Sunday, April 7, 2013

Unravelling the Bengali Bombshell


Google images
   All you wanted to know about the Bong femme fatale and didn’t know who to ask.

If you are a reasonably attractive Bengali lady, chances are, you’ve had a man or two walk up to you and confess his weakness for the Bengali temptress. Being suspicious by birth, I make it a point to clarify if he actually meant tempest. He proceeds to wax eloquent about her raving beauty and I rudely interrupt to ask if he meant raging.

Similar sounding words that can mean Heaven or Hell – grammar Gods were sure having fun at our expense!

Chances are he will not be a Bengali himself and has dedicated his life to observing this quaint species from a distance. The Bengali bhodrolok community, on the other hand, prefers to live by the old jungle saying and treats his homebred chicken like insipid lentil.

One thing I’ll happily concede is the hotness quotient of the bhodromohila. I have arrived at this conclusion after having spent countless Durga Pujos, observing her sweaty prosperity spilling out of her almost backless, sleeveless blouse that she got especially tailored from Kolkata. You have to be hot to be sweating this much. You have to be insane to be devouring Biryani in the maddening October heat. It’s not a pretty sight, to watch her sweat, especially after she spent almost twenty minutes dusting her ample décolleté with Ponds Dreamflower talc. She looks like a Royal Bengal tigress, with rivulets of sweat criss-crossing messily down her expanse of pristine white.

For her, it’s just another clammy day as she proceeds to fan herself delicately with the end of her beautiful tangail. 
Google Images

Hymns have been sung in praise of her tresses cascading down her shoulders. Either left loose or tied up in a casual bun, she swears by Keo Karpin hair oil to nourish her mane. I have a theory that this product was originally conceptualized as a mosquito repellent, till the owner’s wife mistakenly applied it on her scalp and sprouted a lush patch on her arid scalp.

For the traditional Bengali woman, it’s a tough choice between Keo Karpin and Jabakusum hair oil. I believe Jabakusum hair-oil is the secret behind her drop-dead beauty. One whiff and you are ready to drop dead. Thick, red and vile smelling, Jabakusum has nurtured Bengali scalps for decades. My Maa swears by it and still has a head full of hair, while I have to resort to hair-fall therapies. But I never fail to remind her, the company is surviving on her sole patronage.


And so is Boroline! Sold in a green tube, this super oily, atrociously smelly cream has been curing ailments for almost a century. From burns, to chapped lips, to cracked heels, to bruises and cuts – this magic potion is a panacea for all Bengali ailments. The other day, a Bengali friend was regaling us with her “how I met my husband” story and how badly she used to get beaten up for being so stubbornly in love. But every time it was the magical Boroline that came to the rescue of her swollen and sore body parts.
Boroline.com


For the face, the preferred choice is Lacto Calamine in summer and Ponds cold cream in winter. Bathing with Margo/Hamam/Lux, smelling like a potpourri of dried-up herbs, dusting herself with talcum, slathering her face with Lacto Calamine - her secret to glowing skin, dotting her forehead with a coin sized bindi, lining her almond shaped eyes with kajal, she is ready to take on the world.

Her eyes that convey a thousand emotions - throw daggers, crinkle with mirth or brim with tears to the strains of Robindro-shongeet. She has opinions and is never shy of expressing them. If she doesn’t hold back her anger, she doesn’t hold back her love either. Her passion will manifest itself in the silly nicknames she’ll anoint you with. Buro, Aloo, Goga – take your pick. Dare you take her for granted, she will quote from Elliot and Shaw to articulate her annoyance. Yes, she will never let you forget that her English is better than yours. She will swear by her chest of homeopathic medicines and Boroline and insist on curing all your deadly and not so deadly ailments with them. She can also be annoyingly domineering and insist you wear a monkey cap when the temperature dips below 30 C.

The Bong femme is no lentil, but Ileesh in a fiery mustard paste. Brawn doesn’t impress her, brain does.

