Yes, I am a Bengali and my life is not just about “jol khachi”, “babumoshai” and “roshogollas!”
But, yes the latter is always the best dessert. E-V-E-R!
After having written so many posts, I just finally realized that I haven’t yet written anything about the place where I was born and brought up; the culture and lifestyle that’s so much in me, that it compelled me to search for Bengalis even when I was abroad!
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So, with the Poila Boisakh a.k.a Bengali New Year here, I just thought to write a brief yet comprehensive A-Z list that can give a tiny glance at the real lives of us, Bengalis. For all the Bong readers out there, if you’re reading back in Kolkata or even in any remote part of WB, it’s cool. But for those who are reading it abroad, let me warn you, this post can give you major nostalgic feels. So, brace yourselves!
A for Adda
Adda is the very basic word for every Bengali! It means either a hub or a group conversation between just anyone like friends, local women or just elderly men. As a Bong, the topics can vary from politics to even those local celebs. You can call that a time-waster but this is just SO important for us.
B for Boroline
The staple “healing” ointment for almost every Bengali! Basically a night cream, Boroline has been with us since ages immemorial. We believe in it more than we believe in ourselves. Yes, I just said that! Basically a night cream, we use it for everyday stuff like burns, cuts, blisters and even stitches. If given a chance, my mother might even use it to apply it on Ned Stark’s beheaded body, hoping to get the head back. So, you see, it’s so much important!
C for Chingrir Malai Curry
You see…I just…can’t even…expla…!
Made with prawns embedded in a rich gravy primarily made of coconut milk, Chingri Macher Malai Curry is probably one of the biggest hits and one of the most common dishes of Bengalis. It doesn’t matter which part of Bengal we originally belong, this one dish is sheer love. Click here for the recipe.
D for Dimer Devil
No, it’s not Devilled eggs! It comprises of boiled eggs hugged by a generous amount of potato filling with a final crispy coating of breadcrumbs. Hmm, yes there’s actually so much in it yet available at a dirt-cheap price! They are in fact, one of the best and cheapest snacks you can grab yourself while wandering the streets of Kolkata. Well, that explains the popularity! Click here for the recipe.
E for Esplanade
Now, I just can’t emphasize how much I looove this place! Located perfectly at the heart of Kolkata, Esplanade houses an awesome collection of everything existing under the sun, including Dalhousie Square along with all the British colonial buildings. From busy markets to Shahid Minar to even The Indian Museum, you have just so many things to do here that’ll take more than just a day to explore. And trust me, it would be totally worth it!
F for Feluda
Feluda or Prodosh Chandra Mitra is our very own Bengali version of Sherlock Holmes! A thirty-something fictional private investigator, created by our very own Satyajit Ray, Feluda resides in hearts of almost all Bongs.
The character first appeared in 1965 in one of the most popular children’s magazine called Sandesh and since then, he is more adored than any other Indian fictional detective! A crisp character and simple presentation define our Feluda which makes him loved by children and adults. Want to give the series a read? Click the images below.
G for Gariahat
One of the busiest interjunctions of our very own Kolkata, Gariahat is definitely one of the most unmissable locations. From being one of the main roads of the city to one of the busiest markets, this spot has been the ultimate hub for millions of Bengalis since ages. Restaurants, flower shops, crockery stores, jewellery stores or fish market, there’s almost nothing you can’t find here.
H for Howrah Bridge
If you don’t know Howrah Bridge, you don’t deserve to be even in Bengal! The pride of Kolkata and, in fact, the entire Bengali clan, Howrah Bridge, also known as the Rabindra Setu, is the world’s sixth largest cantilever bridge. Supporting a daily traffic of almost 100,000 vehicles and over 150,000 pedestrians, this bridge has been one of the biggest tourist attractions of Kolkata! Well, the reasons justify it perfectly!
I for Ilish
Well, you see…I just…can’t even…expl…!
Ilish, aah, where to start from! We, Bengalis have a typical kind of obsession with this one fish and the reasons are justifiable enough. Being the best fish ever (yes, it is) it has an unmatchable taste and aroma that can almost make a vegan think twice about his choices. Steamed or fried or embraced in a rich “jhol” or curry, this fish is the KING of all fishes and a must have in almost all every Bengali palate.
J for Jamai Shoshti
A day specially dedicated only for the son-in-law! Yes, it exists and it happens in Bengal! Held in the Bengali month of Jaishtha, around summer, Jamai Shoshthi is one of the most auspicious days for the Bengali Hindus. The entire family arranges a grand feast wherein the daughters along with their husbands, “Jamais”, or sons-in-law are invited. From breakfast to dinner, every meal is a made with precision ensuring a typical kingly feel to the main guest, the Jamai.
K for Kalboisakhi
Kalbaisakhi is the love that precedes just before the onset of Bengal summer. Basically, a Nor’wester, the local rainfall along with thunderstorm occurs around March till monsoon is finally established. Yes, we do love this thunderstorm, not just because it’s almost the first rainfall of every year but also because it indicates that raw mangoes are about to be sweeter.
And as I write this, Kalbaisakhi is literally happening in Kolkata!
L for Lalbazaar
If you need to get in touch with Kolkata Police, Lalbazar is the place! Adjoining the epic BBD Bagh area, Lalbazar houses the headquarters of Kolkata Police, likewise near Esplanade, in one of the historic British buildings while the Lalbazar Street was once one of the best streets of Kolkata.
