Ours is a big family. Big, as in the kind you read about in stories by Shirshendu or may be witness in terrible Bengali movies of the 90’s ending with #bou with Ranjit Mallick looking earnestly at you!
So every year this big family of ours, all 5 pishis, pishos, bhai bon etc used to meet during bhai phonta to celebrate our togetherness over plates and plates of mishti, pulao and mutton. Years passed and everyone became that extra busy. The 10 mark class tests gave way to the scary board exams of my cousins and slowly it all stopped one day. This is perhaps the story of a lot of families in Bengal, India and perhaps all over the world.
But the Bengali spirit is something wonderful. Where others have failed, we have succeeded. When the bonds of blood have become loose, families have become 2 membered from 20, we have learnt to bond over food.
The Bengali new year has come and gone and as usual there was a lot of bruhaha over #bangalibuffets with people having no idea of what actually is Bangaliana writing about our food and maybe we did flock to check out that sorshe chingri parfait.
But we (like a lot of other apartments) celebrated it with the quintessential Bangali mach bhaat over a small community lunch. In Srabastee (our apartment housing 30 odd Bengali families) we love celebrating anything and everything over food. Holi? Let’s have sherbat, mishti and mangsho. Durga puja? Let’s have luchi torkari, mach mangsho this that and quite frankly everything!! Even on Independence day we sing the national anthem with jilipi in hand!!!
Noboborsho is no different. The day started with fulko luchi and alur torkari , (yes,the one with the kalojeere sprinkled over). Then there was the customary jilipi and the raw cha over which the adda progressed.
Lunch hour arrived and everyone took their places around plastic chairs. Paper plates were passed around as the first dekchi of steaming rice arrived. The laal shaak with oil tossed groundnuts was polished off. The sona moonger er daal splashed on the small hillock of rice and the clamour for the jhuri alubhaja grew.
All that done, the fabled echor (raw jackfruit curry. This fabled Bengali dish is one of the signatures of our cuisine and even puts a hardcore nonvegetarian go weak in the knees) arrived and was devoured down.
The all important mach (mortals call this fish) arrived. The pona first and the fresh river pabda later. No Bengali community lunch is complete without comparing the sizes of the pabdas served. Ours was no exception!
The age old Bengali love story over kancha aamer (raw mangoes) chutney was enacted with crispy papor (papad) on the side. The golapjamun and mishti doi gave the sugar high characteristic of any Bengali meal.
As we said our goodbyes for the day and the pronams and bhalobashas went back and forth we settled in for another year of food, family, friends and life.
Here’s wishing all of you a Subho noboborsho.