The bhodrolok will take two minutes off from his Crossword puzzle, to nod in agreement. He will then take a swig from his bottle of Gelusil to prepare himself for his evening snack of tele-bhajaa and his favourite cup of Darjeeling.

And if you dare suggest that there’s a brew that’s better than Darjeeling, she will smash that cup of fine Bone China on your head. 


This post in now live on IBN Live......http://ibnlive.in.com/group-blog/the-india-blog/3353/unravelling-the-bengali-bombshell/64486.html









122 comments:

  1. Quite an interesting analysis! Loved reading it :)

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  2. haha
    smashing cup was funniest :P
    true bengali women r pretty :D I some how remembered vicky donor when U said monkey cap..
    Funny one

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, his Bong love from Chittaranjan Park!

      Delete
  3. Na na, not Gelusil but Aquaticotis!

    :D

    Choshma with fat glass resting at the brink of the nose..

    Always armed with bengali-sanskrit paras of the Gita, Ramayana or any goddamned text!
    As long as it is Bong!

    Ponds in winter, Lacto Calamine in Summers is like hitting Bull's Eye! :D

    Hi5 Purba Di, Apurbo I say! :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mwah! baby.

      Trust Bengal Chemicals to package Aquaticotis and Phenyl is similar looking bottles.

      And choshma with a soiled looking jhola completes the look:D

      Delete
  4. Seriously, I have never heard of this stereotype that all Bengali women are beautiful :-).
    After all I lived in a remote no-mans land called Bangalore :-p where all the girls from Mangalore/konkan coast were considered 'beautiful'.
    Thanks to friendly mixing-up with the colonizers :-). Most of these girls have light eyes and sometimes green and blue eyes (E.g. Asihwarya Rai). Most guys from this region are also supposed to me 'handsome'.
    Well, as you had written somewhere few month’s ago ‘beauty is not a fact but an opinion’. I strongly believe in this :-)
    But what I have heard about Bengalis is that they are 'born intellectuals'. But I never met any Bengalis in person, so I have kept that stereotype as an 'open case' to dig deeper into :-).
    Even for me who is from a no-mans land, boroline worked wonders for my cracked lips. ‘move’ to move my muscles :-p Later we got something called 'boroplus' into the market isn't it? I liked the smell of it though. :-)
    But, you write so well. I wish I could express as well as you do. hugs :-*

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah! well, welcome to the real world :-)

      Yes, women from and Mangalore are stunning and so are the Coorgis. They all have flawless skin and hair.

      Hugs back :-)

      Delete
    2. Did you just say women from Mangalore are beautiful???? I just love you for saying that :) I guess I should write about the Bunts sometime soon ;)

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    3. The ones I have seen or known are stunning!

      Delete
  5. Throughout the post I was imagining that you were talking about Bipasha Basu. Because she is always referred to as Bong. I mean, that is my limited knowlege about Bongs, me being a South Indian :-/ Now I know better :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Err...not Bipasha, please! She everything a Bengali woman is not.

      Delete
  6. The Bhodromohila sounds scary, especially with those nicknames and monkey cap! :O
    P.S. There are drinks (read Milk and Lassi and Whiskey and Snapple) which are better than a Darjeeling, though Darjeeling is good too.


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    Replies
    1. You have encountered one. What do you think?

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  7. rofl

    I swear by boroline too :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Spoken like a true blue Bong :D

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  8. Well...Truth be told...Every part of the country has a set of age old habits they happily abide by...For example Boroline...Not that Bongs aren't fashion conscious or unaware of the wide range of cosmetics flooding the markets...Its just that quite a few of us still keep the Boroline handy along with other in-numerous products...And Bengali Girls , I guess are considered to be more Beautiful than most other counterparts...:) That's for where the term 'Kolkata-r Roshogolla' originates :) ...Anyways nice composition :)

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    Replies
    1. I speak for the traditional Bangali bhodromohila, who swears by her beauty products. As for the rest of us, we have moved on to Body Shop, Kama and other fancy brands :-)

      Delete
  9. ha ha :) Boroline and Jabakusum... but Bengali woman have beautiful eyes :)

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  10. OMG... I still remember seeing this Jabakusum oil in shops in Garihat and Rasbirahi Avenue, when we lived in Kolkota. Never knew it is such an iconic thing.

