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-

Continue reading “Tarpan Vidhi Part-3 / তর্পণ বিধি পর্ব – ৩”

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The Ambassador-stories of the “Sarkari” car, yellow taxis and freshly minted ‘old’ times…

That Hindustan Motors has decided to stop production of the iconic Ambassador car at its “Hind Motor” factory near Calcutta is almost stale news now. Probably as stale as the Ambassador grew for our changing tastes and everything fast and furious. If I go on to say that the decision made me teary eyed, I will be lying. For long, it was almost common knowledge. The factory situated in the outskirts of Calcutta, near a place called Uttarpara was more in news for constant labour troubles and decreasing in production. We all knew that, Ambassador, once the symbol of India’s elite’s pride and prestige was nearing an almost slow death. Let’s be honest and accept that even though my father always preferred Ambassador over all other cars because of the leg space, boot space and comfort, it was never the ‘in’ thing for my generation. When me and my husband decided to buy our first car almost 2 years back, Ambassador was not even in consideration. Why should it be? It was outdated in design, in comfort and in style.

But this post is not about the things which made  the Ambassador extinct, rather this is about the stories and the moments which will also be a part of our memories revolving around the car which meant so many things to us at different stages of our growing up years.

Kobekaar Kolkata shohorer bukey...
Kobekaar Kolkata shohorer bukey…

From: Here

My first memory about Ambassador cars was not about the car itself but the place called “Hind Motor”. One of my father’s dearest friend lives in Srerampore, an old town situated on the banks of the Hooghly. I remember often visiting their place during winters for the pleasure known as “choruibhati” or “picnic” among us Bengalis. We used to catch a particular train from Howrah station and I always managed to wrestle a sit by the window to see the changing landscape unfold in front of my eyes. The hustle bustle of the city and the larger than life images of the Howrah Bridge later, the stories of small towns nearby Calcutta made me inquisitive…always. And the most intriguing part was about the nomenclature of these places – “Rishra”, “Uttarpara”, “Liluah” and there was another one called “Hind Motor”. My father was my Google during those days and he told me during one of those trips that “Hind Motor” was named after the famous Hindustan Motors factory situated there. That must have been early 1990’s because I distinctly remember him explaining about how an entire township had developed on the basis of the employment generated due to the gigantic Hindustan Motors factory. Being my inquisitive self, I must have asked him about why Ambassador cars were either white or yellow. To that, I was told that the white cars are either ‘private’ cars or ‘sarkari’ cars and the yellow ones are ‘taxis’.

Mind you, this was India of 1990’s. Globalisation had still not swept us off our feet and our NRI relatives were our mini “demi gods”. The 15 days they were here in India, they demanded every bit of the attention they deserved. We used to gape in wonder about the ‘biiiiiig’ cars they used to drive on the picture perfect roads. For most of us, owning a car during those times was actually a status symbol. Just like the instant edge that you had over your friend if your family had a landline telephone connection and your friend’s mother used to talk incessantly with her grandmother while sitting in your family’s living room. And the very few of the cars we knew was “Maruti 800”, “Fiat” and the grand old man- “the Ambassador”. While Maruti had already started making inroads into the dinner table fantasy of the middle class, “Ambassador”, the white coloured one, represented prestige, power and aristocracy.

I remember my father asking one of his friends about the car he had recently purchased. At this point, I must tell you that I have inherited my genes of “sucker for everything old” from my father. So while the uncle went on to lament how great a car Maruti was, my father constantly told him that he should have got an Ambassador. His reasons were simple. Even if you forget the comfort and the space the car provided, the ‘Class’ that it appended to your status can never be forgotten. “Abhijatyo” and the middle class Bengali- ah! that will make for another good story.

Strangely, a very inquisitive person like me also never questioned my father’s beliefs about the Ambassador being the epitome of class. Probably because the answer was written all over. My neighbour, a very high-placed Government Official, used a red beacon fitted Ambassador. And oh! boy, the moment it glided across the South Calcutta neighbourhood I lived in, it drew many a  jealous glances. Everyone knew that somebody very important lived in that house. Be it the parar pujo (neighbourhood Durga Pujo) or a certain cultural evening, everyone used to make a beeline at his house for some funds which he may procure for the association using his contacts for “advertisement”. In every decision he had an upper hand and the symbolism of all of that boiled down to that white Ambassador and the red beacon atop it.

