Month: July 2020

Shringara with a modern twist!

Shringara Rasa is supposedly the crown emotion associated with love and beauty. The other Rasas or emotions are Hasya (laughter/happiness)Karuna (compassion), Roudra (anger), Veera (valour), Bhayanaka (fear), Bibhatsa (disgust), Adbhuta (wonder)and Shantha (peace/tranquillity)Rasa, as per Indian aesthetics, means essence or emotions and these nine emotions or Navarasas are fundamental to Indian arts be it dance, music, painting literature or poetry. Coming back to the crown Rasa Shringara, it is the essence of Indian romantic literature. Be it Parvati wooing the hermit Shiva or the eager wait of Radha to surreptitiously meet Krishna, Shringara or the art of a woman dressing up by adorning herself with jewellery and flowers to entice her beloved, was considered to be an important ritual. There are numerous verses or images that show an angry Radha tossing of her jewellery, flowers, and embellishments when her lover boy Krishna fails to show up, for she had dressed up for his eyes only. 

Modern bride Dr. Sushmita Bhattacharya

Solah Shringar is the art of a woman adorning herself from head to toe with sixteen embellishments to look beautiful and desirable for her lover or her man. Hindu brides on their wedding day are supposed to perform Solah Shringar comprising bindi, necklaces, earrings, flowers in the hair, finger rings, bangles, armlets, waistbands, ankle-bells, kajal, toe-rings, henna, perfume, sandalwood paste, the upper garment and lower garment. A modern Indian bride though tweaks this ritual as per her taste and convenience. And how beautiful a bride looks. As a little girl, I wanted to be a bride just so I could dress up like that and wear all those ornaments. The groom was of no consequence.

Dressed for the evening

Surprisingly, while a woman takes so much trouble to adorn herself, there’s hardly any reference of men performing Shringara for their lady love. Though elaborate rituals of Krishna’s Shringara are performed in temples, we rarely come across any anecdote of this dark and mischievous God taking pains to dress up for Radha. Shiva or Mahadev is supposed to be dishevelled, he’s an ascetic after all. Even in modern times, there’s so much talk about bridal make-up, one hardly gets to hear about the groom. So, don’t men care about looks. The growing number of men frequenting beauty parlours would suggest otherwise. It’s just that we rarely come across any image or reference of a man dressing up to present himself to a woman. A man is supposed to win a woman with his valour and wisdom, while the damsel can lure him with her beauty and looks. An allusion that any woman today will find ridiculous and disturbing.

Editor & transalator Dr. Chandana Dutta loves wearing traditional outfits

And the funny thing is, most ‘modern’ men still seem to think that we women adorn ourselves for their sake, an assumption that can be both hilarious and annoying. This has become quite a nuisance for a friend mine, who’s separated but happens to share the same house with her husband, “The other day I felt like dressing up, so I wore a nice dress and put on some make-up. When I entered the kitchen, my husband followed me there and started looking at me curiously. I was shocked when he flirtatiously suggested that I dressed up for him.” One predicament of having to share a house with her separated husband is that my friend just can’t dress up without him boasting about it. “I keep telling him we are over, and it has nothing to him, but he refuses to get it. It’s annoying,” she says exasperated. “And now that we are locked in, I can dress up the way I please, I can experiment with my hairstyle and makeup without having to deal with people’s opinion,” she adds with a smile.

Feeling festive. Communication consultant Poonam Tibrewal

Yes, we women love to dress up, we enjoy indulging in Shringara immensely, because it pleases us. We occasionally dress up to indulge someone special when we are in the mood. We dress up for work, we dress up for meetings, we dress up for our evening outings. For dressing up is so much more than Solah Shringar, there’s power dressing, board room dressing, leisure dressing and more, and we like to dress appropriately for every occasion, with the right makeup and jewellery. We may dress to impress, we may dress to make a statement, but most importantly we dress up because we love to look good, that feels so great!

Ready to take wings. Fashion designer Sanchita Singh Roy

If the skirt is too short, the dress is too tight, or the neckline too revealing that’s because we have the confidence to carry an outfit like that, we are comfortable with our body. We dress as per our mood, as per the weather, as per the occasion, as per our comfort and convenience. The colour of our lipstick reflects our personality. If it pleases men to see us so well dressed that’s a bonus. We appreciate gentlemanly compliments but do remember we took all the trouble to suit our whims and fancies. And if you decide to approach us you better be well groomed, for no matter what they say we don’t like shabby men.