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    Replies
    1. Have you forgotten those conical shaped blouses hanging from the tiny petticoat-bloujer dokaan?

      Delete
  11. Hahahahahaa!!! This is like hitting Bull's eye!!! Fabulously put together Purba :) I am Minnie, from Lady8Home.com. A true blue Bong, the Aloo, Buro, Elliot variety who abhors Keo Karpin and has a personal vendetta against Jaba Kushum, lol!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They remind you of everything that you didn't want to become!

      Thank you for visiting my blog :-)

      Delete
  12. Halo Egg Shampoo too! It came in glass bottles and was really thick!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes and would imagine my hair bouncing like the girl in television ads!

      Delete
  13. What an lovely description of the Bong Beauties and their weaknesses! A perfect Sunday read!!The gennext is breaking away from the mould even in Kolkata now and are switching loyalities to Zara/ Mango in place of backless blouses,Tant and Katha work sarees:)

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    Replies
    1. But I'm glad that the Kolkata lady still swears by her dhakais, tangails and taant.

      Indian women look their gracious best in saris.

      Delete
  14. Hhhaaa Hhhaaa ...loved this absolutely :)

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  15. Ok, now I understand the significance of Gelusil in the Bengali man's life!
    Btw, isn't there another Bengali secret to great hair - Cantharidine Hair Oil? :D

    That was such a warm and fuzzy analysis!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your warm and fuzzy sounds extremely suspicious :/

      Delete
  16. Ha Ha, That was interesting and informative.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! for future reference, please bookmark this link :D

      Delete
  17. From what I know of bong women, I would agree with the latter part of your post. I am not aware of her cosmetic preferences... thank God. But the fiery part, ah! That I will agree with most wholeheartedly.

    I like bong women. They are gutsy and brainy. And they don't pussy- foot around either. No, not shy at all.

    Dagny

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mm..yes! we do not believe in holding back. They can be reserved but are always fiery.

      Delete
  18. I so wanted to know the secret behind the enviable duskiness, lovely eyes and cascading tresses, but never imagined it could be Boroline or Jabakusum oil.

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    Replies
    1. Smelly weapons of mass distraction :p

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    2. The sicrrett is Phiss (fish)!!

      Delete
  19. LOL...the only difference between the Kannada beauties with Bong beauties is the use of coconut oil for the hair.

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    Replies
    1. In their curries, on their scalp - Southern women sure love their coconuts :p

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    2. Purba, not all south Indians use coconuts for curry :-) it is mostly from coastal region that they use. It maybe one of the reasons for their 'flawless' beauty :-)

      Delete
  20. Rofl :)) You may be sued by "Bhodromohila" community for undignifying their dignity !

    You missed all jewelleries are bought from PC Chandra Kolkata....

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    Replies
    1. Yeesh! that completely slipped my mind. And of course, her love for Sunil Gangopadhyay!

      Delete
  21. Boroline set the mood instantly. In my house, it is Charmis (strangely!) that is considered panacea for every ailment.

    You have definitely enhanced my limited knowledge about Bong women and Bhodrolok;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have horrific memories of my Mom slathering my face with Ponds cold cream in winters. Still hate the smell.

      Delete
  22. മോളേ!

    I am indeed happy to have come across you on the net, thanks to Shobha De

    You look so similar to my daughter.

    I write, hence, I am.

    Some of my stuff you would probably like:

    http://www.tsvhari.com/template_article.asp?id=405

    http://www.tsvhari.com/template_article.asp?id=384

    http://www.tsvhari.com/template_article.asp?id=385

    http://www.tsvhari.com/template_article.asp?id=404

    ഹരി എന്നു വിളിക്കപ്പഡുന്ന ആളു ആരാ?

