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The Pice Hotel trail: Tarun Niketan in South Kolkata

The concept of a Bengali ‘bhaater hotel’ was never unknown to me, considering I grew up in Kolkata of 90’s. These hotels were meant for people who lived without families or could not afford to bring their own ‘tiffin’ at workplaces. During those days, you would have been surely considered a lunatic if anybody thought about ‘Bengali food’ as an eating out/fine dining option. In fact, I remember distinct opinions like – “Poisha diye keu maach bhaat khetey jaay naki?” (Who goes and eats and fish rice by paying for it) when places like ‘Oh! Calcutta’ or ‘Bhojohori Manna’ first came up.

Lake Market locality – the typical Kolkata post card.

Fish and rice are Bengali staple food and the concept of a Bengali restaurant in Kolkata then sounded alien, at least for middle class Bengalis like me and my family. Then I left Kolkata for attending law school and my first job, got married, lived abroad and when I returned after a span of some good 7-8 years, I found that not only these Bengali joints were popular, but they had captured the fancy of my middle class Bengali parents also. The primary reason being easy availability of age old traditional recipes at these kitchens, which were increasingly difficult to source and prepare at our nuclear homes. We did not have the time or patience to spend an entire day in the kitchen to make that perfect ‘chitol maacher muithya’ at our homes, like our grandmothers did. Plus, the generation who could make it perfectly, were growing old. So the buffet at a fancy Bengali fine dining restaurant sounded the perfect saviour. BUT! and the biggest ‘but’ was and is that these places are quite expensive. The fine china and the air conditioning makes it comfortable but does not quite translate to the comfort of home cooked food where the ‘Noli’ of a simple ‘kochi pathar jhol’ (the Mutton piece with the bone marrow inside the goat meat bone tube served with simple  curry) could be enjoyed while nobody gave you glances. For the uninitiated, the ‘Nolir’ piece remains the most coveted one, and it takes some exercise including some indulgent hitting on the plate for the Noli to come out and melt in your mouth. Now imagine doing that at a fine dining restaurant.

A typical meal served at Tarun Niketan

My foodie heart wanted to taste some ‘chyachra’ (bengali vegetable mishmash often cooked with a fish head) or ‘borar torkari (lentil cakes cooked in a light curry), without some fancy fusion taste, just like we used to do at home, without burning a hole into my pocket. I was researching about Kolkata and the history Bengali food chains when I came across some blog posts by The Calcutta Girl and Indrajit Lahiri. This is when I re-discovered the ‘Pice hotels of Kolkata’ or ‘Bhaater hotel’. The concept behind some of these century old hotels was often to serve simple, authentice, homely meals to people coming to Kolkata/Calcutta when the city was a bustling commercial capital or the second city of the empire during the days of the British Raj. These hotels were cheap and were often attached with boarding houses or ‘mess baris’ where working middle class gentlemen used to live and eat. Now most of these ‘mess baris’ are gone, but the Pice hotels have remained – Pice being the cost of the meal (1 Pice being a former monetary unit of British India, equal to one quarter of an anna, as per Google Baba). I also found some useful information about them on some popular YouTube channels like KolkataTalkJhalMisti and Foodka. Apart from these, some of my favourite city bloggers and friends like Poorna Banerjee and Anirban Halder, threw in some great suggestions on Facebook.

Most of the information about Pice Hotels that I found where about hotels located in North and Central Kolkata, considering they are the older parts of the city. I must agree that it did hurt my ‘born and brought up in South Kolkata’ sentiments a bit. As a result, I decided to start off my Pice Hotel trail in Kolkata from the most famous South Kolkata Pice hotel – ‘Tarun Niketan’ located near the good old Lake Market.

How to get there?

The place is equally accessible from Gariahat or Rahsbehari, through public buses. It can also be reached by Metro, by getting down at Kalighat Metro station and walking towards Triangualr Park/Gariahat and the place will be on your right had side. The nearest landmark is Lake Mall and the distance is walkable and will fall on your left, if you are facing Rashbehari bus stop/Kalight metro. For getting there by Uber, put the location as “Tarun Niketan” with the address -88/1B Rashbehari Avenue, Kolkata 700 026, but be mindful, the area is quite crowded and you might just miss the board or the lane.

Entrance to Tarun Niketan
The narrow alley that leads upto the Pice Hotel.

Ambience/Vibe of the place

Tarun Niketan is a 103 year old Pice hotel which still serves food on Kolapata (Banana leaves). As with the rules of all pice hotels, everything from the leaf to the lemon slice served is charged. The walls, the marble top tables, rickety old chairs or the hand written rate chart/menu card with white chalk will give you an idea of the antiquity of the place. The long queue of people awaiting for their turns to sit on the table and have food will give you an idea of the popularity of the place. In fact, be prepared to share your table with strangers during rush hours and indulge in some chitchat (one Kolkata speciality), about the rising prices or state of the economy while having food. The place has some very regular customers, who eat here on daily basis and the waiters know their liking and what exactly needs to be served. Customer loyalty is unquestionable here. Not to forget, do not miss checking out the numerous newspaper and magazine cutouts which have been framed and now adorn the wall, which mention the history and speciality of the place.

Hand written rate chart
Walls adorned with newspaper cuttings

Most importantly, Food!

