17
October
2012

My connect with Bengal | story of cultural and emotional bonding

By: Sourav

bengal, durga puja, bengal recipes, bengali language, bengali literature, sourav agarwalMy connect with Bengal is a story of cultural and emotional bonding. Though my ancestral root lies in the soil of Rajasthan (since I am a Marwari), I was born and cradled in the lap of Bengal. I have never been out of Bengal during Durga Puja except this year. I am going to Rajasthan this puja vacation. So I will be missing the festive ambience of Bengal, pandal hopping, luchi with chholar dal on Maha Aastami, dunuchi nach, Astamir puspanjali and kumari puja at Ramkrishna Ashram. Why shall I be missing Bengal? Because, I am in love with Bengal. Here is the story of my relationship with Bengal:

bengal, durga puja, bengal recipes, bengali language, bengali literature, Rabindranath Tagore’s Sahaj Path I connect with Bengal through Bengali language. It was Ishawar Chandra Vidyasagar’s Borno Porichoy and Rabindranath Tagore’s Sahaj Path which initiated me into speaking, reading and writing Bengali. My ma said that I had learnt the Bengali alphabet and basic word formation in ten days. She can speak, read and write Bengali more nicely than me. I owe my Bengali communication skills to ma since she had taught me the language. People out of my close acquaintance circle wonder how I can speak Bengali much like a Bengali, when they get to know that I am a non-Bengali. Even most of them ask me if my ma belongs to the Bengali community. A few days back our HR Assistant asked, “Mr Agarwal, Is your mom a Bengali?” I said, “No”.

I stayed with my maternal uncles and aunts in Burdwan Town when I was in school. (I mentioned it in my previous story I lost my innocence the day I realized that she is a prostitute. Whenever ma called me, she spoke to me in Bengali. Ma used to tell me, “Porasuna mon die karo, mamader katha sunbe (Do study carefully; do obey uncles and aunts)….” And, when I was a child I used to write letters (postcard) to her in Bengali – Ma, amar pranam nio, ami khub bhalo achi, tumi kemon acho….” My letter-writing art has almost been lost and replaced by mobile phone calling. Bengali was the only medium of communication between us in those days. It has been replaced with Hindi, now. Still, I converse with my cousin brothers in Bengali when I go to visit mamabari in Burdwan.

alo posto recipe, bengal, durga puja, bengal recipes, bengali language, bengali literature, sourav agarwalI connect with Bengal through Bengali culture and lifestyle. I have been close to Bengali culture since childhood. Unlike Kolkata Burdwan Town is inhabited by Bengalis in general. A handful of Marwari families live there. Only Bengali families are there in the neighborhood of mamabari. We would attend Bengali events and occasions in the neighboring houses and invite them on the occasion of our family functions as well as religious festivals. Evidently I have got into a strong cultural bond with the Bengali community over time. Veg Bengali recipes such as alu posto, posto bora, sukto, alu borir jhol, charchari and chholar dal are among the main food items in the daily menu at mamabari. My ma and maternal aunts are good Bengali cooks.

bengal, durga puja, bengal recipes, bengali language, bengali literature, pithe puli recipes, sourav agarwalI am much fond of Bengali dishes – both veg and non-veg. I binge on whatever Bengalis eat except crab recipes. Fish recipes are my favorites. Ma used to like egg and fish items before she took initiation at a Vrindavan ashram. Most of my friends are Bengali. Sangeeta Bannerjee was my first friend when I was in class I. Meenakshi Nandi is my lifetime friend. We have been friends since class 8. Sougoto Roy was the best companion of mine in class 11 and 12. Samya Mondol was the closest buddy at college. Prabhat Dalar, Utpal Adhikari, Prasenjeet Roy, Kalyan Mondol, Animesh Roy, Ranjan Bose and Parthodeep Choudhury are my close friends. Even my first love was a Bengali girl. Having Bengali friends is a great benefit and a good opportunity to satisfy my sweet tooth for Bengali festival foods – narkel naru, pithe puli, patishapta andtaler bora. Ma too is much fond of these Bengali delicacies.

bengali writers, bengal, durga puja, bengal recipes, bengali language, bengali literature,I connect with Bengal through Bengali literature. My schoolmates envied my grip on Bengali literary language. I developed an interest in reading Bengali literature books when I was in the hostel of Burdwan Ramkrishna Ashram. Such was the attraction that I devoured Rabindranath Tagore’s short stories as well as some of the novels and the literary works by Saratchandra Chatterjee. A must mention, I have read them in Bengali unlike my students who read the English versions. Manik Bandyapadhyay’s Padma Nadir Majhi and Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay’s Aranyak are all-time favorites of mine. Bani Basu, Sunil Gangopadhyay, Joy Goswami and Suchitra Bhattacharya are among the contemporary Bengali writers who I admire and whose works appeal to me. I have written several poems, songs and a poetic drama in Bengali till date.  

bengal, durga puja, bengal recipes, bengali language, bengali literature, ramkrishan mission ashramI connect with Bengal through Durga Puja. Needless to say, it is my favorite festival. I fully enjoy the five days of this festivity – one day in Kolkata, two days at Burdwan Ramkrishna Ashram and two days in home (Asansol). Unlike Bengalis Marwaris usually go for festive shopping after Durga Puja and before Diwali. Like my Bengali friends in school I would have new clothes and shoes on the occasion of Durga Puja. I could not wait till Diwali. I imbibed the Bengali festive culture during my stay at Burdwan Ramkrishna Ashram.      

bengal, bengal recipes, bengali language, bengali literature, durga puja at ramkrishna ashramI had stayed there for four years. Durga Puja celebration at the ashram which is preceded by a grand preparation is a manifestation of Bengali culture and tradition. My roommates and I proactively took part in the arrangement. I would decorate the space in front of the altar with alpana, a specific artwork that is made on the floor on pious occasions in Bengal. I would arrange thalas of food and fruit offerings given to Durga Ma and other gods and goddesses. We woke up to the beating of dhaks early in the morning on festive days and chanted the hymn “Oigiri nandini nandito medini bishwa binodini jishnunute” in chorus with the ashram monks and the devotees.

I am proud of Bengali language, literature, food and culture. Bengal is an inseparable part of my life. I know as much of Bengal as less of Rajasthan. Going to Rajasthan during the puja is like leaving the known behind for the unknown. It is also true that we feel drawn to the unknown. Right?

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