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Ten things you find in a typical Bengali household

So then, it’s been two weeks that we are back in business. And I am happy. *flashing my Cheshire Cat grin*

2014, you know, was like the last few Yash Chopra movies. Dazzling, misleading trailors that led to disastrous results. To quote one of my spiritual gurus, “This wasn’t just plain terrible, this was fancy terrible. This was terrible with raisins in it.“ Peace fell down and broke his crown and poise came tumbling after. But you know us. If life give us lemons, we would surely find ourselves a shot of Tequilla and a pinch of salt. Cheers to that! Cheers to a whole new Tequilla sunrise!

Pulling Housedelic out if its deep slumber meant racking our brains, shuffling and reshuffling ideas and share the fruits of our intellectual diarrhoea with you. In the midst of sharing each other’s mind farts, we came upon this. Why not introduce a section “Five/Ten/Thirteen things you find in a typical Bengali/Tamil/Punjabi/Maharashtrian/so-on-and-so-forth home”. Being bestowed by the title “Miss List-Interested” by the world at large, I grabbed the idea happily. And what could have been a better start than this. Ten things that you find in a Bong household. (Because Bengalis are “God’s gift to mankind”, you have to accept that the first post in this series is about them. Also a piece of trivia: Narcissus was a Bengali. Literature may mislead you. But this the truth. And I hope that shall explain a lot about this post).

1. Bottles – Bengalis were born to reuse things. You throw a single ‘coal dinks’ bottle or a single container without reusing them, you are knocking on Hell’s door. It is a heinous crime in a Bengali household and you may be deprived of your share in the family estate. Horlicks and Bournvita bottles turn into biscuit/puffed rice containers, soft drink pet bottles hoard mustard oil (when we were younger and had a kerosene-stove, these bottles were used to collect the kerosene oil from the Ration shop), while white ‘Take-Away’ containers from restaurants turn micro-oven proof devices for warming food and manage to substantially replace those stainless steel triple-decker Tiffin-carriers. (The leftovers from your party travelling to your relatives in your priceless stainless steel and the fear that they may never return those has vanished like P.C. Sircar’s magic with the advent of these white dabbas). Tiffin carriers remind me how we turn Kwality Walls sundae boxes into tiffin boxes (The word ‘tiffin’ is sacred. There is nothing called a ‘lunch box’ in a Bengali household).

bottles
2. Dusters and mops – Recycling brings me to this pertinent point. In a Bengali household, we generally use branded dusters. When I got married, I saw that the dusters and floor wipes were all from “Jockey” or a local brand called “Balaram”. No, Jockey obviously does not make those. Old vests (genji) are compulsorily utilised for this particular future use. (May we please keep this paragraph short?) *facepalm*

3. Calendar – The regional language Calendar that comes on the first day of Baishakh, i.e, at the advent of the Bengali New Year (with a box of assorted sweets, cold samosas and/or acid-kachori). No matter how modern a household has become, an average Bengali shall always hang this calendar on the wall. They would dance to the tune of the ceiling fan and make semicircle marks on the walls. These calendars lack the sophistication of an English New Year calendar. They generally, are a long single page calendar (inevitably with pictures of Gods, Goddesses, Rabindranath or Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose) with four strips of papers stapled at the bottom, containing three months each. The ‘everyday’ days are written in a modest blue ink while the ‘holidays’ are marked in orange. The Poornima, Amabasya and holidays don’t have numbers. They either have shapes of the moon or names of the festivals written on them (like Bhaiphonta, Saraswati puja, Netaji’s birthday, wedding dates et all). I have hardly witnessed such local language calendars at other households.

calendar
4. Mawshari’ and ‘Pashbalish’ Mosquito net and bolster. Lost in translation. The Bengali counterparts represent the true essence of a Bong household. A friend told me that in his entire hostel, only Bengali students used to carry ‘pashbalish’ from home. Pashbalish, in short, is a guard, a friend, a WWF wrestling partner, a lover and Sunny Leone.