    I began writing after a long hiatus in 2004 thus:

    http://www.tsvhari.com/template_article.asp?id=110

    This was due to what actually happened at my home.

    It was rewritten thus as my life began moving closer to my divorce:

    http://www.tsvhari.com/template_article.asp?id=222

    And it may lead to this imaginative vigilante action:

    http://www.tsvhari.com/template_article.asp?id=233


    The last short story has one-too many links with my real life. Now, I am divorced.

    I began hating everyone around.

    http://www.tsvhari.com/template_article.asp?id=654

    I did not like my inherent hatred.

    Hence:

    http://www.tsvhari.com/template_article.asp?id=672

    As a journalist, this is what I am now:

    http://www.tsvhari.com/template_article.asp?id=669

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Shobha De, how?

      That's an exhaustive list...Will take a couple of days to go through them.

      Thanks for sharing :-)

      Delete
  23. Here is a short story from me ... with a Kolkata background.

    http://www.tsvhari.com/template_article.asp?id=242.

    Any of you can write to me.

    tsvhari@tsvhari.com

    ReplyDelete
  24. Lovely blog. Being a bong "bhodrolok", I agree with what you have written but too scared to acknowledge it openly jest the wife puts my head on the "shil nora" and does a clean job of it ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hahahaha! Typical bhodrolok response!

      Delete
  25. What an amusing account! Enjoyed it thoroughly! :)

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  26. Now, I have to get Jabakusum taila from Bengal :P Typing this with a head stinking of Jamaican Castor Oil...heheh...OMG, you cracked me up with the keo karpin and the boroline...you are too honest to be true..LOL.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow - I fell in love with the phrase - you are too honest to be true!

      Thank you, so much!

      Delete
  27. I love everything about Calcutta, the long haired beauties, with beautiful eyes and a beautifully shaped lips, and perfectly shaped bodies, and the perfectly draped sarees. Jabakusam used to be my favorite too,till I moved out of Calcutta. Hawaiin guitar, seen and played in every house (I still have this guitar, which I learnt there), the famous petticoat, and those puff sleeves blouses, oh, and the muri... memories come gushing out of me....the beetroot cutlets, the googini, my mouth starts watering, just thinking of all these things. And, the boroline, which we luckily get everywhere even now. And my friends who were called Bobo, Buju Mintu etc. And those days I was always addressed as Roma Shuompauth.
    Good reading through your blog, Purba, I really enjoyed it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kolkata is a foodie's delight. That's one city where I stop caring about my diet and eat what I please :-)

      Delete
  28. uree baba!! Ki bolchho?!! :P
    You forgot the terracotta earrings and a cigarette delicately positioned between her long fingers while she sips chai at the Coffee House next to Presidency college!! :P

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Roshni, I swear by my teracotta jewelery colection. They go so well with saris.

      And hasn't she moved to Barista with her boyfriend and her stick of nicotine? :p

      Delete
  29. This is one of the real descriptions of a bengali mohila that has been written along with their habits and practices. But these bombshells have also inherited one more habit and whih I see even now .. my granny , my mom and even my sis ter for them its lux soap in summer and pears glycerine soap in winter no matter wherever they are

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Piyaars..Margo...Luksh...Bengali beauties take the business of bathing rather seriously :-)

      Delete
  30. Uggh Jabakusum and boroline, really? I've never been to Kolkata but have met and known many Bengali women. I just admire the way they drape their saris with a large, red bindi. And a seafood lover like me has always admire, the cuisine and of course, yummy mithais.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ishhhhhhhh...you just committed the cardinal sin of calling mishtee, mithai.

      Bengalis don't have a sweet tooth. We have a sweet jaw.