Vintage

From: Here

While I watched this, I often wondered when will my father be able to drive such an Ambassador car which spells authority with such an elan. It would also mean me taking an upper hand over all my neighbourhood  friends. The mere thought excited me much. I used to hear hush hush discussions between my parents where my father told that his promotion is long due and after that he will also be entitled to use one such car. Fully funded on Government money…spelling power, prestige and class! The dream materialised soon after and while my father did not always use his office car, it did mark a key shift in the way others perceived us in the neighbourhood. While my father often generously offered lifts to other office goers in the same “office para” (yes! in Calcutta e have a para for office also :)), I felt immense pride at his achievement. He was a self made man and he deserved every bit of the prestige that the white Ambassador commanded. Incidentally, whenever my father uses his office car till today, he specifically mentions that he needs an Ambassador. Times have changed and the white Ambassador might have paved way for the much more fashionable BMWs in Raisina Hill, but my father remains a strong supporter of the car that contributed in some or the other way the name to reckon with what he is today. And while the landscape of my quiet South Calcutta neighbourhood has changed quite a bit in the past few years, the jealous glances and the glances of importance that my father receives every time the white Ambassador bearing the symbolism of it being a part of the Government machinery,  glides by has not changed at all over the years.  BMWs, Mercs and everything notwithstanding. I wonder what will happen a few years later when the last few remaining cars will be shoved past the Calcutta street keeping in mind the environmental norms and clearances? Will my father raise a demand for an Indica, Indigo or a Dzire? I do not know.

If the white Ambassador marked the journey of my family towards the fulfillment of their dreams, the yellow one will remain equally special for us. At least for me in particular. But like many other choices of mine in life, this was also somehow influenced by my father. Once during a trip to Bombay (he still refers to the city by that name, so do I ) he found it immensely disturbing that the “dikki” did not have enough space to carry his luggage. That is exactly when  he told me that Calcutta is better than any other city in India. Reason- We had “boro dikkiwala” (huge bootspace worthy) Ambassador taxi. The yellow ones. The ones that mark the cityscape to be Oh! Calcutta every time they show up on a movie screen. Remember the recent Bolly hit Kahaani? To think that one could even compare it to Bombay’s tiny Fiat taxis was almost blasphemous for my father. And I adhered to his belief. I still do.

Yesterday evening I was having a random conversation with one of my favourite juniors from college about how end of the road for Ambassadors in India meant death knell for our favourite Calcutta taxi..the yellow ones! He reminded me that earlier the Ambassador taxi was also painted in black and yellow. But I suppose I owe my memory more to the yellow one. The yellow taxi…the ultimate time machine to rush to a 9:00 clock exam while starting from home at 8:30 in the morning. “Taxi!!!!!” that one shout out from my father and I knew that I will well be in time for the exam. Much later, when valentines day became fashionable among us, hiring a taxi to impress the girl you wanted to date became fashionable too. The logic was simple, taxi fares were sky rocketing and the fact that you could hire a taxi meant you had money power. Come to think of it today, how stereotypical the process was. The girls never offered to pay the fare but aren’t you bound to take a few liberties with memories? Rain drenched, Victoria clad Calcutta memories?

Actually, you can take many! To tell the truth we were definitely the last of the imaginative young lot Calcutta had seen. Forum was the only mall that we knew of and Saraswati pujo and Rabindra Jayanti in my school were equally important as Valentines day. I went to a co-ed school and I know many of my guy friends perfecting the art of calling a ‘taxi’ with style and elan. All to impress his sweetheart! To think of it that the sweethearts have exchanged hearts with somebody else nowadays is a different story altogether 😛

But if I tell you that all of my memories about the yellow taxi are happy ones, I will be lying! The pain of catching an obnoxious taxi and begging the driver to take you to your desired destination, most often during peak office hours or rain, is one thing that every Calcuttan knows. I have fought with them, threatened to call police and have been often threatened at. Fighting, as you see is in a bong woman’s vein and she does not believe in taking taxi refusals lying down. Another thread of quarrel was picked up when two people almost at the same time manage to sit in the same taxi with precision which would have earned India a few more Olympic gold medals. While the taxi driver often suggested that ‘sharing and caring’ is the way to go, I protested. While the fight snowballed, so did stories. The rogue taxi drivers were often the villain but right now I can remember one who used to patiently wait for me at around 8:40 in the morning near Tollygunge Bangur Hospital. My in laws house in Calcutta is nearby and since I was always almost late for office, this taxi wallah bhaiya would decline all other passengers round that time and would wait for me to arrive. I travelled all the way from South to north and reached my office situated near Salt Lake. He earned a handsome amount every morning but somewhere that was not all the consideration that he had in his mind. The fact that loyalty can be known in a city which is increasingly turning out to be a much colder and scarier shadow f its former self was comforting thought.

