Ringing in the celebrations

So, ‘tis the season to be jolly (in our own desi way) and all that. The festive spirit has caught on like a bug. Even if you aren’t as excited as I am, here are five things you CANNOT miss during Navratri/Durga Puja!

No festival is complete without a fair bit of shopping, but the sheer duration of this one adds to the creases on every father/husband’s forehead and reduces the number of zeroes in their bank balance! From ethnic to contemporary, these few days are, for women, a chance to show the world (and, each other) they’re all goddesses!

Every festival is a celebration – of fashion, of culture, of tradition, of love, of FOOD! Here are 5 Bengali staples that you MUST try out this Puja:

Luchi-Cholaar daal:
Think Bengali, think fluffy, silken, fried goodness! Luchi is a lot like a puri, the only difference being that the former is made with refined flour that gives it a light, golden texture. Together with chholar daal, it’s pure magic! It’s chana daal made in a traditionally Bengali way with a little bit of sugar, whole garam masala, and coconut shavings.

Biryani: The story goes that when Nawab Wajid Ali Shah was exiled to Kolkata by the British, his cooks came up with the innovative idea of adding potatoes to the biryani, due to financial difficulties. And, this is what sets the Kolkata biryani apart from its counterparts in Hyderabad and Lucknow. Rich, aromatic, wholesome…just perfect for dinner!

Mughlai Paratha: The Mughlai Parathais basically a heart attack in the guise of the most sinful, fried, oily paratha in the world. You’ll do well to keep your cardiologist on speed dial! It’s a layered maida paratha stuffed with spicy mutton keema dipped in egg yolk and fried in a greasy tawaa. Slurp.

Fish Orly: While its origins might be in France, the fish orly has been thoroughly Kolkata-fied. Lightly seasoned, it’s fresh fish fillet (bhetki, mostly) dipped in a mix of refined flour and eggs, and deep fried till golden brown. It’s deceptively soft and moist. Go for it!

Jhaalmuri: I think, by now, everybody is aware of what jhaalmuri is. Puffed rice, chopped chillies, peanuts, secret masalas that mooriwallas refuse to share, chanchur, a drizzle of mustard oil, chopped coconut, and a dash of lime= heaven! Munch on a pack of this spicy concoction as you hop between pandals!

Let’s admit it, Navratri is basically parents-approved clubbing! Well-groomed boys dancing with girls dressed to the nines. Sparks are bound to fly! And, as far as my Bengali brethren are concerned, Durga Puja is incomplete without jhaari maara, which is a slang term for checking out. Seeing is half-eating (metaphorically speaking), or some such, I’m told!

Phalguni Pathak
Navratri is the only time of the year when Dandiya queen Phalguni Pathak comes out of hiding to tell the world she’s alive before going into hiding again!

No, not the film. I’m talking about the dramatic folk re-enactment of the life of Rama, ending up in ten-day battle between Rama and Ravana, the climax being giant effigies of Ravana, his brother Kumbhakarn and son Meghnath being set afire.

Growing up in North India, Navratri was incomplete without a visit on Dussehra to the Ramlila around the corner, armed with bows and arrows, erupting in rapturous joy when the fireworks would commence! And, just in case you miss out on any of the above, there’s always the promise of tomorrow. Aashche bochhor aabaar hawbe (next year it’ll happen again)!

Malini Banerjee is a snotty single child, mountain junkie, playback singer, Austen addict, hopes to soon finish writing her debut novel, and dreams of singing alongside Buddy Guy.
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