Once you enter the hotel and find a place for yourself, one person comes and puts on the banana leaf, the salt and the ‘gondhoraj’ lemon slice. Next, the person taking your order will rattle out whatever is available for the day. Reach early, as most of the day’s speaclities are over by 2’o clock in the afternoon. The menu also keeps on changing so, paying attention to the star waiter is necessary. We ordered- Bhaat (rice), Kolmi shaak bhaja (a kind of leafy greens/water spinach as starters), Daal (lentils), Chalkumro r pur bhaja (Stuffed Ash gourd fritters), Chingrir Bora (a fried preparation with Prawns), Paanchmishali Torkari (Vegetable mishmash), Bhetki Paturi (Bhetki fish preparation in a banana leaf), Bhetki maacher jhol (Bhetki fish curry) and Aamer chutney (Mango chutney).

The rice served at first go was quite a bit for our city bred ways and in case you need second helping you can ask for some more, for a nominal cost. I found all the food served, apart form the watery daal, to be amazingly good. I ate Kolmi shaak after long, and even though it could have been sliced a bit more finely, I found the taste to be just perfect. The Chingrir Bora, Chalkumror pur bhaja and Paanchmishali torkari were superb! But the fish preparations take the cake and the crown here. The Bhetki Paturi that I had was one of the best I have ever had in my life. The fish fillet was big enough, and the coating/paste was not at all rich with spices and oil – in fact, it was quite dry and had a beautiful sweet taste. The fish for the jhol was quite large in size and the jhol was very simply made with all the tastes of the spices retained. In fact, both me and my husband loved the food so much that we forgot to take decent photos of the food. That translates to actual ‘foodgasm’ in the era of Instagram. The ‘Aamer chutney’ was decent too.

The half eaten Paturi
Kolmi Shaak bhaja
The half eaten Chingrir Bora
Aamer Chutney

Also, all the food preparations cooked at Tarun Niketan are made without onion and garlic, apart from the Fish, Meat and Egg preparations. The place also does not serve Chicken eggs and the egg curry served is made with Duck eggs.

Guess, what the pocket pinch for this entire meal for 2 was? I asked some of my friends and they guessed it to be above 1000 going by a conservative estimate.

But the actual price for the meal was only INR 354/- Only!

Surprised, are you? so was I. But then again, Kolkata remains the city of surprises and it is quite plausible to find such amazing places serving such nice, simple food at such throwaway prices. The food quality is never compromised and if you can give away the comfort of AC fine dining restaurants for a day and  game for some interesting tit bits of history – these old Pice hotels, which are a part of Kolkata’s culinary history, will welcome you with open arms. So are you ready for your date with history and culinary simplicity of Bengal and Kolkata?

Hat Tip: A complete Bengali meal is finished off with some nice paan and you can walk till Lake Mall to have some nice Benarasi paan from ‘Benarasi Pan Shop’ situated at the right hand corner of the mall.

Khaike Paan Banaras wala!


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Tarpan Vidhi Part-3 / তর্পণ বিধি পর্ব – ৩

This is the third and last part of the digitally restored notes from my maternal grandfather in law – Mr Dilip Kumar De’s (Dadu’s) diary about the “Tarpan Vidhi”. I had made a promise to myself and the few dedicated readers of my blog (on my blog’s Facebook page – The Big Bong Theory) that I will not let such a treasure that I had access to, by virtue of being Dadu’s eldest granddaughter in law.

This is actually my tribute to the man who epitomised brilliance, meticulous thinking and the charm of the now extinct, good old “Bangali Bhadralok”. Read till the end to know more about the remarkable man. As Devi Paksha approaches, I hope this is helpful for one and all. Shubho Mahlaya and a very Happy Durga Puja to all of you :).

Read the first part here and the second part here.

Typing down such difficult Bangla/Sanskrit on Avro Keyboard has been a tough job, but I will be happy if his work finds a global window and helps people. The digitalisation is not 100% perfect or correct. Apologies for any unintended errors. The remaining parts will be published soon.

তর্পণ বিধি পর্ব -৩

৯/ ভীষ্ম তর্পণ

ভীষ্ম তর্পণ নিত্য করিতে হয়না, কেবল ভীষ্মাষ্টমীর দিন কর্তব্য। পিতৃ তর্পণের পূর্বে ভীষ্ম তর্পণ করিতে হয়। পিতৃ তর্পণের মতনই একই দিকে, একই আসনে, পিতৃতীর্থে (কিন্তু বাম হাত দ্বারা ডান হাতের পেশী ধরিয়া) এক অঞ্জলি জল দিতে হইবে। মন্ত্র-

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Tarpan Vidhi Part-2 / তর্পণ বিধি পর্ব – ২

As promised on my blog’s Facebook page – The Big Bong Theory, this is the second part of the three parts of the digitally restored notes from my maternal grandfather in law – Mr Dilip Kumar De’s (Dadu’s) diary about the “Tarpan Vidhi”.

Read the first part here and the third part here.

Typing down such difficult Bangla/Sanskrit on Avro Keyboard has been a tough job, but I will be happy if his work finds a global window and helps people. The digitalisation is not 100% perfect or correct. Apologies for any unintended errors. The remaining parts will be published soon. Read till the end to know more about the remarkable man.

