Friday, April 19, 2019

Q: Quirky Calcutta #AtoZChallenge

Calcutta, despite all its charm and warmth, is not without its quirks. Eccentric things that every other Bengali will do and sometimes have us shuddering in laughter or embarrassment. Yet we accept it as part of Calcutta! 
I know this will not make me very popular with a lot of people, but, here are a few: 

1. Nighties/Kaftans: The women have a penchant for walking to the market in the mornings in their nighties or kaftans and chappals. Some, in order to disguise the nightie will drape a dupatta around their necks like a limp rag and try to pass it off as being more fashionable than the others. Ideal time of year to spot these are in summer! 
2. Personalisation: Every one in the bazar right from the fish seller to the green grocer will address the ladies as Didi (sister) or Mashima (aunty). It is often considered an index of how old you look and can be subject matter of much debate … Even otherwise, everyone becomes a Mama or Mesho or Jamiababu or whatever. Just see what they did to Sourav Ganguly, he’s now everyone’s dada! The examples are countless. My sister is guilty of this too. She will call a complete stranger as her Mama and I will be left wondering when my mother had that particular brother! 
3. Dominance: Bengali men are generally hen-pecked. When you are on vacation, how do you spot the Bengali man? He’ll be the one meekly following the striding woman dragging the child. And by the way Bengalis love to travel. Come school vacations and you will find them in the remotest of destinations while people like me will be trying to blend into the background. If you do not want to see them, choose your destinations carefully and wisely and know that someone else will have thought of it too! 
4. Monkey-caps and Mufflers: Come November, the monkey caps, mufflers and sweaters are out. A mild dip in the temperature will see grown men sporting thick mufflers and sweaters. Even when it is a mild 20 degrees. The poor babies are smothered from head to toe, replete with booties and bonnets and woolies and a blanket for good measure. 
5. School-gate moms: these moms are very possessive of their little darlings. They know their child’s homework, their potential, their friends and every word of that exam that their child has to be ready for. And for good measure probably know all their friends, their friends' mothers and some teachers as well. Their children are high achievers, they probably do their homework even while taking singing lessons, dancing or cricket coaching and attend tuitions as well! These ladies are found hanging outside the school gates, sometimes seated on newspaper as they chatter and eat wait for their child to finish school! 
6. Ombol: What, you never heard the word before? Ombol means acidity. Frankly, I had no idea what it meant till I was in the second trimester of my first pregnancy. But Bengali mothers all know. Don’t have water after shingara, you will get ombol. You had doi at night? Quickly get some gelusil otherwise you will have ombol! Don’t have lemon with your food, sure-shot ombol! You get the drift? 
7. Stools: As obnoxious as that sounds, Bengalis (men in particular) are generally obsessed with their stomachs. As much as they love what goes into their stomachs (a.k.a. food), they also love to discuss what comes out of them. There have been multiple occasions in Court when I felt I needed to run away when some of these discussions went out of hand, so to speak! 

Ah well, I could go on about this. 
So tell me, what other typically Bengali quirks can you think of? Or are they common to everyone, not just Bengalis!? 

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