Thursday, October 6, 2011

You can take the Bengalis out of Bengal...

They eat. They talk. They sing a little. Then, they eat and talk a little more, trying to be as intellectual as they can about it.Be it Kolkata or Nagpur, there are two traits that run common through through Bengalis everywhere- two words that personify this particular people.
  1. Hangla
This is a typically Bengali term, the closest English translation to which would be "glutton". Then again, glutton would count as an understatement. There are possibly very few Bengalis in existence, who haven't been called a Hangla at least once every festive season.
If one takes a look around the Nagpur city pandals during Durga Puja, they will notice as big a crowd gathered around the food stalls as around the idol, probably even bigger. Classic Bengali delicacies like Beguni (salted pakodas made with Brinjal), Aalooni (same thing with potatoes instead), Ghughni (can't explain very well) and all kinds of chops, cutlets and rolls (yes, they're called "rolls", not "frankies")magically make an appearance in the city on the four main days, and then disappear, never to be seen, heard, tasted or smelt of till the next year. It really is quite inexplicable.Of course, the average Hangla Bangali would sample one of each, at least- and two of whichever tastes the best- before heading over to the next pandal in another area to admire the Goddess and undergo the same process all over again. At least three different venues, mind you, because that is what's done, on the evenings of Ashtami and Navami.
The mornings are different, being dedicated to the ever- favourite Bhog, which normally consists of Khichdi, a vegetarian dish, Chutney and Kheer. Very few venues give second helpings on that quarter, so the matter really ends right there. But, I still dare you to find me a Calcuttan who better exemplifies the typical Hangla better than a hungry Nagpurian.
2. Adda
Not the Hindi word "adda", which means hangout or venue.The classic Bengali act of adda is something made famous by the renowned Coffee House culture of College Street, Kolkata.
They (read: most of the parents to our generation, shifted to places like Nagpur from that City of Joy)say that there used to be a time when the most informed, the most earnest and the most intellectually stimulating conversations in the city (and arguably the country)would take place in the good, old Coffee House of College Street, over chipped old cups of tea and cracked plates of biscuits. They say that every topic under the Sun, from the rising costs of vegetables to the latest Bill under debate, to the recently released film by Lenoir (and the parrallel it draws with a Roy), would be discussed and dissected by the undergrads of Calcutta.They say it used to be a matter of reputation (and image)to know all there was to know about something.
The fundamental feature of good Adda is that it stimulates you, it keeps you hooked. It makes you lose track of the time.The same is recreated in the houses, restaurants and pandals of Nagpur from time to time. Conversations often drift from the Pujo decorations to the latest Bill under scandal, to the World Cup and end with Marx (or maybe Sanjay Leela Bhansali, for that matter), and listeners are normally unable to figure out how that transition happened.
Simply speaking, Bengalis love to talk.

No comments:

Post a Comment