May 17th, 2020
My family is a curious mix of Bengalis and Punjabis.
The Punjabis are arguably more Bengali than the Bengalis and the reverse applies to (some of) the Bengalis.
With an equal mix of both these genes fighting for supremacy in my system, I sometimes find that I am neither.
Fortunately however, I am married to a Fauji Bengali who is the only thoroughbred Bengali in the family who is worse off than me. He is as un-Bengali as a Bengali can get and is my solace in moments of misgiving.
My Punjabi mother is unidentifiably Bengali.
This may be justifiable and suitably forgivable considering that she has been married to a Bengali for many years now. But my emphatically Punjabi Mami and the rest of her Punjabi family are not so easy to brush off. Having lived in Kolkata for many years now, they outdo us half bred Bengalis at our language, literature, songs and dance. And that is certainly not easy to excuse.
These glaring misdeeds by certain sections of my family fortunately, are easily forgiven and forgotten when we meet at the dining table, thanks to the foodie genes that dominate both sides.
Salivating tongues merge the Punjabis indistinguishably with the Bengalis. The love of Kathi rolls, Tele bhaja (pakodas), Shingara (samosa), Mishti (mithai), Aloo parathas and Maanh ki Daal and their consequences on our waistlines, unite us seamlessly and irrevocably.
Once a year however this unison is threatened by a festival.
The Autumn Navratri is the acid test of loyalties. The Punjabis fast as the Bengalis feast.
As mantras hammer themselves out in the minds of the devout fasters, the feasters can only hear the loud growling of their stomachs.
Luckily, harmony is just seven days away.
Ashtami restores harmony with dollops of ghee and oil. The gorging feasters unashamedly devour the kale chane, puri and halwa offered by the fasters.
The burps of ecstatic stomachs merge with the audible sighs of relief as the fasters join the feasters in the gastronomical orgy of the devout - called Durga Puja(the time of the year I await the most).