My Bong Cooking: from Compulsion to Passion by Titas Mazumdar

As a girl in Dhanbad and later during my college days in Kolkata I rarely got entry to my Mom’s Kitchen. Mom is very possessive about her kitchen and few are the occasions when I got chance to try my hands in her kitchen. Hence my self-cooking actually started with my first job when I moved to Mumbai and started staying with roommates. We used to take turns cooking dinner and that is the time when I started cooking out of necessity and compulsion.

Traditional Bong meal on banana leaf

My cooking from compulsion slowly turned into passion over the years when I move to US and then got married to a food lover. Indian food in general and Bong food in particular is not widely available – as per our taste in western countries. My husband also enjoys cooking and rarely criticizes what I make which is a blessing and inspires me to experiment with variety of cuisines.

I was picky eater during my childhood days until I started cooking and appreciating various flavors which comes from different spices used in Bengali cooking. The flavour that comes from fried whole red chilies in pure ghee used for Daal is unique, the aroma of Panch Phoran (seeds of Mustard, Fennel, Nigella, Fenugreek, Radhuni) does wonders in most Bong dishes. Another unique spice is mustard paste and poppy seed paste used in typical Bengali dishes. Fishes cooked in Mustard oil and mustard paste and eaten with white rice tickles your taste buds with a pungent aromatic flavour. Vegetables cooked in white poppy seed paste puts you to a lazy, late afternoon nap. And not to forget the mouthwatering flavour of mustard and poppy seeds together used for Shrimp and Hilsa fish curries which will linger with you for several days.

We all love talking about our own regional dishes and most of the times get carried away by it. I think mostly it’s about the acquired taste over time. Food brings back lot of childhood memories too. Food which I hated during my growing years are the ones which I crave for now. I smile when I see my 8 year old pushing away the mouthwatering dishes as she is still in the process of acquiring the taste to appreciate them, so it’s very important to keep on pushing kids to try out tradition food cooked daily at home even though they dislike it. It’s just matter of time you will see how appreciative they become of these traditional meals.

Today I love the aroma of fried Neem leaves mixed with mashed potatoes and yes traditional bong lunch starts with something bitter, be it Neem or Bitter gourd fried/boiled or if it’s any special occasion then Bitter Gourd Sukto– the bitter and sweet white creamy mixed vegetable dish. My passion for Bong food started with those weekend potlucks when I was staying in Philadelphia. We had few Bengali families who used to meet without fail every Saturday for elaborate Bong Adda and potluck dinner. The main attraction of those potlucks were that no dish was repeated. Every single one of us came up with variety bong dishes and that’s how I got to try my hands in various Bong recipes. Sujata’s Kitchen was my favorite website in those days for trying out Bong food as You-tube was not that popular or was not flooded with so many cooking videos. Today trying out various traditional recipes has become simple. I try out different East and West Bengal recipes from You tube channels. It’s not only thrilling and exciting but also takes me back to my roots!

Bengalis are always known for their Fishes and Rosogollas but just to let everyone know we have a variety of vegetarian dishes too which surpass Indian veg dishes from other states in count. Our range of vegetable is very similar to those in Chinese and other South East Asian countries. During my stay in US Bengali vegetables which were never available in “Patel Brothers (the most popular Indian grocery chain there)” were found in those smelly Chinese market –  variety of vegetables like stem of banana tree and flower of banana, different leafy vegetables (Saag) and roots of plants (Yam). I am sure most Indians don’t know that we make excellent dishes with banana stem (Thor in Bengali) and banana flowers (Mocha). Do you know we eat peels (Khosa Bhaja) of most of the vegetables like bottle guard (Lauki), potatoes, pointed gourd (Parwal) and raw banana peel. I can see you raising your eye brows. Just get hold of a Bong friend and bribe her for these delicacies which you will rarely get in any Bong restaurants. These are only ‘made in home’ grandmother dishes.

Entire India eats unripen jackfruit curry, we too love jackfruit curry and also the ripe jackfruit and the big white seeds inside ripe jackfruit which is again a specialty in Bengal. We take the seeds from the jackfruit juicy pulp, sun dry it, remove the external skin and cut into pieces and use it as fries, put it in Daal and mixed vegetable curry. Needless to say it enhances the flavor.