If I had to end this memoir of mine with one another memory, it will definitely be about the yellow taxi which heralded the beginning of our every summer vacation. While all of my father’s and mother’s friends decided to meet at a particular time beneath the ‘boro ghori’ (big watch’) of the Howarh station, it was the big dikkiwallah Ambassador taxi that was always called to stuff in all the luggage.

Probably, their days are also numbered now. One by one they will vanish from the face of the city and with them, the stories of our childhood, our growing up years, moments marred with short stories, stories of love, betrayal, the moment of fetching a taxi to hide your tears after heart break, the moment of fetching a taxi to reach home quickly to deliver the news about your first job, the moments of taking my pregnant neighbour to the nearby hospital in a taxi since no ambulance was available…and the good news which later travelled back in a similar taxi, the smell of Calcutta written all over it once you step out of the Airport and a swarm of warm yellow happiness engulfing you…all that and more.

Calcutta will move on. The newer lot of taxis are lot more smarter and good-looking. They have car charging points, newspapers, GPS enabled dashboards. There are different varieties of them all. They are also often called cabs nowadays. But for us ‘taxi’ will always remain the good old yellow Ambassador car, just like the ultimate symbol of “Sarkari” prestige will be the white Ambassador. And if not for all of that, there is one reason why my father’s generation and probably some of mine will never be able to forget the Amby or the Ambassador. Remember ‘Aranyer Dinratri’  and the car that the four gentleman drove? Yes, it was an Ambassador.

Calcutta...a few years ago!
Calcutta…a few years ago!

(My own click)

P.S. – What happens to Hind Motor now? The thriving township – is it dead already or has the children moved to Delhi, Gurgaon or Bombay in search of a much better life.

Durga Pujo to a Calcuttan- Connotations, religious and beyond!

The very first thing every year I do after I get hold of the calendar (the Roman and the Bengali one, both) is to check the Durga Pujo dates. You may call it a habit, a glimpse of joy or a routine…anything. But I am sure that I am not the only one. Bengalis are by birth emotional and the degree attached to my idiosyncrasies is wee bit more. I am the kind who would cry silently in the bathroom after watching a few pictures of my city getting all decked up for Durga pujo on Facebook and then walk out perfectly happy and sane after thinking about the ‘to do’s in a ‘Probashi pujo’.

Frankly speaking, this is not the first time that I am away from home during Durga pujo, the significance of which in the life of an ordinary Calcuttan (and by that I mean all Calcuttans!) can be only understood by visiting the city during the time of the festival. I have heard many comparisons about Durga pujo being almost like Ganesh Chaturthi in Bombay, Hyderabad or Pune or for that matter internationally the Rio Carnival in Brazil. Amongt these I have experienced only the Hyderabadi celebrations and so I may not be qualified to comment but deep down inside, as girl growing up in a South Calcutta neighbourhood where pujo meant the excitement of discussing plans about decoration of the pandal and collecting funds way before the celebrations started, I know that Durga pujo in a Calcuttan’s life cannnot be substituted.

My ‘parar’ Durga Puja. The neighbourhood Puja – one that spells ‘home’. (My own click)

I have no qualms in admitting that Durga pujo for me and for many like me who grew up in Calcutta had connotations beyond being just a religious festival. And there lies the spirit and warmth which makes pujo so unique. I have seen, in Hyderabad for instance, that only people who follow a particular faith as mine, Hinduism, participating in the celebrations for Ganesh Chaturthi and during the day of Visarjan a curfew is often imposed in the old city area just to avert any chances of communal tension. And to think that we Calcuttans mark the beginning of our Durga pujo itinerary by making a mandatory visit to Arsalan and by devouring the mutton biriyani! It’s a pilgrimage, just like the chelo kabab or the prawn cocktail in Peter Cat or Mocambo. And of course the bhog that is served during the pujo days in the neighbourhood. Perhaps the only vegetarian fare which seems tasty to the tongue to the Calcuttan foodie 🙂 Durga pujo is as important for gastronomical delights to be explored as hopping through the makeshift wonders which dot the cityscape for the 4 days. People visiting the city first time during the pujo often wonder that so much of creativity and thought has gone for the preparation…and that too just for 4 days. I think there are already reams of data available on the internent over how Durga pujo celebrations is almost a cottage industry in Bengal ( I am not making a point for Industrialisation in Bengal).