তর্পণ বিধি পর্ব -২

৫/ দিব্য পিতৃতর্পণ

দক্ষিণ দিকে ঘুরিয়া বসিতে হইবে। কোষাকুষি ও জলপূর্ণ পাত্র সামনে রাখিতে হইবে। জলপূর্ণ পাত্রে কৃষ্ণতিল ও তুলসী সর্বদা রাখিতে হইবে। জল ফেলিবার জন্য খালি পাত্রটি পাশে রাখিতে হইবে। একটি আলাদা পাত্রে তুলসীপাতা ও আর একটি পাত্রে কৃষ্ণতিল রাখিতে হইবে, যখন জলপূর্ণ পাত্রের তিল ও তুলসী কমিয়া যাইবে, তখন পুনরায় উহাতে মিশাইতে হইবে।

বাম হাঁটু মাটিতে পাতিয়া ও দক্ষিণ হাঁটু তুলিয়া বসিতে হইবে। পিতৃতীর্থ দ্বারা – অর্থাৎ, কোষাটি জলপূর্ণ করিয়া দক্ষিণ হস্তের তর্জনী ও অঙ্গুষ্ঠের মূল প্রদেশ দ্বারা ধারন করিয়া, এক এক অঞ্জলি জল নিম্নলিখিত প্রতিটি মন্ত্রের সঙ্গে খালি পাত্রে ফেলিতে হইবে। লক্ষ্য রাখিতে হইবে, প্রতিবার অঞ্জলি দেওয়ার সময় যেন জলপূর্ণ পাত্র হইতে কিছু তিল ও তুলসীপাতা কোষায় আসে।

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Tarpan Vidhi Part-1 / তর্পণ বিধি পর্ব – ১

Recently, I stumbled upon a family heirloom tucked away in glory inside my mother in law’s belongings. My paternal grandfather in law, late Mr. Biman Behari Ray, had once asked my maternal grandfather in law, later Mr Dilip Kumar De (Dadu) to write down the details of “Tarpan Vidhi” – the ritual of offering water to ancestors on the occasion of Mahalaya, the beginning of Devipaksha, according to the Hindu calendar. Dadu had given him a handwritten diary with all the details mentioned with his usual precision. I do not know if such an admirable and erudite piece about our gradually forgotten traditions is available online or not. At least I have not come across one. So this Mahalaya, just as we begin to celebrate the spirit of Durga Puja, I, his eldest granddaughter in law, intend to pay a tribute to  a scholarly man in this very small way.

As promised on my blog’s Facebook page – “The Big Bong Theory“, this is the first of the three parts of the digitally restored notes from Dadu’s diary about the “Tarpan Vidhi”.  Typing down such difficult Bangla/Sanskrit on Avro Keyboard has been a tough job, but I will be happy if his work finds a global window and helps people. The digitalisation is not 100% perfect or correct. Apologies for any unintended errors. The remaining parts will be published soon. Read till the end to know more about the remarkable man.

Read the second part here and the third part here.

তর্পণ বিধি পর্ব – ১

১/ আবাহন

দক্ষিণে মুখ করিয়ে কম্বলাসনে বসিতে হইবে। সামনে কোষাকুষি থাকিবে, তার সামনে একটি খালি পাত্র, এবং ডান দিকে ১টি বা ২টি জলে ভর্তি পাত্র থাকিবে। দুইবার মন্তপাঠ সহ আচমন করিতে হইবে।

আচমন করিবার বিধি

কোষায় জল ও তুলসীপাতা থাকিবে; বাম হস্তে কুষি ধরিয়ে সামান্য জল ডান হাতের তালুতে লইতে হইবে, ও তাহা দ্বারা আচমন করিতে হইবে। আচমন করিয়া জল খালি পাত্রে ফেলিতে হইবে। আচমন করিবার সময় “নমোঃ বিষ্ণু, নমোঃ বিষ্ণু, নমোঃ বিষ্ণু” বলিতে হয়।

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“Basically, you are a Refugee!”

A huge round of thunderous laughter serenaded Shambo’s living room in Gurgaon.

It was the occasion of the house warming party for the new apartment that Shambo had managed to buy in one of those luxurious apartment blocks in this new city. The EMI will cut a deep hole inside his pocket, but the name plate on the door would more than make up for it.

Shambo’s mother still refers to Gurgaon as “Dilli”. Shambo had failed to explain that Gurgaon was more of an excuse in the name of a city. He went out one day to find a proper book store nearby his house, but had failed to find one. The look of disgust on his face was so palpable that the “autowallah” had to ask – “Kya hua bhaissab, sab thik to hain na?”

Yet, this place was his home now. He has managed to buy his own house here, with his own money. For every single thing that he hated Gurgaon for, he respected the place for giving him a job, an identity and the financial independence that his home town could never give him. Gurgaon valued his hardwork and tenacity.

“What happened, Refugee? Can we have some more beer please?”

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Saraswati Pujo and the city of 16

There are days when I feel extremely bored and tired with this city that I have known since my birth. I want to get rid of that invisible umbilical chord which does not let me leave her and yet I cannot bear the sight of her any more – happens quite often nowadays.

But then there are days when she makes me fall in love, again…..and for a lifetime. Just like the unmatched euphoria of discovering the bling in the red from the first bloom of “Palash” across my balcony. I increasingly find it difficult to describe my relationship with Calcutta. She has almost taken the place of that unknown neighbourhood aunt whose turmeric soiled sari is often the most comforting factor in your life – that you have reached home at the fag end of the day and while the world around you might conspire to give you a tough time, you can sleep in peace for the night here.

Why I say this, is again a difficult story to explain. Last weekend was a super busy one for the city. The omniscient Bengali Panjika had wreaked havoc in the average Bengali’s life and the market prices soared with the thought of keeping the goddess of wisdom happy. The Bengali who always find a dilemma between keeping the two mother goddesses happy – Lakshmi and Saraswati and whom to prefer while making a career choice, was again trapped in that debate.

