Friday, April 27, 2012

Blog Hop With Blogaholic Social Network

Here's the April Blog Hop from Blogaholic Social Network. On from the 24th of April till the 01st of May 2012, this fun Blog Hop at BSN is a wonderful way to meet new and interesting bloggers and make more friends on the way.

If you want to participate in the same, here's what you need to do:
1. Follow my blog (by joining the member list on the side panel)
2. Leave a comment in the post here. Please mention your website link so that I can visit and follow you back.
3. Check out the BSN April Shower Blog Hop page by clicking here
4. Grab the BSN Blog Hop code and paste it on your post in your blog to let others know that you're participating.
This month link up to any post!

Once you add your blog, stop by a few other blogs on the list to follow and leave a comment, let them know you are stopping by from BSN so they know you are a new friend and can connect with you on the community as well!

Feel free to:
  • Share this blog hop on Twitter
  • Post about this blog hop on Facebook
  • Place the link up on your own blog! Just grab the code for your blog (the code is located below the linky list) a great way to fill up a post for a day! If you add it to your blog please copy the full post so others know the rules.

- Debolina Raja Gupta

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Princep Ghat

* Above pic courtesy Google Images
My first glimpse of this majestic structure was (I must admit rather shamefully) in the movie Parineeta. Yes, till then I was unaware of this beautiful piece of grandeur on the scenic Hooghly Ghat. Well, to be very honest, I had seen the Vidyasagar Setu, but I never knew there lay such beauty on its shore.

* pic courtesy Google Images

Who doesn't remember the lovely Vidya Balan, resplendent in all her Bengal finery, and the suave and classy Saif Ali Khan, singing and moving along to 'Piyu Boley' in the movie Parineeta? Well, if you have seen the song and enjoyed the scenery, it was shot at the Princep Ghat, one of the many beautiful Ghats along the bank of the river Hooghly.

*pic courtesy Google Images
As I felt more and more entranced by the picturesque location, I decided to check around a bit. Speaking to a few friends from Kolkata and doing a little Googl-ing, I soon found out that this is one popular spot for the locals of Kolkata.

* Above pic courtesy Google Images
Built in the year 1841, this monument is named  after James Prinsep (thats why you will find it spelled as Prinsep Ghat in many places). James Prinsep was an extraordinarily brilliant researcher and architect, who also served as the honorable Secretary of the Asiatic Society. He was the seventh son of John Prinsep, a wealthy East Indian merchant and Member of Parliament.

 *Above pic courtesy Google Images

When it was decided to build the new Hooghly Bridge (also known as Vidyasagar Setu) at Princep Ghat, it was decided that the bridge be located just south of the monument, maintaining the past as well as creating efficiency for the future. This conscious choice made sure that the historical monument was preserved in its entirety.

*Above pics courtesy Google Images (the lovely boats at the Princep Ghat)

*An Evening At The Ghat:
One of my Kolkata friends told me about these beautiful scenic evenings one can spend at the Ghat. I do envy the locals I must say. If you want to spend a quiet evening with your close one(s), what better than letting yourself free in the tranquility of the calm shore water. Seeing the evening sun dip in the ghat and taking a ride in the golden water is just the right prescription if you're looking to have that 'perfect' evening. You can choose to sit at the shore and stare out at the vast expanse of water, while the Howrah Bridge and the Vidyasagar Setu form a backdrop that is sure to pull you back to the Ghat at least a couple of times more.

Boat Rides At The Princep Ghat:
Boat rides are easily available along the shores. A boat ride at the Princep Ghat is an experience anyone living in Kolkata will swear by. It's an experience one must indulge in.

How To Reach Princep Ghat:
You can easily reach the Princep Ghat from any part of the city using any (or combination) of the following: local bus, mini bus, cabs, metro rail (underground rail).

