This is my first Nabobarsho in Kolkata and yes, I am missing my home in Bangladesh. I don’t really know how Kolkata celebrates the Bengali New Year, but in Bangladesh, it is nothing less than the Durga Puja festivities.The Mongol Sobhajatra procession from Dhaka’s Charukala Institute is something everyone should see once in their lives — it is so colourful! I think nowhere in the world is New Year celebrated this way: everyone, irrespective of their socio-economic conditions and religion, takes part in it. Nabobarsho in Bangladesh proves how secular we are, reports TOI.
I lose count of the gifts I get every year — saris, spices, sweets to ilish maachh... As I am not there this year, I have told my domestic help to keep all my gifts! I also bought gifts for my friends and family. On this day, everyone wears traditional clothes in Bangladesh. So even a small girl will be in a sari, or boys will wear dhoti-panjabi.
There have been times when I haven’t worn new clothes on Eid, but on Poila Boishakh, it is a must. We still have the tradition of hal khata in Bangladesh. I remember how I used to visit all the shops with nanu (grandfather) so that my sister and I could collect sweet boxes and calendars. Finally, Nabobarsho is all about good food back home.
Everyone gets at least three-four invitations, apart from the Boishakhi adda at their own home. My mother is a brilliant cook and Dhakai cuisine lovingly combines various fish and meat with fresh vegetables and plenty of spices and onions for some lip-smacking delicacies. We use very little sugar in our cooking. Bharta, bata and panta bhaat are our specialties during this time, setting aside delicacies like biryani, pulao, ilish bhapa or sorshe ilish. I am an expert when it comes to preparing panta bhaat. The rice is made the day before by eight in the evening and we pour water in it at night. The next day we mix it with salt, sliced onions, red chillies, aloo bharta and have it with omelettes or hilsa fry. I sprinkle some bhaja chaal on it to add extra taste. It is a delicacy there. My sister also makes a lovely doi panta.
On Poila Boishakh, having food in earthen utensils is a must at our home. My mother makes at least 20 kinds of bata and bharta from kochur loti, shutki maachh, all kinds of vegetables and fish. Her rosoon bharta and tomato pulao mixed with meatballs are mind-blowing. I can make awesome sorshe ilish but I use onion paste, which people here don’t. Ma makes awesome biryani but in our biryani there is less essence and we prefer the smell of rice and mutton. I find the smell of essence too strong in biryani here. Mutton rezala is also a must on Poila Boishakh in Bangladesh. My mother uses green chillies curd, some special spices in mutton rezela to marinate it overnight and the way she cooks it is just awesome. I can make nawabi khana like jolla chicken roast and mutton kebab better than regular dishes. And in Bangladesh we don’t have chutney as much we have aamer bharta. We make bharta from pithe too. Dal is not very popular there and it is always light. Aloo bhaja and posto — both so popular in Kolkata — are hardly eaten in Bangladesh. But when it comes to the spirit of friendship and brotherhood, both sides of the border can match each other in the Poila Boishakh celebrations.