And then there was the Kolkata Literary Meet happening against the backdrop of the majestic Victoria Memorial. The Lit meet, in its essence- epitomised Calcutta. Unorganised yet extremely rejuvenating…sessions which only could happen here in this city which is known for its eccentricity.

So while me and my husband man rushed to attend a particular session at KaLam, 2015 while walking past the beautifully designed Mohor Kunjo (earlier known as Citizen’s Park), we caught a glimpse of the Bengali Valentines Day madness. And truth be told, I was super happy to see all those sweet 16’s clad in their first yellow (“Bansanti) coloured saris and their counterparts in the oddly worn dhoti.

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Murshidabad through my eyes…

Christmas holidays or “Borodiner chuti” is big in this part of the world. I belong to a city who wears her hat of colonial past with elan and pride and frankly speaking I do not see anything to be ashamed of there either. You cannot change history and if you want to, you belong to the same class of Taliban fellows who were trying to demolish Buddha statues in Bamian, Afghanistan, a few years back. They probably tried a bit too hard to prove that Buddhism had not left its footprints there a few hundred years back. So when anybody asks me what is there to be so proud about Victoria Memorial in Calcutta and why it should be preserved since it is a constant reminder of the British rule in the country, my only answer to them is – my dear! since you asked that question, you made the distinction about ‘class’ and ‘crass’ so clear in front of my eyes 🙂

That part of the rant was necessary, since my chosen destination for spending Christmas holidays with family this year was – “Murshidabad”. Anybody aware about this long forgotten chapter about India’s brilliant past will know that Murshidabad is not only about the famous “Battle of Plassey” that changed the course of the history of the sub-continent. Unfortunately, like many things which I find unbearable about India’s education system, our history books have relegated the pomp and grandeur and the long history of the Nawabs of Bengal and Murshidabad – the last flag bearers of independent Indian rulers in this part of the world, to a mere 8 marks essay type answer in the history answer sheets.

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Revisiting Classics- “Agantuk” (1991)

This is not a movie review. In fact, I am not qualified enough to be a movie critic. It is my humble take on the movie and a few lessons learnt about life in general from Ray’s last onscreen venture.

Agantuk (The Stranger) is a 1991 Bengali language movie written, directed and scripted by the master whom we Bengalis often prefer calling “Joy Baba Maniknath” (Satyajit Ray). It is based upon Ray’s own short story “Atithi”. But be rest assured that this is not a bong woman’s garrulous overdoes of why Tagore and Ray were the best thing to happen to India and Bengalis in general 🙂

Agantuk is the story about the dilemma that an upper middle class Bengali couple residing in a palatial house in the Calcutta of early 1990’s goes through when the wife’s maternal uncle decides to pay them a visit after 35 years. The ‘uncle’, who had been a briliant student and a painter, had left home as per his own wish to see the world. “Wanderlust” as he describes himself in the movie. The wife (Anila), played succinctly by Mamata Shankar, is the only living relation that he knows of and one who was only 2 years of age when he left home. The husband (Sudhin), played by Dipankar Dey, is a well placed corporate executive and has also inherited a huge amount of his deceased father’s property and priceless art collection. All of a sudden, just before the most celebrated Bengali festival ‘Durga Pujo’, the wife receives a letter written from Delhi by a man claiming to be her long lost uncle,in chaste Bengali, that he wants to visit them for a week before resuming his journey elsewhere. He mentions that there is a probability that there will be doubts about his identity and they were free to decline the overture. While the uncle also mentions about the ancient Indian tradition of treating one’s guests as god, the first thing that strikes the niece’s wonderfully decorated world is the fear of a thief impersonating as ‘someone’ about whom nobody knows. The husband is quite sure that this is a part of a plot to steal something from his deceased father’s art collection. While the wife is ready to give a benefit of doubt and see for herself if the uncle she never knew had indeed returned to his roots and to see his last known blood relation, the husband’s materialistic concerns blindfolds him to believe that this man is an impostor. In between two of them, there is a third member of the family, the child Babloo/Satyaki, who seems to be excited to meet one of his maternal grandfathers, who might be or might not be the real one.

I first watched Agantuk as a child with my parents. I do not remember the year, but I do recollect that my father had told me that it is indeed one of Ray’s finest works. Needless to say, I understood very little about the context of the movie, but at the same time I was never bored. Perhaps, it is the unique story telling capacity of Ray, that along with the kids (Babloo and his friends) in the movie, even I wanted to know what happened during a full Solar eclipse or a full Lunar eclipse. I re-watched it a few days back along with my husband and I realised why my father was correct about the movie being one of Ray’s best (click here to watch the movie with English subtitles). Anybody who is conversant with Ray’s work will probably count “Pather Pnachali”, “Charulata” or may be “the “Goopi Bagha” series to be the best works of him, but I will place “Agantuk” on a much higher pedestal, may be just after “Charulata”.

Utpal Dutta who plays the role of the stranger uncle in the movie delivers probably one of his most nuanced performances of his life. His acting calibre, like Ray’s directorial calibre, is beyond any question. But what is worth remembering that , Dutta and Ray together convinces you to be a part of this journey of discovering “who is this stranger?”. Deep down, Ray convinces you to reassess your views about yourself, your roots, your tradition and the human civilisation as a whole. And perhaps because of his genius, he manages to do it in extremely simple ways.