- Debolina Raja Gupta

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Bengali Fish Curry With Mustard

*Pic courtesy Google Images

Though I am a biological bong (I'll explain this term later), I was never a fish-lover (yes, I know, I am a Bong and I am supposed to LOVE fish, but as a child I never ever liked fish and always tried to avoid eating it as much as I could). As a typical baangaali ma, my mother would enlighten me with the benefits of eating fish - it will improve your eyesight (maybe that's why now I have a reading glass), it will give you nice shiny hair (maybe thats why I now suffer from hair loss) and make you intelligent (I never wanted to have a fishy brain, if thats what it would mean, and I still make myself happy by living in the bubble that I am a little intelligent) - so these are the pitfalls of not loving and eating fish and hence my taking the trouble of sharing this recipe with you ;-)

Jokes apart, being away from my mother's cooking and staying out of Kolkata forever, I have somehow now begun loving fish. Especially as my daughter shows a huge liking for the same and her taste buds are never satiated unless she gets a fishy-dish at regular intervals.

Here's the recipe for the traditional Bengali Fish Curry With Mustard, a favourite of mine, even in those years when I did not like fish at all, I still did have a bite of this one. Hope you guys will enjoy too.

Bengali Fish Curry With Mustard And Potato:  (yes, we love aaloo in all our dishes mostly)
rui maachh (rohu fish) I am suggesting this particular fish as I love it a lot. You can also substitute this with kaatla maachh (which is very similar to rohu but more juicier) or any other fish of your choice. 

2 cups chopped onions
potato slices already fried golden brown in mustard oil
1 tbsp red chilli powder (optional, used mainly to give colour)
4 red whole chillies
4-5 green chillies slit (more or less depending on your spice preference)
1 tsp mustard paste
1 tsp turmeric paste
2 tbsp coriander powder
1 tbsp garlic paste
1 tbsp ginger paste
1 bay leaf (tej paataa)
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp kalonji
2 tbsp lemon juice
mustard oil
salt to taste
The Cooking:
1. Properly clean the fish pieces, making sure you have removed all the scales. Remove any excess water.
2. Marinate the fish pieces with lemon juice, salt and turmeric powder and leave for half an hour to an hour.
3. In a heated pan (kadai), pour mustard oil and let it heat properly. When you hear the crackle and can feel the oil heat up, put in the fish pieces slowly, and fry till both sides are golden-brown.
4. Once the fish is fried, remove from oil and keep on a napkin to remove excess oil.
5. In the hot mustard oil, put the mustard seeds, kalonji, whole dry red chillies, a few green chilli slits, red chilli powder (optional), bay leaf. Keep stirring to avoid burning.
6. Once the mustard seeds start to crackle, mix in the ginger paste and the garlic paste and stir for a few minutes.
7. Now mix in the chopped onions and fry till golden brown.
8. Put the mustard paste, coriander powder, turmeric powder. Put in the already-fried potatoes. Stir fry till oil begins to separate from the spices.
9. Pour water depending on how much curry you want. Add salt as needed. Bring to boil.  
10.Now add the fried fish pieces. Keep cooking on a low flame till the oil starts to separate from the gravy.
11.Take off gas.
12.Garnish with slit green chillies and coriander leaves.

Goes best with hot steamed white rice. 

- Debolina Raaj Gupta

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Haath-Rickshaw, Hand-Drawn Rickshaw in Kolkata

A hand-drawn rickshaw is parked outside the guest-house where I was staying in Southern Avenue. This is a recent pic, taken April 2012. Incidentally, the West Bengal Government had decided to take these off the Kolkata roads by 2005-2006, as this is an extremely inhuman practice! 

I clicked the above pic because I have always been fascinated by these hand-richshaws of Kolkata. That being said, I completely abhor this 'inhuman' practice, and have never sat in one.

While I used to visit Kolkata in my younger days as a child, the one thing that always managed to make me look out in awe were the hand-drawn rickshaws. Even as I would be sitting in a car, a taxi, or maybe a bus, I would see them everywhere, almost always being pulled by wiry-thin, scrawny, rib-cage jutting out men, young, barely adults and very old. There was never an age limit to the person who would be seen running along the roads, most times bare-foot, running through rush-hour traffic, as the passengers would almost always be in a rush, urging the puller to pull fast, run fast, reach fast......and as I discovered recently, not much has changed even today.

While hand-pulled rickshaws are now a thing of the past in most parts of the world (they do have them in a few places mainly as a fun tourist thing and not as a practice), Kolkata, India, still continues to 'move along' with this practice everyday.

