Sunday, July 27, 2014

The fast getting lost art of Adda

We Bengalis obsess over books, food, culture and the 'going downhill syndrome of the world' with equal fervour. 

Evenings are when at least two of these things merge to make the ultimate of Bengaliness possible that is 'adda'. 

Adda is the art of sitting at street corners or markets and munching on savouries while sharing, debating and proclaiming 'sob golaye jache' from time to time. Loosely translated it would mean everything is descending into chaos. 

This chaos however doesn't stop the Bengali from paying grave attention to his evening snack and he deliberates on the merits (taste wise no other criteria is important enough) of a jhalmuri aloo kabli combo vs cutlet vs chop vs roll vs puchka vs tele Bhaaja vs mughlai paratha  and the list goes on. 

As you can see it's no easy task and many minutes pass by before the person can take a decision and place his order. 

Adda of course is also accompanied by endless cups of tea which the local chai wallah supplies at intervals in small baked mud cups. 

When Bengalis transplanted themselves to Delhi and recreated Bengal in a small corner called CR Park they also recreated the adda. Complete with 'parar rock' the typical street corner in Calcutta where a wall or platform would serve the purpose of a seat. In CR Park each market place has a low wall running around it making it the ideal adda corner. Even today a ragged dhoti clad old man will come and serve tea in tiny cups though sadly the cups are now plastic ones. 

Octogenerian who are barely able to walk still punctually shuffle to their corner on the market wall for news and views. 

Sadly the younger generations are much too involved with the virtual world to pay much attention to the real one. 

They come to the market to grab a quick roll or plate of chicken chowmein and then are gone. Their views if any are only for Facebook and so are their friends. 

Adda it seems is also slowly golaye jache. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Bachpan Gully - A walk down memory lane

A brief at work triggered memories from long ago. From pre liberalization days when a burger was a fancy dish you read about in an Archies magazine and a Cappuccino was to be had only in the lounge of a five star hotel.

Growing up in the early eighties meant that our choices were limited and treats were meant for special occasions.

A Cadbury’s Dairy Milk, Fruit & Nut, Uncle Chipps, Poppins, Gems, 5 Star and the occasional pack of Brittannia’s Bourbon biscuits were the highlights of our childhood days. The once a fortnight Gaylords or Kwality ice cream treat that dad took us out for were of course hallowed events.

One of our summer vacation pastimes was to create treats for ourselves and then share the treat and trick with friends. Freezing roohafza and making red cubes, having chaat masala mixed with a little water, raw mangoes with sugar, salt and a lil chilly, making sandwich biscuits with good old marie and jam. And the most delicious of all, putting cubes of chilled butter into the sugar jar and popping the concoction into our mouth and let the whole thing melt.

I remember the time my younger sister came up with an innovative way of eating bhujia which we used to find too hot otherwise. She would take chilled water in a bowl, add a spoonful of bhujia to it and then quickly eat the bhujia before they became too soggy. It was a fantastic idea which allowed us to eat up all the ‘adults only’ namkeens that were stashed at home. That was till mom found out what we were up to and told dad. For a change he didn’t say anything. Guess he liked the way his kids came up with a solution ;)

Making Rasna with mom was one great not to be missed adventure, the mixing of the colour from the little glass jar was the highlight. And the day mom asked me to make some for guests at home – the feeling of pride I think still lingers somewhere.

Even our birthday parties used to be different – bread rolls, sandwiches, chhole bhature, puri aloo, chicken biryiani all made at home would be the highlights. Invited moms would gamely help out the hostess mom in making the puris and sharing recipes. 

Dads would sit in a corner playing cards, having a drink and also keeping an eye on the kids. All that came from shops were the chips and the round or square pineapple vanilla cake with our name in red jelly on top. Then like now the cake was always polished off and declared so yum though all the cakes in the neighborhood came from the same shop.
On trips out of home one great thing to look forward to were the Campa Cola and Gold Spot bottles – one each – no more, no less.
These dalliances down Bachpan gully make even a dreary Monday worthwhile. Memories that continue to enthrall inspite of the limited means and even more limited choices.
 I wonder if our children will be as lucky. Will they look back with as much fondness or will their materialistic minds tell them to just shrug and move on.