One of my favourite moments from the movie is the scene where the wife/niece asks his uncle, about whom she is still not so sure of, that how could he write such wonderful Bengali since he has spent most of his life abroad in the west. He answered that one’s mother tongue is something very close to heart, if one wants to forget it out of his own will he can do it in three months and if not, then probably 35 years is also not enough. While Ray remained a social commentator of the times he lived in, this particular aspect is a stern reminder of the times we live in too. I hardly see kids these days pronouncing Bangla or Hindi, two Indian languages I know, without mixing a splatter of English in to it. While this might be fashionable for the parents, I wonder how the beauty of multicultural and multilingual society will be lost in a few years from now. I will be happy if my children can read Shakespeare or JK Rowling in English but I will be happier if they do not need a translation to understand the beauty of Sunil Gangopadhyay or Leela Majumdar.

Agantuk/The Stranger (1991) [From: Here]
Coming back to the question about the journey of discovering “who is this man actually?”, the husband insists that the wife should not be carried away by emotions and insist on seeing his passport. While the uncle shows his passport on his own to the husband, he makes a valid argument about what does a passport prove? His name, his identity? No! A passport may be forged anytime (and we thought only our generation is fighting the crisis of identity theft in the wake of the popularity of social media) but more than that, it is a never a proof of human conscience. Later in the movie we see that the conscience which made the wife/niece to distrust this man and forced her to carefully remove two valuable figurines from the living room, replacing them in their original positions when the husband invites one of his friends to meet this man. The wife is convinced that he might be his uncle and not a thief but on the other hand she also fears that he might have come back after so many years to claim his share of family property.

The story takes a sharp turn when the husband’s friend visits their house to take a test of whether the uncle was truly genuine or not. This friend, played by Dhritiman, was known to be a lawyer with the ability of being bitterly straight forward. The uncle presumes that this might again be a visit from over inquisitive friends of the couple as the other day, but what ensues is a debate over what is civilised and what is not. The uncle’s views about the simpleton tribal life, people considered savage by the world that we belong to, the ones with whom he had spent a considerable time in South America and even in India, before he left for the west, irks the friend. He is convinced that the man claiming to be his friend’s wife’s maternal uncle is a fraud. He tells that to him on his face. While the couple is left red faced, they find that the man is gone. Ray depiction of Dhritiman’s characters is about being one of us. The ones like us who believe that civilisation is a licence to cut trees and then complain about the increasing temperatures. One like us who may decide to stick on to an age old belief of marrying a girl to a tree but on the question of some ancient tribal man and woman exercising their right of expression in matters of sexual choice, we do not think twice before dubbing that to be promiscuous.

The idea of development and civilisation as a whole is challenged when Dutta’s character questions about the homeless asking for shelter in the very ambitious city of New York. His questions on what we call as an advancement of technology is something that all of us have been thinking, but yet to find an answer to. If technology gives you power to destroy an entire city by just one click on your remote control, is that the progress that we are looking forward to? And then what gives us right to tag the lives of men and women in the forests as ‘backward’? By the end of the movie, I realised that Ray etched the characters of the husband, the wife and the straight talker friend as a reflection of our city bred selves. The parameters of urban life has changed since 1991, but at the core we still remain “Kupomunduk” (the frog who can never never leave his known surroundings and broaden his horizons). In fact the insecurities have always increased. The wife faces the dilemma of accepting his uncle and yet cannot overcome her doubts behind the actual reason of his return. The property factor plays on the minds of both the husband and wife while they try to be perfect Indian hosts. The friend is someone we all can relate to. It is us actually. In the race to be the brightest and the best, we indeed forget the simple joys of life.

The joy which the couple rediscovers while they trace the uncle near an Indian tribal village near Bolpur. Surprisingly, the uncle never faces a question about whom he actually was in their surrounding, nor about his motive behind the visit. Perhaps when you do not fear losing out on something, you are more open towards it. The couple apologises to the uncle who tells them that he will claim his share of family property. He leaves for his desired destination soon but are taken by surprise to find that the uncle had transferred his share of the property in his niece’s name.

His parting shot of advice to Babloo, the couple’s kid who grows much fond of his grandfather is not to be a “Kupomunduk” and to explore the world. Perhaps a bit of advice for all of us. In our day to day existence in a cubicle bound life, we often forget the charm of ‘wanderlust’. But even more than that, we tend to forget the importance of keeping our minds open. We boast of 5000 year old history and tradition, but nowadays even tradition seems to be measure in per sq ft basis 🙂

Perhaps this story is also a ringing truth and a reminder for us  Indians who take immense pride in our culture and legacy. But the mould of idol worship that we have prepared over the years for our icons and the complete intolerance towards any criticism or satire towards them or for famous personalities in our living history, is something that we need to get over. All of us may not be lucky or rich enough to travel across the world, but we have a far more feasible solution closer home- Books. Reading opens doors which we may not have imagined earlier but on the other hand intolerance and the belief that what I think is the only way round is disastrous.

P.S. – The movie remains special to me because of the house it was shot. Those kind of houses with red flooring and beautiful windows and balcony are quickly disappearing from the face of Calcutta. My guess is that the house must be somewhere in Ballygunge. Do not know if it is still there though.

P.P.S.- Is it only me or Sujoy Ghosh deliberately named Parambrata Chattopadhyay’s character “Satyaki/Rana” in Kahaani? The eternal bong dilemma about Bhalonaam and Daaknaam 🙂

bengal Calcutta Home

Of Moments, people, faces and sweet nothings!