My friends often wonder how can we Bengalis, and also the Calcutta Marwaris, Gujaratis and Biharis, who have called Calcutta home for  a long time now and that includes many of my friends who subscribe to the tought “ghar mein veg bahar non veg” (eating vegetarian fare in the house and non vegetarian outside”), eat non vegetarian food during the time we are celebrating a religious festival. My answer to the often remains that it is the same fervour with which we devour the Biriyani in a neighbour’s house during Eid or eat the plum cake during Christmas. And if I miss out on the Langar food during Guruparab (also Balwant Singh’s dhaba food in Bhawanipore) it will be almost blasphemy and I will not be qualified enough to call myself a Calcuttan. Calcuttans are often called a ‘hujugey’ lot. One who go by the wave. What else will describe the city’s euphoria in descending upon Park Street on the 24th December night every year? There are numerous flipsides in attaching so much importance in celebrating every festival, but somewhere I feel that it attaches a non communal flavour to the city’s diaspora. And the Durga pujo is the biggest among them all. That explains the Councillor of my ward, who practises Islam, taking active interest in making the pujo a success and never missing out on the Ashatmi bhog. That also includes the Sardars who stay near Bhawanipore being an active support in all the pujo planning.

Yes, I pray every year…and piously give my Ashtami anjali, fasting for the first half for the day and planning where to eat in the night. That is in between popping two gelusil tablets (Bengalis and their acidity!) I make wishes before the Goddess and participate in the ‘Sondhi pujo’ where I see thousands gather to pay homage to the mother who saved mankind. The magical moment of celebration all women kind when the 108 lights bloom in full grandeur to express their gratitude to the power of a woman. That is religious for me, extremely religious. That moment often defines the understanding of me being a “Hindu”. A practitioner of the “sanatan dharma”. For me, it is not remotely related to anything including eating non vegetarian food, chowmein, carrying mobile phones, going to pubs and parties, wearing what I feel I look beautiful in, being confident about myself or being friends with people of other faiths or inviting them to share the Bhog.

Calcutta, I have heard and seen, is incrasingly becoming intolerant towards the fairer sex. A year ago also I could take pride in the fact that my city is one of the safest in India, not anymore. But Durga pujo every year gives me hope. A hope that the same people who put up posters about “praying in front of the Goddess” will learn a thing or two about how not to make snide remarks about a woman wearing something you find “sexy”  in the crowd. Let her enjoy the pandal hopping or the adda ta Maddox square just like you do. Or to jostle inside the Pujo pandal just to grope her. Interestingly, it is also the time of the year when a significant number of eve teasing cases are registered in Calcutta. I do not claim I have never faced any during Pujo.

This year, I will be celebrating pujo in a faraway land. I will attend Germany’s biggest Durga pujo and one of Europe’s biggest pujo, in Cologne. I am looking forward to the excitement here…very much palpable among the ‘probashis’. The cultural program, the arrangements, the self cooked bhog….but deep down inside I know I will miss the crowds, the lights, the chant from the balcony while welcoming the daughter when she comes home a day before “shoshti”- “Thakur eshe geche” (“Look the deity has arrived”) and the spirit that is called Calcutta.

Pujo, for us Calcuttans, will always remain a celebration of life- food, friends, adda, nostalgia and planning for the next year 🙂

“Ashche bochchor abar hobe”

Sokhi bhalobasha kare koy?

Tagore had asked this question aeons ago…and frankly speaking none of us have the answer till date. We all know how does it feel….it feels good, it feels great :))
But that never implies that the journey is a cakewalk. In case it is, it is something else….love is as much about sharing a life together as like eating your hilsa with extra mustard toppings 😛 (that’s the bong foodie in me talking)
“Jaan jaati hain jab uthke jaatey ho tum”
Farida Khanum sums up the pain beautifully in probably one of the most simple ghazals I have ever heard.
and there is more to it. Just like Gulzaar saab’s poetry 🙂
“sehme se rehte hain, jab yeh din dhalta hain/ ek hi aah bujhta hain/ ek hi aah jalta hain/ tumne koi deep jalaya hota”
I don’t claim to understand completely the serenity behind those lines…but the eternity behind them is truly magical.
Just like the dreams of a lonely sunday afternoon, ‘us’ in our living room…..our favourite songs on the music player……one where he will shre random facts about some stuff I thought never existed…and then he will bear my completely out of tune songs….and then he will say something about the Jasmine- the flower and the revolution. and then I will share with him my new found enthusiasm about finance. He being the pro will tell me where I was fundamentally wrong…and he will buy me books! loads of them…. 🙂 🙂
“lokey tobe kore ki sukheri torey emon dukheri aansh”

Realisations…lately.

