Monday, July 27, 2020

How to make most of the monsoons - hint, do it the Bengali way

Monsoon in India is anything but mundane. It is chaotic, disruptive and joyous at the same time. As the skies open up after months of relentless heat and drenches the parched earth making it fragrant and green, emotions run high and the mood becomes festive. Each spell of rain becomes a momentous occasion that must be celebrated the only way we desis can celebrate - through gluttony.

At the first sign of thunderstorm, the kitchen comes alive with the sound of pakodas being fried crisp in sizzling oil. Served with piping hot chai, the heart sings loudly like a peacock in heat while the stomach prepares itself for acidity.

But if you are a Bengali, you curl your lips with disdain at the sight of your Panjabi neighbour gobbling pakodas with glee. You are the self-anointed human version of L’Oreal shampoo. Since you’re 5 times more enlightened, cultured, opinionated and intellectually evolved than the boddo-average Indian. even your monsoon celebration is meant to be five times more elaborate and painful.

You're loath to spend a piddly half an hour to rustle up crispies to celebrate the drumming of rains against your windows. You put the book you’ve been reading aside, and announce to no one in particular - aami aajke khichuri khabo.

I can already hear a chorus of ‘who the fuck has runny khichri meant to soothe an agitated tummy on a rainy day?’ Let me assure you all, the Bengali version is nowhere near the sloppy mess you have on diarrheal days.

For Bengalis, khichuri is not merely a dish, it is an emotion. It is the culmination of utter joy we experience when we see dark, angry clouds gather and rumble with displeasure, the air heavy with promise of rains. As the parched earth, greying trees, dusty buildings greedily soak up the rains, the house starts filling with the aroma of moong dal being roasted for the khichuri. 

Pic courtesy Cosmopolitan Currymore

Unlike the khichri a hastily thrown mix of daal and rice thrown in the pressure cooker and served as a watery, tasteless gruel that you want to throw up, the Bengali version is a mix of rice, lentils, cauliflower, potatoes, peas, seasoned with spices, chillies and served with a dollop of ghee. If you dare dump all the ingredients together and make it a lumpy mess, you will be haunted by a Robindro Sangeet humming ghost for the rest of your life! Each one of them must wait for its turn before it is added to this desi risotto and stirred till your arm falls off. While the potato adds silkiness to the texture, the cauliflower and lentils breathe in their unique flavours, and the peas add a sweet note to the khichuri.

Since ek poder ranna(one course meal) is considered a cruel joke in Bengali households, we coolly pick up the exhausted arm from the kitchen floor, stick it back and proceed to slog a few more hours to prepare the side dishes, bhajaas and chutneys for the khichuri.

The rains have long stopped. The locality kids who were splashing around in newly formed puddles are now back home. The Panjabi neighbours are now prepping for their dinner of rajmah chawal when their ears prick up to the sounds of ssssss. No worries. It is their Bengali neighbours who have let go of their table manners. They are scooping up the hot khichuri with their fingers and going ssss in a futile attempt to cool it. It will be followed by loud slurping and crackling noises as they take a bite of the begoon bhaja, fried Illeesh, deem bhaja, break a crisp papad into pieces, take a noisy lick of the sweet, sour tomato chutney, pause to mix the labda( a runny mish mash of veggies) with the khichuri, interspersed with loud sighs. The K drama climaxes with obeisance being paid to the creator of this feast. Boddo bhalo baniyechho eibaar!

The Bengali neighbours are finally on their balcony, rubbing their tummy gently with satisfaction of a feast partaken. One of them is going through her Instagram feed and rolling her eyes at the million rain drenched pics that her friends have shared. Losers, she mumbles to herself. They are now singing Jhoro Jhoro Borishe even though the rains have long retreated. The bottle of Gelusil in the medicine cabinet is getting ready to play its knight in shining armour role later in the evening.

The night is still young. One of them chimes - kalke luchi aloor dom? The weather forecast says it’ll rain tomorrow as well.


  1. Have always relished the Bengali Khuchuri, aloo dam, poshto,chana dal and luchi ever since I was a child . They go to another level in Kolkata:)

  2. Very interesting read! It creates lovely imagery. I'll have to cook Khichuri (not khichdi).

  3. It is still raining here (in Pune) I will show this post to wifey.

  4. Nice post. I was checking constantly this blog and I’m impressed! Extremely useful info specially the last part I care for such information a lot. I was seeking this certain info for a long time. Thank you and good to make your balcony more private


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