Long back I had done a post about pictures which generally make me happy. Its Part II time and while this has nothing to do with writer’s block, it is definitely something relating to things which have kept me going in the past few weeks when I have missed home like never before. Why? Well, there are times when you want to be with your near and dear ones and this was one such time 🙂

So without much adieu, I present to you a set of pictures which never fail to bring a smile on my face. *Ting*. As I have always said, photographs are amazing things. If time travel was real, photographs could be our very own time machine. It actually is 🙂
P.S.- Most of these pictures are borrowed from the internet and discovered during endless hours of surfing. I do not intend to breach anybody’s copyright and if there is any dispute, I will be happy to share the credit or give due acknowledgement. Also, as far as possible I will be scribbling down the sources beneath the images.
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bangla bengal Bong way of life

পিএনপিসি পর্ব ৩

প্রায় অনেকদিন বাদে ইচ্ছে হল আমার এই গালগল্পের পাতাটা আবার একটু নেড়েচেড়ে দেখি। তার কারণ যে এক্কেবারে নেই তা নয়। কিছুদিন আগে আমি একট অভিজ্ঞতা সঞ্চয়/জোড়দার করলাম- যে কিছু লোক এমন আছে যারা দুনিয়ারাজ্যের যেখান এই থাকুন না কেন, গুল মারতে এদের জুড়ি মেলা ভার।

কি ভাবছেন তো যে এ তো আকছাড়ই ঘটে, বিশেষ করে বঙ্গ সমাজে যেখানে আপনি মস্ত বড় বাজারের থলি নিয়ে বাড়ি ফিরছেন তো ওমনি পড়শির চোখ টাটাবে। কথায় আছে “বাঙালি কাঁকড়ার জাত”, তাই পড়শির বাড়িতে ২ কিলোর ইলিশ রান্না হচ্ছে টের পেলেই ওমনি পিএনপিসি শুরু।

“আরে নিশ্চয়ই ঘুষ খায়। ভেট দিয়েছে কোন লোক”।

সামনে দেখা হলে কিন্তু অন্য বচন।
“বাহ! ভালো ইলিশ পেলেন দেখছি, তা কোথাকার?”
“হ্যা, ডায়মন্ড হারবারের। একদম তাজা, আজ সকালেই ধরেছে”
“ওহ! আমার আবার ওসব ডায়মন্ড হারাবার টাড়বার চলে না বুঝলেন। আমার পদ্মা ছাড়া ঠিক রোচে না। স্পেশ্যাল অর্ডার দিয়ে আনাই। তা কতো পড়লো?”

যারা পড়ছেন তারা এতক্ষণে নিজের পাড়াতুতো কাকু বা আত্মীয়স্বজনের মধ্যে কারোনা কারো সাথে মিল খুজে পেয়ে গেছেন নিশ্চয়ই। আসলে এরকম আমড়াগাছির দুটো  উদ্দেশ্য থাকে সাধারনতো- এক, পাতি বাংলায় জাকে বলে খোঁজ নেওয়া আর দুই, আদতে যাই হোক বা থাকুক না কেন, অন্যের থেকে বড় হতেই হবে এবং তা করার জন্য গুল মারার থেকে ভালো উপায় আর নেই।

এই যেমন ধরুন আপনি নতুন গাড়ি কিনেছেন হয়তো। লোক দেখানি কেতা মেরে ফেসবুক ভর্তি ছবি লাগিয়েছেন। এদিকে সবাই অভিনন্দন জানালেও ভেতরে কার কোথায় পিন মারছে বেশ ভালোই বুঝতে পারছেন। বলা বাহুল্য আপনি সেটা তারিয়ে তারিয়ে উপভোগ করছেন। কিছু লোক আবার এমন থাকবেই যারা ব্যাপারটা না পারছে গিলতে না পেছে ফেলতে। নিভৃতে চ্যাটে জিজ্ঞেস করবেই-
“তা গাড়ি কিনলি? কতো পড়লো?”
“এই তো লাখ ছয়েক।
“পুরোটাই দিলি? নাকি লোন নিলি?”
আপনি হয়তো বোঝালেন কত ধানে কত চাল, কিন্তু এখনো লোকদেখানির শেষ হয়নি।
“ওহ! ভালো। তবে ছোট গাড়ি কেন কিনলি?”
আপনি বলতে গিয়েও বললেন না হয়তো “আঙ্গুর ফল টক”, কিন্তু মোক্ষম বোমাটা ঠিক তখনই পড়ে-
“আসলে আমার জানিসতো ছোট গাড়ি পছন্দ নয়, ভাবছি নেক্সট ইয়ার আমি একটা হন্ডা সিটি কিনব।”
 তা সেই নেক্সট, টেক্সট মেসেজে নয় নয় করে দু দুটো “হ্যাপি নিউ ইয়ার” পার করে ফেলল, আপনার হয়তো মাঝে মাঝে মনে হয় ডেকে ডেকে জিজ্ঞেস করেন “কিরে হন্ডা সিটি কি হল?” কিন্তু আবার ভাবেন এই কথাটা বলে বন্ধুমহলে এই হিংসুটে কে নিয়ে খোরাক টা মন্দ হয় না।