1. Love makes your world go round….and square, rectangle and what not! It’s like watching the stars descend and kiss your feet goodnight…every night 🙂
2. Have you ever said “I Love you” and meant it? In case you haven’t, please do! It will make you the happiest person on this planet.
3. I am nowadays training to be that perfect homemaker. I can now wash bedsheets and jeans on my own, without a washing machine that is. Quite an acheivement for daddy’s little girl na? 😀
4. It feels liberating when I pay my own bills. Pay through those vouchers when we go to eat out. And buying those flight tickets back home- first time with my own money. I remember everytime I deceided lastminute to go back home when  all the flights were dangeously overpriced and all I needed to do was to call up dad and start crying :P. Did you ever watch that Mastercard ad?
5. I have this huge crush on Shashi Tharoor. Probably the second longest one. And I am just completely in aw of him. Wonder what made him marry a garishly decorated woman like her 😦 I am jealous! Also, I am yet to finish his article in Deccan Chronicle this week. My bad luck 😦
6. I have discovered almost all good loooking eateries in and around Madhapur. I promise myself everyweek that I won’t have so much outside food next weekend, but then again friday night comes and I crave for Chinese. That reminds me. I have discovered this amazing small bengali food joint near that Madhapur petrol bunk called “Tumpa”. Seriously! it’s awesome and so cool on your pockets. so any bong out there (in and around Madhapur/ Jubilee Hills) who is missing home food and ont want to spend so much on that overhyped “Calcutta Cabin” can surely go there. It’s alsmot like a Dada Boudi’s hotel. And you will be amazed to see the amount of bengalis out here only in Madhapur. Every time I walk down my lane I can hear somebody or the other blabbering his/her way to glory in probbaly the sweetest language on the planet (ok! I will consider Urdu and am yet to learn French so….)
7. I think I am just in awe of someone. That one guy who discusses and gives me random gyan about India’s foreign policy. Can educate me big time on India’s defense policy. The one with whom I can share my views about Atish Taseer’s that ‘now’ much talked about article. And how he makes a point that Taseer, with all due repect, doesn’t make any new point..academically speaking. And then we discuss why is this one special…may be because of that politically overhyped parentage…and the real pain that Taseer faced. You see! I think you are just plain and simple “awesome”. Be my friend. Always 🙂

Saraswati Pujo- not so long ago.

So today is Saraswati Pujo. and like every bongo nari worth her salt, I also have a few memories here and there. But the memories that one associates with Saraswati pujo primarily in the bengali diaspora (read bangalir valentines day and a few more) are somewhat absent in my case. The reasons are varied. One of them is the fact that since the time I have entered college, I haven’t been able to attend one single Saraswati pujo. That’s quite a ‘long’ five years. Isn’t it?
While I was pondering on the issue about missing out on Sarswati pujo for five years straight during one of the class lectures (International Humanitarian law- was it) today morning that I realised that five years is indeed a long time. Time flies. But leaves a mark here and there. I could never have that perfect Saraswati pujo morning, ‘yellow taant sari’, jhari mara at para and then a very innocent love affair may be (mishti mishti prem)- the beginning of it, on Sarswati pujo. And I don’t think I will ever have one in this life. The age is long gone.

Don’t get me wrong. I love being twenty three and am really looking forward to turning thirty (and I have very different aspirations from gul panag on that count)…but I am equally at ease to acknowledge that every age and every passing by year brings with it it’s own charm. Think about it. I will not trade being twenty three with being eighteen. and vice versa. Because twenty three has given me the confidence to take on the world (and now that my friend Runjhun has convinced the laziest side of me, I am seriously giving that book a thought). In short, it’s like this I am more aware of myself and know that I have something to bank on. and regardless of how much we crib about life, we have all emerged victorious. And Eighteen was all about that lush green innocence with dash of pinks and blue. I still have blues, green and pink on my mind- all over it. But I have to acknowledge it- that starry eyed me at eighteen is widely different from me now at twenty three. And it’s true for most of us. Pinks, blue and green stay on…just the quota of innocence (and rose tinted glasses) remain on the statistical flow chart 🙂 You love that chocolate sundae right? And you love it more when you can buy that for yourself and your beloved ones-dad, mom, sister. Twenty three is about that. But that Rupees five candy ice cream(which my mom always told me was made of “nordomar jol”- water out of sewer pits) always tasted sweeter.