This photograph above (courtesy Google Images) is taken during the native Indian days, when India was still being ruled by outsiders. Here, the passengers are being ferried in the hand-drawn rickshaws. Not much of a change in conditions, the only thing that has changed today is perhaps the dress code, that too of only the passengers, as the haath-rickshaw pullers still continue in a vest and lungi.

On 15th August 2005, the-then West Bengal CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had confirmed to reporters that hand-pulled rickshaws had long been considered 'inhuman' and that the practice did not exist anywhere else. He was quoted as saying 'We have taken a policy decision to take the hand-drawn rickshaws off the roads of Kolkata on humanitarian grounds. Nowhere else does this practice exist and we think it should cease to exist in Kolkata.' Well, it's 2012 now, 'only' 07 years after Mr. Bhattacharjee made this promise...and the practice still very much continues.

*Pic courtesy Google Images

When I spoke to those who live in Kolkata, the response to my query was varied. While some had never given a thought to these poor guys who pull these rickshaws, some did have concerns. Many considered this a regular practice, citing explanations that these men are 'used to this, they do this everyday so its not a bother for them. You are an outsider, you see this sometimes, so you feel bad.' Some said they did find it sad to sit in these 'hand-drawn rickshaws', but soon justified it saying 'if we don't sit in these, how will these poor guys earn their living?' Point!

I understand that these men who pull these rickshaws come from extremely poor backgrounds, something you and I can never even imagine, no matter how much we claim to 'understand' their plight - the reality is we dont! Most of you might continue to argue that this provides them with their daily food (whatever little bites they can manage to earn like this for their families and themselves.) But the point is, isn't there a possibility that these people can be rehabilitated? Why can't the government replace these hand-drawn rickshaws and instead, replace them with regular cycle-rickshaws? Something that now definitely belongs in a museum should be sent there, and these living souls should be treated with a little more dignity. Incidentally, this is what Mr. Buddadeb Bhattacharjee was also quoted as saying in 2005: 'We are thinking of alternative modes of transport so that the transition does not affect either the pullers or its riders. It takes money and time. Yes, we do understand it takes money and time, but...ummm....07 years is a little too much time, isnt it?

*pic courtesy Google Images. A very common site on the Kolkata roads. The only place for these men to rest, take a nap, and take shelter from the burning sun and the torrential downpour is their hand-drawn rickshaws. 

A few places around the world where hand-drawn rickshaws were used:
1. In Madagascar, Africa, they are a common form of transport.
2. Durban, South Africa, is famous for its iconic Zulu rickshaw pullers. Only 25 hand-drawn rickshaws are left to cater to tourists today.
3. Bangladesh still continues the practice while various unions try to improve their conditions and highlights their plights to the world.
4. Hong Kong has stopped all licenses for rickshaws since 1975. As of date, it is reported that only one rickshaw is available for a ride at The Peak, mainly for tourists.
5. Malaysia replaced its hand-drawn rickshaws with cycle rickshaws.

- Debolina Raja Gupta

Friday, April 20, 2012

Lyrics: Je Kota Din Tumi Chhile Paashe From The Movie Baaishey Shraabon

A beautiful song that I've only recently discovered and have since been playing a lot lot lot. Can't stop humming this all the time...

So here's the video starring the gorgeous Raima Sen and the talented Parombroto Chatterjee. Watch the video and sing along with the lyrics jotted here:

Je kota din tumi chhile paashey (all those days that you were by my side)
ketechhilo noukaar paaley chokh rekhey (were spent staring out at the sail boats)
aamaar chhokhey thonte gaaley tumi legey aachho (your touch is there on my eyes, lips, cheeks)

Jetuko rod chhilo lukono megh (the little sunshine that was hiding in the clouds)
diye buni tomaar shaal'e bhaalobaasha (I used that to weave love in your shawl)
aamaar aangul haathey kaandhey tumi legey aachho (your touch is there on my fingers, hands, shoulders)

Tomaar nokhey dogaaye teebro premer maaney (the tip of your nails hold the meaning of a raw love)
aamio golpo shaajaai tomaar kaaney kaaney (I take the chance to whisper new stories in your ear)
taakiye thhaki haajaar porda ora bikel (I stare out at those many evenings when the wind blows through the curtains)
shohor dumrey muchrey thhaak onno dikey (as the city lays crumpled and wrinkled on another side)
traffic'er ei cacaphony aamaader shopno chushey khaaye (the cacaphony of the traffic sucks in all our dreams)