      Delete
  31. / One whiff and you are ready to drop dead// hahaha ROFL :D
    hilarious write :D

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  32. This brings back my child hood memories. Though being a mallu family- Boroline, Keo Karpin, Lacto calamine were the only beauty products that made into our shelves along with Hamam (sometimes replaced by Rexona) and Ponds Talcum powder (sometimes replaced by Cuticura). Boroline and keo karpin still takes place in our shelves as my father cannot think of living a day without them. My father is an ex-CRPF Jawan and now after reading your post I think my parents stay in Calcutta during the CRPF days has influenced their choice of these products. I was just a baby when they were in Calcutta, so I have no memories of Calcutta.
    But my Sweetheart/BFF is a "Bhodromohila" and we always felt Bengalis and Mallus connect really well:) I could connect to 'Ileesh in a fiery mustard paste' as I read her husband's blogpost on it recently :) - http://henshel.wordpress.com/2013/03/15/hilsha-a-la-dhaka/

    Seena

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Absolutely! Bengalis and Mallus have a lot in common, including ideologies.

      And you are not a Bengali if you don't go into a swoon at the mention of Ileesh.

      Delete
  33. It is a great article to read on Monday morning. Something to start the day with a smile. There are words used like bhodromohila. It took me a few seconds to figure out it was not English (blame it on my speed reading). It was intere

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    Replies
    1. It was interesting. :)

      Delete
    2. Ahh...should have included a glossary of Bangla terms with their meanings.

      Delete
  34. A very enlightening introduction to a very special species. Thanks.

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  35. What happens if you mix Green Label with Red Label?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Best of both the worlds - where liquor meets aroma and the bhodrmohila saves a couple of Rupees.

      Delete
  36. Enlightening :P
    My SIL IS Punjabi but was born and brought up in Kolkatta and she thins Homeopathy is the cure for every ailment under the sun ...
    :)

    ReplyDelete
  37. Lovely Post

    I used Boroline a lot in my childhood days .

    Travel India

    ReplyDelete
  38. Lolz..the jabakusum tailam was a classic and seriously i believe Kep karpin was to kill mice and mosquitoes.

    But Aye aye Lacto-oh cale-mine is not such a bad option :)

    ektakhetan.blogspot.in

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My oily,super-sensitive skin swears by Lacto Calamine!

      Delete
  39. praises all around and well deserved ... u brought the ultimate smile on my face with the last sentence China Bone cup on ur head !! hahaha.. Goga !! hahahaha what nickname !! light and gr8 read of the day!!

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    Replies
    1. Goga was my brother's nickname till good sense prevailed upon my parents.

      Delete
  40. Hi Purba. This is my first visit to your site. I am lucky that I landed here. Your style of writing is fabulous. Enjoyed reading every word. Bangla ladies are really beautiful. Jabakusum is the secret?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, the secret lies in lots of phish and love :-)

      Thank you for visiting my blog. Honoured.

      Delete
  41. Hello Purba, good write on Bongos. Apart from Boroline Bengali sweets too are my favorites.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes...life is futile without mishtee and chop.

      Delete
  42. Definitely something fishy about this one :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Don't breathe till I clear the air.

      Delete
  43. It was a treat to read ur post! having studied in a Bong school, this post reminded me of my frends' mothers with their flowing hair & big, beautiful eyes. Just to add - Bengali saris & shakha paula (I too love to wear them!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A Bengali married woman and her shankha, polaa and shindoor, are inseparable.

      Delete
  44. Hahaha... A scene straight from a Bengali household.
    Guess its the only region where Gelucil and tele-bhaja go hand in hand...and...not just Darjeeling tea but.. black Darjeeling tea with dash of a lemon to go with :D

    I take this opportunity here to show my gratitude to all those things that helped me shape into a "Ileesh in a fiery mustard paste" .. though most of those things I never tried on myself ... I inherited my form from the elder ladies of my family who definitely sweared by Boroline, Jobo kusum teyl..lacto calamine et al :D

    Lovely post..btw ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Call her domineering, vocal, but a Bengali woman is far from a doormat. What she feels, she expresses lucidly.