And this was about Saraswati pujo, right??? Oh! yes.

I never attended Saraswati Pujo in my school, Nava Nalanda since our founding fathers and mothers belonged to the Brahmo sect (ones among Hindus who do not believe in idol worship). never had the opportunity to attend Saraswati Pujo during my two years in Higher Secondary section in South Point, so don’t know about that experience also. But then again people in Nava Nalanda had carefully planned out a completely different Valentines Day for itself. Trust the Nalandites to do that- some of the best brains in the city flocked in there. And any guesses what that day was. Well!! Pochishey Bosihakh, the day we celebrated the birth anniversary of the man who influenced me and continues to do so for generations that will be beyond my comprehension. Yes! Rabindrajayanti (or Nava Nalanda’r Rabindrasmaran was our very own homespun Valentines day (along with a dash of Reunion spirit) with laal paar sada shari, jui phooler mala and hint of first crush. Many of my friends invited their dates to come to the boulevard on that day and though I never had one, I loved discussing every bit of my crush on that young and dapper maths teacher of mine who never really thought anything me about me other than the very chubby para kid. Sigh!

But, I miss one thing about Saraswati pujo…actually two. Wearing Saris. That’s the first one. For someone who loves wearing the garment on every other occasion, the day is a dream. My mom would never fuss about tying my sari, because she thought it was one day when I should wear it properly (I still can’t neatly drape a sari and my mom always complain that why don’t I learn it properly). And the second one is obvious, and you must have guessed it by now in case you even have an iota of hint about the bong foodie inside me. Yes! the Saraswati pujo menu. And there lies a huge twist also.

Most of the bong households (and that cuts through the Bangal-ghoti divide) traditionally prefer having Khichuri and other delicious vegetarian stuff on the day of Saraswati pujo. But people originally from Dhaka, Bikrampur or for that matter my ancestral village Bharakar, have this tradition of eating ‘jora ilish’ (twin hilsa fish) on the day Saraswati pujo.I am not sure whether it’s  family custom or more of a ‘lokachar’ (custom of the people across a particular region), but that’s what I remember. I remember my amma cutting the ilish into pieces after what I described as a ‘pujo’ with Holud (turmeric) and other memorabilia considered holy in the Bengali household. They were neatly put across in a tray which much to my amusement looked like the tottwo tray (gifts tray) used in Bengali marriages.
My father always had a tough time locating the jora ilish during this time of the year. Later, he switched to bringing two identical Hilsa fishes and then go ahead with the custom. The preparation was simple. The normal ilish beguner jhol (hilsa curry with eggplants), the way its is supposed to be on that day.My mom cooked the perfect variety with a splatter of  kalo jeerey (cumin seends) thrown in.  For me that was simply heaven. Rice and Ilish mach- Perfect bliss for me.
But all that was many eons ago, and that makes me realise- time flies. albeit with brakes in between. It will be five years this Christmas since Amma has left for her heavenly abode. We no longer have jora ilish during Sarswati pujo. It was not possible to get hold of one such jora ilish or for that matter two identical ones and once it was stopped, it was suggested we do not carry it forward any more. (It’s almost a general belief in case a ritual or custom is involuntarily stopped somehow, one should not carry it forward or do so with some more customs thrown in- we of course switched sides with Khichuri which is a favourite with my sister and mom.) I haven’t been home for any Sarswati pujo in between for the past five years. I haven’t attended one single Saraswati pujo in my father’s newly done up library downstairs. I have stopped missing the banter every time anybody would come to my house door to collect subscription money for their nondescript club and my father asking each one of then the correct spelling of ‘Saraswati’ in Bengali and in English.

But I still remain a sucker for that ilish beguner jhol. Everytime, I go back home, my mom makes sure I have enough helpings of my favourite ilish mach with that perfect dash of kalo jeerey. It’s that ‘one’ dish that makes me proclaim that my mom is the best cook in the world. (I have actually three best cooks- My didun, ma and my pishimoni- don’t be jealous :P). I still don’t get to eat more than one or two Narkel er Kul (not translatable) even after Sarswati pujo. Earlier it was the fear of impending exams. Here it is simply not available- that’s why. And I think I will almost end up enjoying the triumphant faces of those children on my doorstep spelling out – dontye shwo, ro, dontye shwoy bwoy, to ey dweerghoyi kar- and my father cheering them “very good” and giving them that coveted twenty rupees note. The inflation might have made the stakes higher and twenty might now spell fifty or hundred- but that is primarily an economist’s debate. For me, somethings never change 🙂 🙂

Biddhye dao, Buddhi dao 🙂
Sri Sri Saraswati Debyoi Nomoh!