এ তো গেলো সমবয়সীদের/বন্ধুদের কথা। আপনার মা হয়তো আপনার গাড়ি কেনার কথাটা গর্ব ভরে ফোন করে আপনার এলা পিসির মেয়ের শ্বশুর বাড়িতে জানাবেন। প্রায় দু বছর পর হয়তো ফোন করছেন, তাই একটু ভনিতা তো দরকার। তাও আবার যাকে ফোন করছেন, ধরে নিন সম্পর্কে এক কাকিমা হন, তিনি হয়তো বিখ্যাত ভাবে “আমার বেশী টাকা আছে গোছের” গালগল্প করেন। হয়তো বা সেই আলগা তারেই ইচ্ছে করে ছড় কাটতেই ফোন। আহা! আপনার মা কি ভুলে গেছেন আপনার দিদির বিয়ের সময় এই কাকিমা কেরকম গয়নাগাটি আর খরচের বহর দেখে মুখ গোমড়া করে রইলেন সারা বিয়েবাড়ি। ভালো করে কথাও বললেন না। সবাই মুখ টিপে হেসে বলল্ল “স্বভাব গেলো না”।

আবার বছর ঘুরতেই, এই কাকিমার মেয়ের বিয়ের সময় যা হাঁক পাড়লেন। অতি সাধারন বেনারসী আপনার দিদির সাথে তুলনা স্বার্থেই হয়ে গেল “ডিজাইনার” আবার তার সাথে বিনা জিজ্ঞাসায় দামো বললেন “৪৫ হাজার”। নিন্দুকেরা আঁতকে উঠে বললেন “শাড়িটার খোল টাও ভালো না, গয়নাও তো লিকলিক করছে, তত্ত্বর দেখা নেই…গুল মারার জায়গা পায় না”

যাই হোক আপনার মা তো কি গুছিয়ে বলবেন ভেবে নিয়ে ফোন টা করে ফেলেছেন। আপনার সামনের মাসের বিদেশ যাত্রার খবর টাও ভাসিয়ে শুনিয়ে রাখবেন তাও ঠিক করেছেন।

“হ্যালো, দীপা?”
“হ্যা, কে বলছো? রমা নাকি?”
এবার খানিকক্ষণ কে কেমন আছে, কতোদিন পরে জোগাজোগ, শরীর টরীর নিয়ে আপোনার মা অনেক ভনিতা করলেন। তারপর নেমে পড়লেন “টেক্কা দেওয়ার” খেলায়।
“একটা সখবর দিয়ি তোমায় দীপা, আমার ছেলে জানোতো গাড়ি কিনেছে।”
আপনার মা মনে মনে তারিয়ে তারিয়ে ভাবছেন কেমন ছাই রঙ এর হয়ে গেল দীপা কাকিমার মুখটা। জবাবেও বুঝতে পারলেন।
“হ্যাঁগো ব্র্যান্ড নিউ।”
“হ্যাঁ আজকাল তো এতো ছোটছোট গাড়ির কিচির মিচির। সারা রাস্তা জুড়ে ভিড়” খেলায় খানিকটা সামলে নিলেন দীপা কাকিমা।
আপনার মা তো রেগে আগুন। নিজের মেয়ে হলেই এতক্ষণে গাড়িটার এমন গুনগান করতেন যে মনে হতো ওতাই দুনিয়ার সেরা গাড়ি। ফেরারি তো তুচ্ছ।
“হ্যা, ক্ষমতা থাকলে কিনে নেয়। তা দীপা তোমার মেয়ে জামাইয়ের কি খবর?” প্রশ্নটা যে শুধু কুশল বিনিময়ের জন্য করা তা দীপা কাকিমা আর আপনার মা দুজনেই ভালো করে জানেন। আপনার মা র উদ্দেশ্য অবশ্যই খোঁচা মেরে আপনার বিদেশ যাত্রার খবরটা জানানো। তলে তলে বেশ ভালোই খবর রাখেন, কবের থেকে ম্যানেজারের সামনে হাত পা থেকিয়ে, তেলের বোতল নিয়ে বসে আছে কর্তা গিন্নী ওরফে দীপা কাকিমার মেয়ে জামাই। উদ্দেশ্য কোন্মতে যদি একবার কালাপানি পেরোনো যায়। অনসাইট, অনসাইট করে যে দীপার জামাই পাগল হওয়ার জোগাড় তা নিয়ে আপনাদের বাড়িতে আগেই একদিন জব্বর পিএনপিসি হয়েছে, আপনার পিসে আর ওই যুগল একই অফিসে কাজ করে কিনা।
“ভালোই আছে। আমার জামাই তো এখন দারুন প্যাকেজ পাচ্ছে, জানো এবঅছর আমার মেয়েও ৩০% ইঙ্ক্রিমেন্ট পেয়েছে। এই নিয়ে এই বছরে এই থার্ড টাইম। এখন তো ওর প্যাকেজ প্রায় ৬০ লাখ”

