn for the delicious Chingri Maachher Malaikari and Sona Muger Dal occasionally.
Thanks to the south Delhi locale of Chitto Park, my gastronomic longings always found an way out to ease themselves.
It was the month of February. The biting Delhi winters had already begun to subside. The warmth in the atmosphere came as a relief. There was certain feel of festivity in the air; it had to be and why not, after all it was Basant Panchami or Saraswati Puja as it is known as in the eastern part of the country. I called up D a friend of mine who also belonged to Calcutta; asked her what was her plan for the day. ‘Nothing as such.’ ‘Shall we go to Chitto Park and savour our taste buds?’ I asked. ‘Sure thing’ pat came the reply.
We met at the Central Secretariat metro station, hopped on an auto and headed towards Chitto Park. Just as we entered the by lanes of the locale sign boards and hoardings written in Bengali welcomed us. We went towards the famous Kalibari. The first thought that came to our mind was the khichudi bhog of the puja. D suggested we should try our hand at this ‘royal cuisine.’ I agreed. We went up to the backyard of the temple where it was too crowded. We bumped into a lady clad in a dirty sari, looking haggard. We asked her which way the bhog is being served. She replied ‘Khaachuri furai gichhe!’
With a sullen face both of us boarded an auto and headed towards Connaught Place and stepped into KFC.
Bengal and rosogolla are synonymous to each other! Being a true blue Bengali, Sampurna Majumder offers a delicious peep into the sweet’s history.
It was during the British colonial days that the rosogolla suddenly made its appearance on Bengal’s platter. To trace its origins one has to travel way back in time, nineteenth century Bagbazaar, a famous north Calcutta locality. It is where, Nobin Chandra Das, the man who invented the rosogolla resided. He was poor and fatherless and his only source of income came from the sweets that he sold from a ramshackle sweet shop in the by lanes of Bagbazaar. Little did he know that one day he would become a legend.
Nobin Chandra’s rosogolla was born in an age when Bengali sweets meant the ubiquitous sandesh made from sugar and cottage cheese. As was the trend, Nobin Chandra also made sandesh but he itched to do something new, create a sweet that would be juicy and succulent. He decided to experiment the same cottage cheese by boiling it in sugar syrup. Many of his attempts ended in a failure, as once put in the sugar syrup the cheese crumbled. He found that the sugar syrup had to be kept in even temperature so that the casein stays intact. So on one fine day in 1868 the rosogolla was born. However the rosogolla had humble beginnings.
Nobin Chandra waited patiently for the recognition of this wonderful creation. It did not happen until Bhagwandas Bagla, a wealthy non-Bengali merchant made his appearance at Nobin Chandra’s sweet shop along with his family. One of his children was thirsty, and stopped in front of the sweet shop in search of water. Nobin Chandra met their demand. The child was given a glass of water and a rosogolla. He was delighted at the taste of this unique delicacy and asked his father to share it as well. No doubt the father was equally impressed. He bought huge quantities of rosogolla for his friends and family. Though a rudimentary publicity, it proved to be immensely helpful. The rosogolla became a hit and over the years acquired the status of Bengal’s most famous sweet.