A to Z of Bengali snobbery

Completing the trilogy of the Bengali way of life, I would like to include the following A-to-Z of Bengali snobbery and hypocrisy which hubs and I put together.

A to Z of Bengali snobbery:

A for Adda. It is a gathering of a few self proclaimed know it all Bengalis on a “rock” blabbering endlessly on all topics under the sun from Peru’s economic crises to Sarat Chandra’s old novels.

B for the Bonedi bangali who live in Ballygunge Circular Road. These are the rare tribe of people who pride them selves on their lineage. They keep claiming several times in a day that they are related to the some zamindar in some corner of Bengal. Some enterprising ones come out with awe inspiring connections like being the great grand child of Manmatha Nath Roy Chowdhury, the Maharaja of Santosh. (Santosh Trophy fame)

C for Chotolok – who are either the people who don’t earn as much as you or the people who cant hold a fork and a knife…… mostly the latter. Said in plain English, they are the group of people who have not dined in a proper Chinese restaurants, do not know how to hold a fork and knife, cannot distinguish between the different types of cheeses and do not sway their heads to Rabindra Sangeet. These are people who toil hard, earn their bread and enjoy it, they do not have the luxury of wealth having fallen on their lap. Chotolok according to the other side constitutes 80% of Bengalis, including me.

D for debate….. you cannot stop a Bengali from debating endlessly over absurd topics. Debate means, people sitting arguing for the sake of it. People will take opposite sides on a topic as absurd as “Who is greater-Rabindranath or Sarat Chandra” and argue the night out, with nothing coming out except a lot of noise.!!

E for Echor……. The Bengalis claim that they are the only ones who can cook it the right way (By the way echor is also known as gachher patha (goat of the tree) and kathal….. our very own jackfruit….. it is like calling the humble lady’s finger…… okra or brinjal….. egg plant.

F for Flury’s the oldest cake shop on tony Park Street….. Every Bengali claims that their cakes are from Flury’s even if they buy it from the neighborhood baker.

G for Gariahat where the modern day Bengali shops…… The Bengali shopping is incomplete without a customary round to Gariahat. People who live in a 5 kms radius of the place still claim to live in Gariahat thinking it will fetch them entry in right social circles!!!

H for Hemanta. Bengalis claim that nobody can sing as well as him. Of course, there is another side who argues that after he started singing more of hindi songs, he lost some of it’s sheen and his voice was not the same again.

I for the Ileesh from Padma (Ganga is known as Padma in Bangladesh) the Bengali’s claim that the only ileesh which is tasty is from there. People claim that when they eat a small piece of fish they can tell from which side of the river it has been caught (It is almost like drinking a sip of old wine and royally claiming it is 1856 vintage!!)

J is for Jyotibabu, the silvered haired gold flake communist. Communism for Jyotibabu means being more than equal to all his other comrades – a public school education in England, Scotch whiskies at bedtime, power supply for only his house while whole of Kolkata goes through load shedding, promoting his son as an industrialist when the communist manifesto is supposed to say that wealth is to be equally distributed. Though he claims he is retired, he is airlifted to all politburo meetings of CPI (M).This man ruled Bengal for 23 years for which history will remember that nothing changed during his time. It was the same Kolkata as in 1977 as it was in 2000.

K for KC Das the legendary sweet shop in College Square who invented the Bengali favorite Rosogolla and no Bengali nemontonno (invitation) is complete without the host saying at the end that he got the rosogolla all the way from KC Das even if it is the canned version.

L for ledikeni (a sweet invented for Lady Canning and named after her which the Bengali corruption has made ledikeni) ask any Bengali why it is called ledikeni – they wont have an answer for it but Bengalis do love their sweets but cant make any. Their knowledge of making sweets is limited to narus and pithas….. for the rest there is always the sweet shop in the corner.

M for Marquez as in Gabriel Garcias Marquez…. (Marquezda as he is fondly called by the Bengali bhadra lok.) The *Columbian writer’s name features in every adda whether the intellectual Bengali has read any of his books or not.

N is for Nandan where the creative and artistic Bengali goes for satisfying his creative outbursts. It is a movie multiplex but Bengalis revere it like it is a place of worship. N is also for nonbengali, which means that everybody in the world apart from bengalis be it african to punjabis to japanese to parsees to french are all the same for them – non bengalis.