      Thank you, btw :-)

      Delete
  45. Ah,you can afford to say all this because you are so far removed from kolkatta!

    But seriously,you bongs do have a certain charisma,part mystery,part delicacy & a lot of allure.See i am not using the word 'beautiful'since it can cause all hell to break loose;and i am not even a piffle compared to Obama!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hahahaha....poor men! suddenly they are at a loss for compliments.

      Delete
  46. So this posts proves one thing for sure, the Bengali femme fatale is not at all the picture of painted of Indian women in general. Good for you...
    BTW the ghar ki murgi saying is so funny in English.. LOL It is so funny to say he treats his homebred chicken like insipid lentil.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Most Hindi proverbs sound hilarious in English...

      Try this one - Bhagwan ke ghar mein der hai par andher nahin..

      In God's house, there will be delay but no powercut .

      Delete
  47. Hmm! Farida got in first on that - the ghar ki murgi dal barabar translation :) I am hastily chucking out my Boroline - do not know a word of Bengali so can't afford to be taken for one :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Scared that someone will mistake you for a Bong femme fatale?

      Delete
  48. I never had my doubts about the Bong ladies being intellectual. They have impeccable English as well and you fit the bill very well in both these contexts :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I inherited my love for words from my Mom and she from hers :-)

      Delete
  49. beautiful description of the bong. Love it:)
    Cheers
    Vishal

    ReplyDelete
  50. Well you have to be a Bengali women to write this for 2 reasons- a) the knowledge for the analysis (b) not to offend them in the first 2 para (precisely before the Boroline):)

    Interesting topic to write on...not many people think so deeply about their roots once they are away...kudos to that...

    Btw, I have always wondered, do Bengalis get offended being called Bongs?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As you get older you become closer to your roots. And I have always loved observing people.

      About the Bong reference - many do seem to mind.

      Delete
  51. And I know u were mad at the grammar Gods in the beginning, but boy, some really heavy vocab in this one...
    Temptress, Tempest, Quaint, "Wax eloquent"...! GRE ki yaad aa gayi when we used to pick up words/phrases like these from every thing we read...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Err...you should read what some of my friends and family write. They make you yearn for a dictionary.

      Delete
  52. Enjoyed and nodded my head with every words of yours...loved it entirely...:)

    ReplyDelete
  53. While reading this article, visualising the dressing table of my Didima and Ma both, adorn with Jabakusum Tel, Boroline, Cuticura Talcom Powder.......and yes, you forgot one more item to mention..... Himani Snow.

    Beatifully written.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That flaky concoction which made you look ashen-faced?

      Delete
  54. Oh, how did I miss this blog? ! Ah, I stll remember that bottle of Jabakushum tel- which was plain n simple Hibiscus Oil...It used to be red in color and had a strong flowery smell-- a staple oil for Bengali ..:D :D And Cantheridine oil was also quite popular!
    Awesome blog- kebol romonikuler jonney!!...LOL!Loved this!:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I used to hate Jabakusum tel with a vengeance. The strong aroma made me sick :-

      Delighted that you approve :-)

      Delete
  55. Enjoyed thoroughly and shared!

    ReplyDelete
  56. I was very much excited when I got myself a job in Kolkata. But, after spending four months in this city I had come to a conclusion that the so called 'Dusky Intelligent Bong Bombshells' are nothing but an Urban Legend. I feel cheated!!

    And yeah within four months I have also become a member of #TeamBoroline, this stuff is awesome. I love the smell.

    ReplyDelete
  57. very nice and interesting too

    ReplyDelete
  58. Being a bong guy your take on the bong femme fatale was whacky and outrageously funny...its really a treat to read your posts...enjoyed your latest on shashi thotoo and his Mehr ki Asha. lol... long may you continue to entertain...

    ReplyDelete

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