Also published on Huffington Post India
The furore over the imposition of meat ban in several states in consideration of the Jain festival Paryushan made me realise what a peace loving community we Bengalis are. We don’t care that nobody cares for our religious sentiments. During festivals like Durga Puja, we are so engrossed checking out each other’s saris and ingesting copious quantities of biryani and kabiraji cutlet that we don’t get time to demand bans. Rather, we go for a self-imposed ban on vegetables during those days. True, the bhog of ‘khichudi and labda’ is vegetarian but we more than make up for it in the evening by having protein and bhajabhuji (Bengali-pioneered junk food, way before the West could think) on behalf of the entire nation.
We Bengalis are a contented lot as long as others acknowledge our intellectual superiority, rich kaalchaar and don’t serve us a vegetarian meal. I know of instances where a particular Bengali family was put in deep freeze for a lifetime of indifference because they dared to serve only one non-vegetarian dish on their daughter’s wedding. My Ma-in-law has yet to get over the horrific ordeal of being invited for a meal by our Punjabi neighbour in Delhi and made to eat just rajmah chawal. How can someone invite you over for lunch and serve just one dish and that too rajmah!
I know Punjabis are passionate about chhole and rajmah, but for us it’s cattle feed till generous quantities of keema have been added to it. Our love for maachh is as legendary as our lust for mangsho. My husband often recalls with glee the recipe for dumoorer chop on a TV show that asked for two teaspoons of dumoor (raw fig) to be added to half a kilo of minced mutton. In fact, true blue bongs equate “non-veg” with only mangsho. Fish (phish) is a daily comestible that borders on being “veg”. If your Bengali friend has invited you over for a bhegetarian laanch, you are forewarned that the daal could have a fish head looking dolefully at you and the humble lauki, Baba Ramdev’s favourite vegetable, will have a crunchy splattering of shrimps. We don’t like vegetables to feel lonely.