Statutory Warning : This post is purely for the Non-vegetarians, so vegans, PFA, PETA, Green Peace and all other animal right’s supporters please excuse, I respect your views and if this article hurts your feelings I don’t mean to do it.
One of the true Bong(Bengali- as the people from West Bengal a state in the eastern part of India are called) identity is bajar kora(going to market for vegetables and fish). This is a daily morning affair for a Bong in Bongo(West Bengal), its generally done by the male member of the family who goes to the nearby bajar (market) with tholi(bag) for daily supply of vegetables and fish. I think every male bongo sontan(son of bengal) has been to bajar at least once in his lifetime. The traditional bajar kora(marketing) has got two major parts one being vegetables and essential other one being the fish and another optional third part being khoborer kagoj(News paper), misti (sweets), ful(flowers) etc. We cherish this bajar kora lots of funny stories are associated with it like one man is going to bajar with tholi another asks “ki dada, kothay cholen ? bajarey naki?” (what sir, where are you going to ? market?) and the answer might be “na football khelte”(no going to play football). Now I said fish being essential because its world famous that bongs are very mecho (fishy literally, i mean fish lovers). A meal for bong without ek tukro maach(a morsel of fish) is not a meal at all.
The moment you enter the market you’ll come across a lot of din with the maachwalas/maachwollis(fish seller male/female) shouting at top of their voices announcing their varieties and prices. The typical conversation in mach bajar(fish market) is “kire shyamal aaj chingri koto kore ?”(“hey shyamal(the fish seller) what’s the price of prawn[chingri] today”) though you may have heard the price from the shouting Shaymal but you want know your special price. Answer generally is the same price. you say “koto kore dibi bol”(“In what price you’ll give me”), Shyamal may say “arey Sona da asun apni nin na…ei 1 kg tol to”(“Oh sona da[thats ur name followed by respectful “da”] come take” then shyamal instructs to his assistant give 1 kg”), then Sona da(you) jumps and will say “ore dara agey koto kore dibi bol tarpor aar ek kg ki korbo gusti shudhu ke khawabo naki”(“hey wait first tell the price and what will I do with 1 kg shall I feed my forefathers from 14 generations”). In this way bargain goes on and finally the price, quantity etc is agreed and the transaction is done. You return home satisfied with the deal u got and happy that one more day your family can have their favorite item on their paat(meal). On they way back you meet your acquaintances and the conversations can be “sona da bajar korlen naki ? ki maach nilen ? koto kore porlo ?”(sona da coming from market ? what fish you bought? what was the price you paid?” ). You answer everything except you don’t disclose the real price if the person is not any one close as you have got an exclusive deal which obvisiouly can’t be made public. BTW Shymal above can be replaced by Nantu, Pintu, Pocha etc Sona da can be Amiyo da, Bachhu da, Bapi da or Chingri can be one of the innumerable fishes in that fish infested state 😉
Now if you have read thus far and thinking bong’s bajar kora is fine but where’s the “Sunday morning fishy affair”, well friends have patience every story has a bhumika(back drop) thats what I was doing till now.
So being a true bong it was my daily ritual when I was in bongo(West Bengal) to do bajar a tradition passed down the generations to me. But now that I am a bong not residing in Bongo and as they say you can take a Bong of Bengal but cannot take fish out of a bong, I have found out a bajar(market) rather a macher bajar(fish market) in Bangalore. Though in this silicon valley of India you have fish stall and vegetable sellers selling vegetables on hand cart right at your door step nothing can compare a bajar and bajar kora. But the hectic schedule and distance has made the daily affair to a weekly affair or rather a weekend affair mostly on Sundays.
If you visit the macher bajar on Sunday here you get to see the neo rich bongs in full colors there get ek tukro maach(a morsel of fish) to their paat(meal). What is predominantly a male affair in bongo here we see it as full family outing with husband, wife, in-laws, kids, siblings who come packed in Santros, Altos, Maruti 800s i mean at times you feel they are in for a picnic. Bongs being garrulous you can imagine the decibel levels in the market. You need to go early otherwise you’ll see stylized bong women in all shapes and sizes dressed in sleevless and skirts or tight jeans/T-shirts blocking your way and almost screaming “Shiekh[fish seller] ek achha sa bora sa Katla nikalo, dim nahi hona”(Shiekh bring out one big and nice katla[a fish variety] should not have eggs) while their men watch timidly from a distance who are only called at the time of payment. Hats off to these liberated, independent women who share everything equally with the men. Also if you look at the quantity of fish they procure… ahem it can feed several dozens for a gala dinner. So after these self proclaimed Divas let you some space you tell “Sheikh ek der kilo ka Rohu ya katla do”(Shiekh give one 1.5 kg size Rohu or Katla[fish variety]) which you get and also you have to specify “bengali cutting” for the fish to be cut and cleaned as per the standards of Bengal, this is a bonus as nowadays in Kolkata u need to pay extra to specialized cutters doing the job for you. After ensuring the week long supply of maach(fish) you move on to sobji bajar(vegetables market-well you can’t only eat maach whole week), which I avoid as I prefer the home-delivering hand-carts for vegetables .After sobji(vegetables) you fill yourself gorom singara, kochuri and misti(hot samosas, kachoori and sweets) and finally you head home feeling happy that one more week you can be a true Bong and successfully concluded the bajar kora expedition of the Sunday.
So till next Sunday “Benche thak Bangali, dhoodhey bhaatey aare maachey”(Long Live Bengali with milk, rice and fish[staple food]).
Bonus : Those of you want to get fishy, Bong way. Check out the Recipe of Bengali Macher Jhol(Fish Curry) – http://bharatbhoj.com/2008/09/rui-macher-jhol/
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