For most, sleeping without a mosquito net being hung over the bed is like sleeping without clothes. The day my father got to know that my Other Half doesn’t use mosquito nets and hence I am deprived of the same, he had a “this is domestic violence. Why don’t you file a 498A against him” look all over his face.

5. Bindis on the mirror – I don’t know about other communities, but a Bengali woman’s mirror is like that page of a calendar which has 28 days holidays. Red dots all over. We invariably fail to put back our Bindis at their respective places. The sides of the mirror are recklessly dotted. This is the second most striking feature of a Bengali woman. The first is of course Nightie (and wearing it with a dupatta while stepping out of the house to see her son off).

bindi

PS: The Worse Half has threatened me divorce on this particular ground.
6. Medicines – No household in the world can beat ours in terms of the collection of medicines for the digestive system. For every organ we store 25 medicines each. We have medicines for acid (read acidity), gas, constipation, upset stomach and happy stomach. Yes, even if your stomach is otherwise happy after wiping off a plate of double mutton Biryani from Arsalan, your parents will insist that you have two lids of Aqua Ptychotis (jowaner aarog), a magic potion from Bengal Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals Limited, found only in Calcutta (and sent to family members across the globe in bubble wrappers).

The relentless faith on Homeopathic medicines and Boroline is also a striking feature.

“I lost one leg in a road accident. I think it needs amputation.”

~ Cummon. Why don’t you put some Boroline on the wound.

Or

“I am dying of Pneumonia”.

~ Try a few globules of Nux Vomica 200. You’ll be fine.

By the way, every Bengali household has invisible MBBS degrees hidden under their mattresses, in case you didn’t know.

medicine
7. Plastic packets and gift wrappers – Mattresses also store under them, along with the MBBS degrees, a plethora of plastic packets and gift wrappers, carefully opened while unpacking ‘presentations’. Yes, most Bengalis receive and give presentations (and NOT presents) on happy occasions.
8. Untuned musical instruments – If you are a Bengali and you don’t have atleast one untuned musical instrument, be it a taanpura, harmonium or a pair of tabla at home, you are like a phulari bina chatni, a samosa without aloo. You may not have touched any of them for ages, yet they conveniently stand at one corner. You don’t sell them. You don’t sell things you worship, do you?

untuned music
9. Rabindranath, Geetabitan, Sanchaita – Yes, that Man. The eternal heart ache, object of desire, personification of God on earth, the first song we sung, the first music that took our breaths away. Rabindranath Thakur. In a common household, he is placed on the same footing as any other God. He shares the same set of incense sticks and ‘nokuldana’. No wonder ‘Thakur’ in Bengali means God.  And flowing from the above, at least two to three of his books are a must in every Bengali’s book rack. Geetabitan, a collection of his songs and Sanchaita, an assortment of his poems are the most common of them all. Shesher Kobita, Golpo Guchho, Teen Shongi would follow suit.

rabindranath 1

9th para
10. A Bengali – What else?
You will also find unmatched sense of humour, unfathomable lethargy, unparalleled love for books, films and music, relentless debates on things they can do nothing about, carom board and packs of cards, a ‘fast’ wall clock which runs at least 10 minutes before the standard time (and yet he is late on every occasion), Anandabajar Patrika (still the leading daily), an old Philips radio and a few unworkable long playing records of K.L. Saigal and Pankaj Mullick, at least one small paper box from Ma Sarada Mishtanna Bhandar with a sondesh or two in the refrigerator (nowhere on earth, other than Bengal, you will find a sweet shop at every fifteen steps you take), a box of Darjeeling tea for his daily dose of ‘likaar chaa’ and a kitchen overwhelmed with the fragrance of fish.

9th para (1)

So here is the list. Add, subtract, condemn, praise. See you soon!

Pssst: Would you like to share a list of your own? 😀