Tag Archives: kolkata

Uniquely Bengali

I am Bengali – I belong from a state in India which is well known for its confusing political state, its obssession with fish, intellectual addas, chopsingaramuri, its contribution to Indian Cinema, music, its extravagant Durga puja and so on. It is a beautiful state, but who doesn’t feel that way about their birth places?

But beyond all this, what is the underlying motif of being Bengali, of being part of a Bengali household? This will differ a little bit depending on which area you are from, but here’s how I see Bangaliayana as:

Being Bengali is waking up early in the morning, sometimes as early as 4-4.30 AM, freshening up and heading for a morning walk with a translucent polythene bag. The men may wear shorts and sports shoes, but the womenfolk tread on in their pumps and sarees and their petticoats and blouses, sweating profusely through them. The polythene bag acts as a storage of all the flowers that they will pick up on their walk, sometimes over a little chat with the neighbor whose trees they are picking the flowers from, sometimes secretly, making sure no one sees them in their flower-picking exercise. These little furtive activities sometimes make for the most pleasurable experiences for a Bengali soul.

Being Bengali means standing in the line in front of the dairy or the meat shop, bargaining for the best pieces of mutton: chest, leg pieces etc. Being Bengali means going to the market for the fresh vegetable produce and fish, before everyone else had picked it up.

Being Bengali means the occasional fast on a plethora of festivals, to appease the 33 lakh gods the Hindus pray to: Manasa pujo, Bipottarini pujo, Shitala pujo. Being Bengali means making luchi and payesh to break that fast, and distributing small portions of those as well as the auspicious threads to tie on the wrists among the neighbors.

Being Bengali means gossip for the womenfolk as they do their dishes and shout out from the windows to the neighbor – whose daughter was not going getting married yet in spite of looking for grooms for the past year, whose son failed in the exam because he fell into bad company, whose children don’t look after their parents after having comfortably settled in Germany, whose mother-in-law is too quarrelsome and makes life hell for the young wife. Being Bengali means womenfolk sitting on moras in winter, with the December sun lusciously teasing their backs with cozy warmth, as they knit mittens and sweaters for their grandchildren.

Being Bengali means conch shells blowing in the evening, along with the burning of incense sticks and ululating women. It means the mandatory arati of the tulsi plant, which is regarded as the sacred plant and is part of every Bengali household.

Being Bengali means prodding the children away from the television as dusk falls, to their study rooms, because the mothers and the grandmothers will now watch the serials that have been continuing over ages, and also because, everyone wants their children to be doctors and engineers and they have to beat Mr. Sen’s daughter in maths.

Being Bengali means the machher jhol ar bhaat ar akta ruti for dinner. It means leaving the dishes in the sink for the cleaning lady to grumble over the next morning. It means the tucking of the mosquito net under the mattress of every bed, irrespective of mosquitos being in the season or not.

These little snapshots in time, in my eyes, are uniquely Bengali. This is what I know my Bengali households as. I know, like every other community we have our faults and failings, but hey, every little fault makes us who we are: human. And do we excel at that!

Visiting home

It is November 6th, a day since I stepped into Kolkata. Am on a week-long break from work.

I sailed amid the clouds (one of the most surreal experiences of my life) and came to a city awash with rains and choked with dirt yesterday. The plan was to visit a couple of relatives and friends in Kolkata before I leave for my hometown later today afternoon. The rain kinda marred that feeling of activity.

But I have planned a lunch out in Salt Lake, where I lived the four years of college life. Salt Lake will forever comprise a special place in my heart. So many days I have walked on those roads, sat in the parks, watched people, had ice creams and emtied packets of Lays hungrily!

I am staying with my brother right now. He’s doing his engineering from Jadavpur University. Last night, we had some good talks and planned for my next visit, which will probably mark my parents’ 25th marriage anniversary.

Even 5 years ago, I probably could not have imagined this life. I could not have imagined having a job, bringing gifts for my family and staying in my brother’s rented flat and planning upcoming visit. I am grateful for whatever I have achieved. There is a beauty in being with family and planning things.

Meanwhile, here are some photos from the plane. Enjoy!





From Newspaper to Blog – A Guest Post by Rangan Datta

This guest post was long due. Back in May, when I was publishing Guest Blogs as part of my Saturday Specials series, I had requested my professor and fellow blogger, Mr. Rangan Datta, to contribute a piece about his journey as a travel column writer in leading newspapers in Kolkata to a travel blogger. However, due to time constraints, he had not been able to provide me with the write-up at that time. It gives me immense pleasure to finally host Mr. Datta today, as the guest blogger.

Mr. Datta  is a mathematics teacher by profession and teaches students right from high school to post graduate (Computer application & Management) level. He works as a freelancer with several Management & IT institutes in Salt Lake, Calcutta. He is also an extensive traveler and an avid photographer. Initially, he wrote about his travel experiences in The Statesman and The Telegraph, two leading newspapers in Kolkata. But as the digital wave swept in, he found a new home for his travel exploits on his blog. On 17th June this year, he completes four years in the blogosphere. A very happy anniversary, sir! May your journey continue for years to come.

From Newspaper to Blog

Guest post by Rangan Datta 


Photo Courtesy: Amitabha Gupta for Rangan Datta’s blog

“…….there are many, who has become famous by blogging, and many famous people have taken to blogging.”

– Anuradha Goyal, Blogger and author of The Mouse Charmers

 “I live to travel, sadly I don’t travel to live.”

My early travels: I watched the grand spectacle unfold before my eyes. The last rays of the setting sun have struck Kanchenjunga, turning the white snow into golden yellow, on the distant western horizon the peaks of Lhotse, Makalu and Everest have also turned golden too. I was in Sandakphu (3636 meters), the highest point in West Bengal.

As darkness descended, I remember that it was only a couple of days ago I wrote the last paper of my graduation (B.Com.). I was still without a job and was uncertain about my future, but I was already a veteran traveler and was looking for a career in travel.

My first break: Early morning 12 Sept. 2001, just a few hours ago the world has witnessed the worst ever terrorist attack in human history, the two towers of the World Trade Centre in New York have been demolished. No wonder the news papers next day carried extensive coverage on the terrorist attack. The Statesman was no exception, but the real surprise awaited me in the pages of Mid Week supplement. It carried my first ever publication “Langtan, in the land of Yaks,” a travelogue about my treks in a remote valley in Nepal.

 A regular travel columnist: Although The Statesman gave me my first break, it was The Telegraph that turned me into a regular travel writer. I became a regular name in the column “Next Weekend you can be at…” and started concentrating on places next door.

Blog vs. Newspaper: When my travelogues were regularly published in the “Next weekend you can be at…” column of The Telegraph, blogging was making its inroads in India. Many of my friends took up blogging, but I was solely concentrating on print media as I had an impression the “Blogging was for everybody but newspaper columns were for special people.”

Into the world of Blogging: Soon I was able to understand that I was on wrong tracks. The Telegraph column soon became infrequent and I was also unable to publish my works on Kolkata. Finally I ventured into the world of Blogging, with the focus of publishing my unpublished works on my own city. Within a short span of time my blog started attracting visitors and I even started getting paid advertisement. I was invited for familiarization (FAM) in India and abroad and my blog was appreciated by the bestselling author Amitav Ghosh.

On 17 June 2015 my blog will complete four years and I am looking forward for years of blogging.