O for Oindrilla, Orunobho, Obhijeet, Onirban etc and all such names where one has to keep rolling the tongue.

P for Presidency…. Every Bengali thinks that presidency is the best college in the whole world better than even Oxford and Cambridge and when they say that they expect every person to know that Presidency is A college in Kolkatta. P is also for Park Street where the rich and elite of Koktata either stay or shop or claim both or just roam around.

Q is for * “Queen’s Cake”, that heart shaped plain vanilla cake, a Colonial Williamburg VA recipe, that is still found in the poorer galis of North Calcutta……. another leftover of the British Raj!!!

R is for Robithakur and Ritwik Ghotok – two stalwarts whose names cannot be omitted in any Bengali discussion.

S for Statesman….. the only English daily the Bengalis read. S is also for Sarat Chandra Chatterjee. No Bengali household is complete without a few of his (hard bound) books adorning their drawing rooms which nobody cares to read.

T is for Tollygunge Club where the who’s who has a membership and is an absolute status symbol.

U is for Uttam Kumar the great actor. Bengalis claim that till today there is nobody born who can hold a candle to him.

V for Victoria where all people in love visit when they are in love and when they are out of it they spend their days in reminiscence of those days.

W for woodlands Hospital where the whos who of the Bengal go for their treatment…. If it does not happen there it has to be Vellore.

X  as in Xmas or borodin. Every Bengali irrespective of the religion he follows celebrates Xmas. It is mandatory to have a piece of cake and stroll through Park street that day……… Leftovers of the british raj I guess!!!  Also want to mention the most taboo word in the bengali dictionary here SEX Every person who talks about it or talks of anything related to it is also taboo. Questions relating to upbringing and culture are raised at the mention of the forbidden word.

Y is for Joggo and Jatra (Bengalis do not have the alphabet Y so it is untosto Jo) which the Bengalis do a lot and watch Jatra (plays with music).

Z is for zamindari. Every family has some or the other zamindar who have left some decedents behind…… who spend all their time in recollecting (something they have never seen) the days of galore when their great great great grandfathers were rich and had a great time.

*The post has been edited with recent contributions from Supriyo Sen and Pragna Sen. Thank you people!!!!

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8 Responses

  1. Interesting !!!

    F for Fish ???

    just kidding !!!

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  2. no way there is nothing of snobbery in fish….. infact it is one of the most unsnob things…. a thing that is talked about by one et al and in all the AtoZ’s F is always for fish.

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  3. Ranu , Bengalis come in various shades.Even in Kolkata there is this noveau riche class of South Calcuttans and the old world ex-zamindars of North Calcuttans, who also live in a world of their own.I would love if you could write a post on North Kolkata zamindar baris.They are the band of people whose ancestors had seen glory days but after Indira Gandhi took away their privy purses they are left more to relive their grand past.

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  4. @ rajdeep I will wait for the said post on your blog….. can’t do as I have no exposure to Bengalis but yeah they do live in the past glories of their fore fathers. The past for them is always better than the present and the future put together.

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  5. Dear Ranu:
    Although my comment is about a year, I am hoping you will update your list, which I enjoyed reading.

    Q is for “Queen’s Cake”, that heart shaped plain vanilla cake that is still found, I am informed, in the poorer galis of North Calcutta.

    X never stood for Sex. Rather, it stood for Xmas, the sahebi term for “barodin” which the Kolkata pleura called Christmas.

    One little tidbit: Gariahat Mart was never considered “the place to shop”. I am 65 years of age and as far back as I can remember, Gariahat was a dirty and dingy place (like Kolay Bazar). In my younger days, we’d shop at the New Market where you could engage a coolie to cart your stuff, listen to a quartet play amidst the frequent “ashun” “ashun” ploy of bearded hawkers.

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    • LOL….. my mother in law should see this……. She is a total shopaholic and thinks that Gariahat is the IN thing so do all my friends and family!!!!

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  6. May I be pedantic for a moment and point out that Gabriel Garcia Marquez is not Mexican, but Colombian? 🙂

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