100th Post: Songs that stay on

So here it is. I mean the 100th post.  Am in two minds to give a Karan Johar-esque Filmfare speech. He apparently cried this time too. But that apart, it’s been quite nice a journey…and now when I think about the shit I wrote, I doubt my intelligence. But then again, being emotional is not all about being foolish. Right? It’s also about being in touch with nicer sides of life- the ones you share with two cups of piping hot tea. And thanks for all the appreciation and the bitching- both actually. And most importantly thanks for bearing with me. I can be obnoxious, uber senti and a walking talkathon- all at the same time- I guess a few people know that too well. But in spite of that people came back and read my blog. Commented and shared. That’s actually nice you know.

I was thinking of doing something nice for the 100th post, when I came across a fellow blogger’s list of favourite books. Well, thought of doing that. Actually, that’s long overdue since Swayambhu Da has already tagged me in such a post of his. But not in a mood…..actually, I was reading ‘Sex and the City’ – the novel by Candace Bushnell and to tell you the truth, I am horrified…if that’s what critics describe as “Jane Austen with a Martini”- DIE!!! I have silently taken refuge to a collection of short stories by Indian women across all languages (albeit translated in English) and Karan Bajaj’s latest. 
So what’s the other healer- yes, music. And here it is my list of a few of my favourite film songs which I love to listen and share with all, in no particular order. I am not including a few other genres with which I am mostly identified with (read Robi Thakurer gaan, Chandrobindoo, Suman) primarily because the list will be quite long then.
1. Ajeeb Dastaan hain yeh/Kahan shuru kahan khatam/ Yeh manzeelien hain kaunsi/ Na woh samajh sakein na hum…..
The iconic song with the iconic beauty. This song from Dil Apna Preet Paraya is one of the closest to my heart. Somehow I need to be in sync with the lyrics of a song to like it. And that’s what precisely describes my fondness for this song. Serene, Calm and nostalgic. It’s all about unspoken words, unsung romances (which as a Bengali fascinates me like anything)……na woh samajh sake na hum- that precisely 🙂
2. Hoyto Tomari jonnyo/Hoyechi premey je bonyo/ Jani tumi ananyo/ ashar haat barayi…..
Gangar ghat, Soumitra, Manna De, Good ole’ Cal. Need I say more? 
What more does a woman want?  (exclude Phuchka and ghotigorom please!) 🙂 🙂 
3. Naina Milaike…Jhoot Kapat chhal kiyi ni…..
That Rahman is a magician is a foregone conclusion. But this song is also all about the wordsmith called Gulzaar. I once started learning Urdu quite religiously and it’s an open secret that one of the reasons was primarily the temptation to read Gulzaar in the language he is close to, apart form Hindi. 
“Dil ki kachcheri mein muqadma chalai ke….mujrim humein kar diyi ni”
4. Phir Se aaiyo badra bidesi….
Namkeen’s soundtrack is full of sweet nothings and this finds a place of glory. More so because the Meghpeon had a story to tell and long back it was all over 🙂
5. Lajey Ranga holo koney bou go/ Malabodol hobe aj ratey…
Let’s face it. We love marriages. I love marriages and all the chaos associated with it. I once remember telling a gathering of pishis, jethis, kakimas that in case (of course I will) I get married it will be full on Indian style- the big fat bangali wedding- three days long. This song is all about that method in madness. 
“khaat dilam, palonk dilam/saatbhori sona/ raibaghini nonodi go khnota diyo na”
6. Uthche jege shokalgulo
Autograph’s soundtrack has been a revelation and there is no denying that this was one of the best songs of the year. If only, there was no midriff baring Nandana Devsen!! Raima Sen or Radhika Apte or may be Vidya Balan- they are honorary bongs right? please!- “Khunshuti ar jhograjhati/ adda hobe khub jomati”- that’s what we all crave for right?
7. Pachayi Niramey
This is a holy exception to my list of understandable lyrics category. Alaipayuthey, Madhavan, Maniratnam and Rahman in original…bliss!
8. Tumko Dekha to yeh khayal aayaa/ Zindagi dhoop tum ghana saaya
I rediscovered this song on a lazy sunday morning and thought it’s the best thing to have happened to me since  the leading man in the movie. Yes! am a Farooq Sheikh fan 🙂
9. Dekha ek khwaab to yeh silsile huye….
There is something about unrequited love you know. and tulip fields. and probably the most controversial pairing of my father’s generation. 
10. Hain aapna dil to awara/na jane kispe aayega…
I have listened to Hemonto Mukhopadhyay in Bengali and I still feel that this is one of his better sung songs. and obviously the panache with he sings it. “Hain ek tutaa hua tara/ na jane kispe aayega”
11. Aamar bhindeshi tara/ eka rateri akashey (re worked version- Antaheen)
Simply because it had to be there. I love the original more. No doubt. But somehow Shantanu Moitra did something really nice with this song. And add to it Anindya’s charm (oh! that fichel hashi). Every work of art should be open to interpretation and Shantanu’s version was a perfect ode to the original. “Aami payina chnutey tomay/ amar ekla lagey bhari”. 
P.S. Anindya, the lyricist, I just wanted you to know- You have given words to those unspoken emotions more than once. At least for me.
12. Pretty Woman- the song.
The movie was fairytale. Richard Gere- a dream and Julia Roberts was catapulted to overnight stardom  And the song- 🙂 🙂 “fairytale”. That reminds me Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy did a wonderful job in Kal Ho na Ho while they reworked it.
13. Main pal do pal ka shayar hoon
I have heard that Mukesh was primarily known as the voice of Raj Kapoor. I wish he wasn’t stereotyped because of that. This particular number from “Kabhi Kabhie” makes you fall for that tall lanky guy on screen singing the nagma’s so well. And Mukesh is heavenly.
14. Yeh tumhari meri baatein/ humesha yunhi chalti rahein
I love Farhan Akhtar and I love the musical sense he inherited. I loved his raspy voice in Rock On. But the film remains special for this song. Conversations are delightful. Who won’t like to describe a relationship like that?
15. Ami Chini go chini tomare/ ogo bideshini
Don’t get me wrong and am not like that Youtube junkie who wrote that Rabindranath Tagore wrote “Sokhi Bhabona kahare boley” for Ekti Tarar khonje. But This makes it to the list because of Kishore Kumar. and the picturisation- one of the best picturisation of Robindroshongeet on screen (Ray’s genius- what more do you expect?) I think my love for Soumitra is well known by now. So I won’t delve on that much. I love the note on which the song ends- “Ogo Bouthakurani”
16. Aami Miss Calcutta 1976
Aparna Sen- Period.
17. Aamar din katey na/ Aamar raat katey na/ Dingulo je kichuteyi pichu hatey na
Choddobeshi was a cult comedy and this song is one of the best of that ‘purboraag’ mode I have ever heard.
18. Aabke Saajan sawan mein
This one’s from Choddobeshi’s Hindi remake – “Chupke Chupke”. Sharmila Tagore and the fellow bongs (You know Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Jaya Bhaduri- yes! ‘them’) in the unit to do justice to the story and this song…. “itney badein ghar mein nahi..ek bhi jharokha”
19. Besh korechi prem korechi
Trust Mithu Mukherjee and Ranjit Mullick to unabashedly declare the affair and how! Btw, It was Mouchak.