Je bhaabe joldi haath mekhechhey bhaat (the way our fingers mix the rice)
Notun aalor khosha aar ei bhaalobaasha (with the skin on the new potatoes and the love all mixed together)
aamaar deyaal ghorir kaantaaye tumi legey aachho (your touch is there in the hands of my wall-clock)

Jemon joriye chhiley ghoom ghoom boroph paashey (the way you were wrapped around me in my sleep)
aamio khunji tomaaye aamaar aashey paashey (I too search for you all around me)
aabaar shondhe belaaye phirey jawa jaahaaj baanshi (again the evenings take away the ships the sails the flutes)
bukey paathor raakhaa mukhey raakhaa haanshi (a boulder in my heart, a smile on my lips)
je jaar nijer deshey aamraa shrot kurotey jaai (as we head towards our own directions, our destinations, in search of the eternal waves)

Je bhaabe joldi haath mekhechhey bhaat (the way our fingers mix the rice)
Notun aalor khosha aar ei bhaalobaasha (with the skin on the new potatoes and the love all mixed together)
aamaar deyaal ghorir kaantaaye tumi legey aachho (your touch is there in the hands of my wall-clock)

Je kota din tumi chhile paashey (all those days that you were by my side)

ketechhilo noukaar paaley chokh rekhey (were spent staring out at the sail boats)
aamaar chhokhey thonte gaaley tumi legey aachho (your touch is there on my eyes, lips, cheeks)
aamaar aangul haathey kaandhey tumi legey aachho (your touch is there on my fingers, hands, shoulders)

Tomaar chokhey thonte gaaley aami legey aachhi (i am there in your eyes lips cheeks)
tomaar aangul haathey kaandhey aami legey aachhi (i am there in your fingers hands shoulders)
aamaar chhokhey thonte gaaley tumi legey aachho (your touch is there on my eyes, lips, cheeks)
aamaar aangul haathey kaandhey tumi legey aachho (your touch is there on my fingers, hands, shoulders)

- Debolina Raja Gupta

From The Eyes of A Probashi (Non-Resident Baangali)

Aaahhh the beautiful city of joy - our very own Kokata (finally, the world will now call her that instead of Calcutta)

Well, if you aren't from India, or if you haven't seen the movie by the same name, based on the book 'City of Joy' by Dominique Lapierre and starring Patrick Swayze and Om Puri, let me tell you that the City of Joy is our very own Kolkata, previously Calcutta, India.

My association with Kolkata has been a long affair. Born to baangali parents who are originally from Kolkata, I have been born and brought up in northern India, all my life. Not a surprise then, that till now, I was more of a Dilli-waali than a baangali, barring those annual Durga Puja days when the baangaali in me would suddenly wake up with a roar and thunder!

Its not that I haven't visited Kolkata. I have. But each time that I visited the city, I would be engulfed in a deluge of relatives and festivities, and almost all memories I have of this city from my earlier days are about moving from one relative's house to another, and almost always tables piled high with all kinds of mouth-watering delicacies, things that I did not value much as a kid, but do understand and long for now. I remember the numerous varieties of fish that were on display in various kinds of curries and pastes, fried crispy golden, or steamed with special marinades, or swimming in tangy spicy curries. There were always multiple kinds of vegetable dishes to choose from, not to mention varieties of daal and other delectable fares that I had no idea of. Plus the all-time favourite spread of aaloo bhaajaa, begun bhaajaa, beguni, potol bhaaja, karela bhaaja...uff...yum yum yum! And sweets !!! I have never been a fan of sweets, even as a kid, but I remember just HOW MANY different kinds of sweets would be arranged for me as if by magic. If I refused one, there would be another, if I didn't want that, there would be another.......there was no escaping!

For many years while I was growing up, I have seen Kolkata from the eyes of one who has always been an outsider, one who has never had a chance to feel the pulse of the city, to feel its soul and begin to fall in love with it.

Its only of late that I have started to understand this city the way one should. And as I begin this journey of exploring my roots, I know I am already falling in love....each passing moment !!!

- Debolina Raja Gupta
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