M for Mohunbagan A.C
You can’t be a Bengali if you don’t love soccer or rather “football!” Established in 1889 by three Bengali farmers, Mohunbagan A.C is probably the oldest existing football clubs of India and one of the oldest clubs of entire Asia. Historically, it enjoys the privilege of being a club with the biggest fan base all over India for having won multiple wins against big names on the front. Its fans also known as Mariners share such a deep love for this one club, that they have also known to have provided the club with financial help during its struggling times. Well, now that’s what you call a Fan!
N for Nolengur
Well, you see…I just…can’t even…expl…!
You must be wondering why half of this post comprises of food. Well, because for us Bengalis, food is not just a necessity, food is soul!
Nolen Gur, aah! It’s just the epic blissful love Bengalis cherish every winter! Nolen Gur is date palm jaggery and one of the most loved winter ingredients that are also co-incidentally healthy. From sandesh to roshogollas, this one ingredient is a sheer feast for almost every Bong out there! Ain’t I, right?
O for Ombol
And when you have so much food, what follows up is Ombol! Ombol or acidity is that one common health issue among all the Bengalis. Even if someone is living in Antarctica! Ombol can be major ailment for others, but for us Bengalis, it’s just a common affair. And how do we deal with it? Well, we always have Gelusil or Digene back at home right? So…
P for Park Street
The ultimate hub for Christmas every year, Park Street is so so so awesome due to some unknown magical reasons! One of the most famous hotspots of Kolkata, you can’t claim to be a Bong or even living in Kolkata, if you don’t wear a Santa cap and hop around the street during New Year and Xmas eve.
Q for Qombol
Ok, I know it should be K and not Q, but I wanted to fill up every alphabet, you see! Qombol is that friend who mostly accompanies us during winters to keep us warm from the chills. And that feel while being wrapped in it, along with a hot cup of coffee while reading a book is pure love. Oh, what is Qombol? Well, it’s a warm blanket! Ok, sorry, kill me later!
R for Roshogolla
Well, how can you even not expect this one! These tiny blissful white balls drowned in an exotic syrup has been our identity next to Howrah Bridge and mishti doi. And it does so quite rightfully? A must-have dessert for almost all Bengali occasions, rosogollas can indeed be called the ultimate king of all sweets. Don’t believe it? Check out our very own K C Das Rossogolla. You will know why.
S for Sourav Ganguly
The prince of Kolkata and the epic ex-captain of the Indian cricket team, Sourav Ganguly serves as our all-time best player, a credit which he deserves rightfully. Being one of the best batsmen, the world has ever seen, Ganguly had even got nicknamed as God off the Offside, due to being a prolific offside batsman. Dear Dada, you are rightfully our pride.
T for Trams
Probably, the only thing that’s found exclusively in Kolkata! Trams in Kolkata, serve as a major scoop of heritage and the classicism that almost every Bong wants to cherish about. Yes, they are slow enough, they indeed make a good deal of noise, but we just love them and can’t even think about Kolkata without them.
U for Uttam Kumar
Uttam Kumar is probably the biggest loss of Bengali Film Industry! An actor, director, singer and producer, Uttam Kumar still rules in our hearts. With a dashing look and an edgy personality, he was once the heartthrob of all and probably one of the greatest actors, India has ever witnessed.
Throughout his career, he successfully earned commercial as well as a critical success while winning multiple awards including the prestigious National Film Award for Best Actor. Even after 38 years of his demise, Uttam is regarded as one of the biggest Indian cultural icons.
V for Vallegena
Ok, I know it should have been “bhallagena” or “bhalo lage na”, which all in all means “not liking anything”, but it’s close enough, so you see!
Vallegena is probably my favourite word since I was born. I use it a zillion times throughout the day. Whether I hate the weather or just my dark circles, I use it, like millions of Bongs out there, for anything I dislike. Use it whenever you’re just tired of anything and can no longer deal with and…your problems won’t be solved.
This is exactly how I feel when I say it!
W for Wellington
Want to shop your winter essentials? Hop on to the Wellington located quite close to Esplanade. Since past 50 years or probably even more, this square has been the hub for folks from the north, mainly from Bhutan, Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Nepal for their winter goodies. Apart from these warm clothes, Wellington square is also replete with automobile tools at competitive reasonable prices. A must visit!
X for Xerox
Okay, I know Xerox is actually the name of the company that produces these laser photocopy printers, but you see, we actually don’t believe in it. We technically don’t photocopy anything, instead, we “xerox” it.
Y for Yaarki
Literally meaning a joke, yaarki is the base word for every Bengali to express anger or just indignation. If you feel you’re taken lightly, you might want to use this it. Don’t yarki with any Bong you see!
Z for Zoological Garden, Alipore
And the winter hub for almost everyone residing in Bengal! The Zoological Garden or Alipore Zoo has been the house of Aldabra Giant Tortoise, which now expired, aged around 250 yrs old. From reptiles to birds, there’s so much literally to explore here. Probably the biggest tourist destination, Alipore Zoo should definitely be on your check-list.
So, that’s it, people! These are some of the things that I personally feel every Bengali household comprises of. No, these are NOT Google searched. These are my personal experiences as I too was brought up in a Bengali household. If you feel I missed out anything, please please let me know in the comments. And, if you did feel a bit nostalgic after reading this post don’t forget to hit the share button. Share it with your Bengali friends and keep spreading the love.
Till then, Shubho Noboborsho!