20. Thare Rahiyo O baanke yaar

I remember Pakeezah for two reasons. Meena Kumari and her feet – “aapke pair bohot khoobsurat hain/ inhe zameen pe mat rakhiye/ mailey ho jayenge” and this song. Lata Mangeshkar- Hail!

21. Dil cheez kya hain aap meri jaan lijiye

Lyrics. Poetry. And if we talk about Lata can the sibling be far behind? Asha ji, you are my favourite. More so because you can only sing “Aagey khud hi janlo/ Iske aagey hum/ aur kya kahein/ jaanam samjha karo”- and at this age.

22. Ei poth jodi na sesh hoy tobe kemon hoto tumi boloto?
And I will close the list with the iconic Bengali Romantic song. This one permeates through ages and generations with elan. Rina Brown! Uttam-Suchitra- need I say more?
And I am not happy because songs like- “sob khelar sera bangalir tumi football”, “Jodi hoyi chorkanta oi sharir bhanjey”, “Nari choritro bejay jotil, kichui bujhtey parbe na, ora kono law maney na, tai oder naam law law na” 😛 and “ekey to phagun mash darron ey somoy, legeche bishom chot ki jaani ki hoy” was missed.
Also, “Ke tumi Nandini/Agey to dekhini”- Remember Parar pujo? Ashtami anjali? and Jhari mara?- I know you get it.
And 90’s Hindi film songs- You are truly my life line. I can listen to “Ghoonghat ke aar se dilbar ka” and “Ek do teen” anytime. I think I will now make a list according to genres. That sounds a better idea.