Let me share a quick mouthwatering banana stem recipe with you all – Banana Stem Fried rice (Thor Pulao/ Chal Thor)

  1. Get hold of Banana stem (yes that’s a challenge based on your geographic location, I leave it up to you).
  2. Keep removing the external hard skin till you can’t remove anything. Once you have reached the soft white portion, slice it, remove the fibers with finger and then cut into small pieces. Soak it in salt turmeric water.
  3. Soak flavored rice for 30 mins, we prefer Govindo Bhog, you can use Basmati also preferable broken. Drain out rice water keep it aside to dry.
  4. Heat  pan/ kadai, put ghee( yes only ghee)- bay leaves, sahi Jira, and cinnamon stick and crushed Cardamom (Black), once the flavor comes put the drained rice and mixing it slowly.
  5. After 10 mins when the rice is completely dry and is coated with ghee, add the cut Thor pieces. Remember to hand press it and take away all the water.
  6. Keep frying for another 5 to 10 mins, when its dry add water in same proportion as rice quantity, cover it.
  7. Periodically keep a watch till the rice is cooked and add water if required, put soaked raisins (optional). Add salt and definitely sugar as Bengali Pulao has a Bengali sweetness in it too.
  8. Before removing from heat add chopped green chilies and Bong Garam Masala powder (it’s always homemade- powder of Cinnamon, Clove and Cardamom- NO Jira or pepper powder).
  9. Last but never the least- Serve it with LOVE.

I am sure you all will enjoy it……Unlimited Love is the best Spice to make your food tasty and flavorful.

To the change all so sudden!

The new masked normal

Change of the old world order, leaving behind the good old things, a strong feeling of nostalgia for the days gone by, had prompted me to start this blog. In The Retro FeelingI had mourned that change, tried in my small way to build conversations around certain things or traditions that we have left behind – be it letters, radio, AIR or the old ways of love and romance. I have always felt that in our mad rush to embrace the future we may have let the past slip away and with that a bit of us. It is important to look back from time to time and reclaim those little things or ideas that were once part of us, that we miss dearly in our fast-paced life. I have always believed, as far as possible we should carry forward bits and pieces that once mattered to us, that could add value or a different dimension to our modern world.

But then, as I was looking back and moving forward, the year 2020 stunned me. Brought life to a standstill before changing it completely, don’t know for how long. The unprecedented crisis in form COVID 19 (COVID 20 would sound more apt) that the year brought forth has disrupted every bit of our lives. First, we stopped shaking hands. Warm hugs or jadu ki jhappi were abandoned for the love and the warmth could be loaded with virus. People won’t bless you anymore if you sneeze in public, rather they would call authorities on you. And of course, we have stopped picking our nose or licking our fingers because of the complicated process of sanitization involved. No matter what we do, the virus might be lurking in some corner of our nails.

We may not blow the candles on our birthday cakes ever again. Social kissing or air-kissing is an absolute no-no. We startle if someone rings the doorbell, welcome our guests with sanitizers, soaps and masked smile. We don’t know when we will use lipstick again, or it may just go out of fashion. It’s now trendy to carry extra masks and sanitizers, nobody bothers about anything else. I am quite sure designer lines of face masks, veils and sanitizer pouches would be hitting the market soon. When I watch a show on Netflix or any other platform, feels like I have been transported to a different time. It would feel much more real if the characters had mask on and frequently sanitized their hands. People hanging in the bars or coffee shops, hugging and kissing, maintaining no social distancing seem so bizarre. 

The amazing spatter man Satish Shah, cast as the Professor in the Hindi blockbuster Main Hoon Na, who talked less and sprayed his spit more, will not evoke laughter anymore. Not just his students, even the audience might leave the theatre, such is the fear of Corona. But then who knows when the students will go back to their classrooms, or when we will be able to enjoy a movie in theatres. Currently, films are being released on OTT platforms. 

The deadly COVID that crippled our lives and economies has done some good. Nature is cheering, our cities are cleaner, and spitting has finally become an offence in India. For many Indians who loved to mark their territory by spitting all around that must be quite upsetting. 

But what we have lost is so much more. The simple pleasures of walking into a coffee shop or dropping in for a beer. Singing aloud happy birthday, blowing candles, and passing the cake around. The impromptu parties, the dinner dates, the weekend getaways…Seems so far away now, god knows when we can reclaim a little bit of those good old days!

Life will change- Life will change forever by Titas Mazumdar

Katha as a baby

The phone is ringing

The doorbell is chiming

The dryer is busy

The microwave is dinging

Toys on the floor

Chocos on the bed  

both of you all over the place

Welcome to parenthood and nothing can be more thrilling than this roller coaster ride!

The day this friend cum sister of mine announced her good news to me with sparkle and excitement in her eyes, I wanted to hold her hand tightly and tell her so many things. I wanted to let her know that life will never be like before again. It will change forever.

– No more sleeping till 11’o clock on Saturdays and Sundays

– No more spontaneous vacations, night outs and bag pack trips

I wanted my friend to know that her physical wounds of childbearing will heal soon but that becoming a mother will leave her with an emotional wound that she will be vulnerable forever. I wanted to warn her that she will never read a newspaper again without asking,” what if that had been my child?”