আপনার মার পিলে প্রায় চমকে যাওয়ার অবস্থা। দীপা কাকিমা বা যারা এরকম টেক্কাবাজির খেলাতে অভ্যস্ত, তারা ধরেই নেন সাম্নের লোকটি এক্কেবারে অগা। আপনার পিসে যিনি অভিজ্ঞতার সুবাদে দীপা কাকিমার মেয়ে জামাইয়ের অফিসেই আরেকটু উচুদরের কর্মচারী তিনি সেদিন দুঃখ করছিলেন যে সামান্য প্রফিট কম হওয়ায়, এবার নাকি সব ইঙ্ক্রিমেন্ট বন্ধ করে কস্ট কাটিং করছে কোম্পানি।  আপনার মা ও এই সুযোগ ছাড়বেন কেন? বললেন- “ও, তাই নাকি? ভালো তো, তবে ওদের ওই অনসাইট টা হলো না না?”
দীপা কাকিমা আমতা আমতা করছেন দেখে, আপনার মা বাজিটা খেলে দিলেন- “এই দেখো বলতেই ভুলে গেছিলাম, আমার ছেলেকে জানোতো বাইরে পাঠাচ্ছে কোম্পানি থেকে।”
প্রায় অদ্ভুত একটা নীরবতার পর দীপা কাকিমা বললেন-
“তাই, ভালো…রিঙ্কি আর ওর বর তো চাইলেই যেতে পারে। তা কোথায় যাচ্ছে?”
“এই তো আমেরিকা। ওখানে ডলার রোজগার করে আসুক কিছুদিন। এখানে আচ্ছা আচ্ছা লোক যা পায়, তা ও দু তিন মাসে রোজগার করবে।”
পিনটা বেশ ভালোই ফুটলো মনে হয় কারণ আপনার মাকে হয়তো কথাটা না শেষ করতে দিয়েই দীপা কাকিমা প্রায় হামলে পড়ে বলে উঠলেন- “হ্যা, হ্যা, জানি জানি। আমার মেয়ে জামাইয়ের ও তো সিঙ্গাপুর চলে যাওয়ার কথা। আজকাল তো আবার জানোতো আমেরিকা কেউ যেতেই চায় না। সিঙ্গাপুরে অনেক বেশী টাকা।”
“কি যে বল, টাকা দিয়েই সব হয় নাকি। সিঙ্গাপুর কে তো বলেই “পুওর ম্যান্স ইউ এস এ”, শুনেছি খুব খাটায় নাকি, আর যাই বলো আমেরিকান ডলারের দামটা কিন্তু এখন সিঙ্গাপুর ডলারের থেকে বেশী।”
অর্থনীতির ব্যাপার টায় কেঁচে গেলেন দীপা কাকিমা। এই ব্যাপারে রিঙ্কি কে না জিজ্ঞেস করেই একটা বেমালুম বলে দিয়েছেন, বেশী না বলাই ভালো আর।
কিন্তু আপনার মা ছাড়বেন কেন, পাকা ঘুটি কপাত করে খেয়ে ফেলার সময় এসে গেছে।
“তা কবে যাচ্ছে গো তোমার মেয়ে?”
“এই তো, ঠিক হলে তোমাদের জানাতাম। আসলে ওরা ওখানে একটা ফ্ল্যাট কিনে এক্কেবারে যাবে।”
আবার অবাক হওয়ার পালা আপনার মার। দীপা কাকিমার মেয়ের যখন বিয়ের পর পাসপোর্ট হল তখন সে কথা সবাইকে ফোন করে করে জানিয়েছিল। আর সে কিনা এরকম খবরটা চেপে রেখেছিল এ বিশ্বাস করা কল্পনার ও অতীত। গত তিন বছরে নিদেন পক্ষে নিউ টাউন না হোক রাজারহাটে ও এক টা ফ্ল্যাট কেনেনি, আর বাগুইহাটিতে ভাড়া বাড়িতে থেকে সল্ট লেক বলে চালায়, তারা আবার কিনছে সিঙ্গাপুরে ফ্ল্যাট। মেজাজ টাই বিগড়ে গেল আপনার মার। একথা সেকথা র পড়  ফোনটা রেখে দিলেন। ভাবলেন কেন যে ফোনটা করতে গেছিলেন।

আপনারও এরকম মনে হয় নিশ্চয়ি। যখন দেখেন ব্লাফবাজিতে পারদর্শী কিছু লোক নিজেরা কিছু করবে না, কিন্তু অন্য কেউ কিছু করলেই একইসাথে সেটা ছোট করবে আবার এমন আকাশচুম্বী গুল মারবে যে সবাই জেনেও হাসবে না কাঁদবে ঠিক করতে পারবে না।

আমার সাথেও এরকম মাঝে মাঝেই হয়। ওপরের কথাগুলো কাল্পনিক, চরিত্রগুলোও। কিন্তু সার সংজ্ঞা টা কাল্পনিক নয়। আমাদের প্রত্যেকের প্রত্যাশার পারদ উপরে উঠতে উঠতে এমন জায়গায় পৌছয় যে সেখান থেকে ফিরে আসতে অনেকেই পারে না। এই গুলবাজ রাও না। অস্বীকার করে লাভ নেই যে আমরা কেউই সত্যবাদী জুধিষ্টির নই, সময়ে অসময়ে আশে পাশে আমরাও গুল মার। কিন্তু জখনি দেখবেন কেউ ঊর্ধ্ব তর স্তরে গুল মারছে, তখন তাকে ভুলটা শুধরে দেওয়ার চেষ্টা করবেন না। কারণ তা আপনার মূল্যবান সময়ের অত্যাধিক অপচয়। উল্টে খোরাক করুন। কারন এর থেকে ভালো “কমেডি নাইটস” আর পাবেন না জীবনে। আর ঘরোয়া আড্ডায় বা বন্ধুদের সঙ্গে পিএনপিসি তে এগুলোই জমে ভালো।

পুনশ্চ – এবারের পর্বটা পড়ে মনে হতেই পারে যে এই খোজ নেওয়া এবং অন্যকে অগা ভেবে গালগল্প ঝাড়ার সুযোগ টা বঝি বাবা কাকা বা মা মাসি পিসি স্থানীয় লোকেরাই নেন। আজ্ঞে, সে গুঁড়ে বালি, কারণ স্বভাব জিনিসটা কোন বয়স, আয়সীমানা, প্রথাগত শিক্ষা দীক্ষার ধার ধারে না। পরের পরবে সেরকমই কিছু নিয়েই  পিএনপিসি করবো ভাবছি।