Friday, May 25, 2012

Being Bengali! (And the goodness of food!)


I was born and brought up in Mumbai, the most cosmopolitan, metropolitan (and many more litans) city in this country. There's no one single language or religion or race or caste that forms too large a majority here. It's a melting pot, an amalgamation of a brilliant array of socio-cultural people living in harmony (and occasional disharmony) with each other.
When I was growing up, I was this typical "Bong boy" - Oily side-parted hair, spectacles on the nose, a slight pot-belly and an inherent love for maach-bhaat (Fish and rice). Somewhere while going from a four-foot something to a six-foot something (stop sniggering will you!) I kind of lost touch with my inner bangali babu. It's only in recent years that I rediscovered the bengali inside me and come to terms with the fact that there's no escaping it.
Like all self-respecting Bongs, I love an intellectual conversation over coffee, endearingly called as adda by the Kolkata kakushona across the street. I have a penchant for numbers. Maths was my favourite subject in school. I'm kind of nerdy too, loving my daily dose of literature (from Crichton's technical details to Tolkien's intricate worlds to Rowling's divinations to Gardner's number games) I just can't do without a few pages a day at the very least! Right after lunch I shall feel the effects of bhaat-ghoom (The urge for an after-rice siesta). I totally reserve the right to say "Eeeesh!" at everything that disgusts, repels, excites, fascinates, shocks or even surprises me; and absolutely no one can do a drunk, "Paro!" like I do! 

But the one thing I absolutely and completely identify with as a Bengali stereotype is our love for food! I absolutely LOVE to eat. That's one trait I shall always thank the Bengali community for! I think the HIPPO chips ads were inspired from a Bengali! Hippo fight Hunger it seems! Being a foodie is what being bong is totally about to me. I mean, what can be better than a plateful of macher-jhol or a potful of mishti-doi when you sit to dine?
The single biggest thing that any Bengali event revolves around is FOOD! Be it a wedding or festival celebrations or just a simple family get-together, the first thing that your maashi (aunt) will ask when she enters the house will be, "Oooooooo! (in that pitch, tone and voice that you heard in your head right now), Great smell! What are you cooking??" And with that all the women of the house will make a beeline for the kitchen where my mother dearest will proceed to explain in detail how, what and how much of each dish she's cooking. Oh and also, offers of assisting and vigorous denials can be heard from the kitchen amidst the din that comes out of having a large congregation of Bengali mohila (ladies) at one confined place with food.

I've grown up loving food and watching food shows like Masterchef and Hell's Kitchen and even our own beloved Khaana Khazana, asking mother to cook something out of it. My mum's an amazing cook too! She can cook pretty much everything from plain daal-bhaat to a mean meat steak! Our family trips in my childhood and almost every other trip I've been on after that has always revolved around getting to the best places to eat, wherever I went. Nothing makes me happier than to dig into a delectable piece of cooked meal; I'm happier when someone else shows the same appreciation I do for the same food. The way to my heart goes right through my palate and there's no two ways about it!

So if you meet me on the street, or just for a casual snack, beware that the Bong in me will make sure you end up with a full stomach by the time we depart. Coz even though we might not be the best off-topic conversationalists, we sure do know how to cover that up with a good meal!

Cheers, and from our favourite new-gen Bengali anti-hero, Nomoshkar! ;)





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