That plane crash, that fire, road accident, that rape, that gunshot at any corner of the world will haunt her more than before. Yes, she will change forever – her life will change forever. The well-dressed corporate friend of mine didn’t know that the day her child will be sick she will forget to brush her hair while rushing off to work for an important business meeting which she cannot avoid.

I wanted to scream loud and tell her that it will take years to balance between her career and her newborn. She will juggle with her life between work and home. But eventually, she will know the real meaning and art of multitasking.

Her carefully manicured nails will break, her beautiful party wear will be peed upon, and there will be days she will forget to put her night cream, she will go days without a pedicure and a nail paint. But she will never ever regret.

She will be gaining PhD on the colour, density, consistency and smell of your baby’s poop and what health indication does it bring.  She will eventually shed all her extra baby pounds and her stretch marks will be gone but she will never be the same carefree girl again. She will wear with pride her dark circles, her tired eyes, her C-section cuts because her life so important to her now will be less worth to her once she holds that tiny soul in her arms.

I wanted to tell her that even her relationship with her husband will change forever. He will not remain the boy whom she loved and married once upon a time. He will now be a father to her child. She will now love him more for reasons unknown. She will fall for him once again seeing him feeding her baby, changing a diaper and cleaning the tiny one. The bond which they share now will strengthen even more.

Their reasons of fight will all change, they will no longer fight over the number of cigarettes he smoked or shots he took in a party, or fight over a choice of restaurant, or selection of food or movie. They will fight over which brand of Cerelac to give to the baby, the diaper which got the rashes, or which sports to enroll in the school. Yes, now everything will revolve around the baby

Both of them will not remain the same person, they will now be a mom and a dad. Eventually they will forget that they actually had a life which they enjoyed together before the baby was born. Having said all these, it’s a  wonderful journey which no parent regrets, it called the  journey of  parenthood…And once you step in there is just no U-turn , no turning back , no shortcuts ,no absconding , you walk your path till you die. It’s definitely worth a try.

Life will change…Life will change forever!

Love Potion

A magical concoction that is meticulously brewed with rare ingredients to make your cherished one fall hopelessly in love with you. I once read so many stories and fairy tales where a fairy or a witch or some other magical creature would grant that love potion, after much persuasion, to the desperate lover boy or the lovelorn lass, so they can win over the one that they so desire.

Image courtesy

The idea of love potion has always intrigued me. Fictional it may be, stuff that fairy tales are made off, but is it possible to make someone fall love with you – just a spoon of love potion to be mixed in the drink and the one you love will be yours forever. And if magical potions make love possible, it that ‘love’ really worth the effort? These questions bothered me even as a girl. ‘Mythological bullshit it is,’ I told myself dismissively, but the idea stayed with me and the many questions.

One reason could be my love for fairy tales – fairy godmothers, magic wands, fairy dust, one swish of wand making everything possible. Cinderella turns into a princess and finds her prince charming, the magic fades though and the prince knows her no more. It takes determination of the prince who had fallen in love with Cinderella and a little bit of magic, the magical slipper, to bring them together. I could live with a little magic when heart is in the right place. Often wished for a fairy godmother, or a Gennie to take me to a wonderland or even help me with daily chores. I know that’s not possible, but no harm dreaming. A few strokes of fantasy to add intriguing hues to otherwise humdrum life!

But love potions? Doesn’t that go against the rules of magic – for magic cannot make anyone fall in love with you, it says. Magic also cannot bring back the dead or change the past. Thank god love potions are just fantastical, or who knows in one of those weak moments when I was helplessly in love, I may have been tempted to try some such magical potion on the person I so desired then. For love does make you do crazy things at times!

But then, imagine my surprise, when I learnt that for many love potions are for real. There are even recipes available online that are supposedly ‘safe, simple and powerful.’ Do people really try those recipes? I hope not. I can live with food or fruits that are aphrodisiacs, but love potion goes against the very idea of love. After having loved and lost and loved again, the only thing I know for sure is that no magic or miracle or love potion will work when it comes to making someone fall in love with you or making love work. The very idea that I would need love potion to win someone’s love is kind of humiliating.  Love is magical only when it’s voluntary, for it takes a lot of effort to keep that magic alive!

The only love potion that works is the one that’s brewed within, the nervousness that we feel in the pit of our stomach in those early days of love, or the calm contentment of mature love, that can turn even a cup of coffee into love potion. Sometimes magic fades, the potion loses its power, it’s best to let go then, rather than desperately concoct some magical tonic to hold on to love that may have run its course!