The big fat Dum Dum wedding
Touchdown Kolkata, India
As soon I landed in a fog-enveloped Kolkata for the first time ever, Sukanya’s (bride and best friend) brother Jit whisked me away to their apartment in the heart of Dum Dum. A neighborhood in North Kolkata, Dum Dum was home to the British Royal artillery in the 19th century. One of the resident captains invented a new type of bullet that expanded on impact and called it Dum Dum. That’s how the area got its name and it is called so to this date. Fancy your neighborhood being named after a bullet. Pretty badass, huh?
Sukanya is boisterous and animated and we often joke that she is so loud that one can hear her from the moon. She argues the same about me but really I’m no match. Needless to say, I stepped out of the elevator on the 4th floor and just followed the sound trail to her apartment; I didn’t need no address. Their apartment was buzzing with relatives and preparations. After a grand reunion (we last met in April when we made impromptu plans to Croatia for her bachelorette! Time flies) and introductions, I sat down for lunch with her family.
You don’t eat fish? :O
Sukanya casually mentioned to her cousins, aunts, uncles and parents that I didn’t eat fish and all hell broke loose.
“YOU DON’T EAT FISH? Surely you are joking? You mean fish, like ‘machli’ in the water? But then what’s the point of your life? Is there even a purpose?”
Ok real talk -> Bengalis live to eat and not the other way around. Specifically two things: fish and sweets. When the revelation sunk in, Aunty (aka Sukanya’s mum; we Indians refer to everyone who is not related by blood as Aunty or Uncle) decided to make up for the lack of fish in my life… with Bengali sweets. Every five minutes, I was asked to ‘aaa-kar’ (open my mouth wide to make an Aaaaaah sound) and she fed me various different types of delicious mouthwatering sweets and never taking no for an answer; my taste buds exploding with every bite. You haven’t lived until you have been constantly baby-birded by an anxious Bengali mum.
The rest of the afternoon was spent fighting an invincible food coma, shopping for the wedding and beautifying ourselves for the oncoming festivities.
Bengali street food: Phuchka
I always make it a point to sample street food no matter where I go. When Jit brought up his love for the quintessential Phuchka, I HAD to have one, even if it meant cutting into the evening celebrations. Sorry Sukanya, but food trumps everything else.
Phuchka or the Kolkata version of a Golguppa or PaniPuri is a round, hollow puri, fried to crispy perfection and filled with spicy mashed potato. The spices usually are a combination of red chili powder, salt, Phuchka masala powder, rock salt, green chillies and Phuchka-water. The Phuchka-water is very tangy and spicy and is made from tamarind and masalas. Every Phuchkawala (the barista is to coffee what Phuchkawala is to Phuchka) has a signature recipe; some adding an extra dash of Chilli p, cumin P or perhaps even a secret ingredient – Oooh! There is also a Dahi Phucka (yoghurt or curd variation) which I tried. This is when I died and went to Phuchka-heaven.
I returned home right in time for the first ceremony Ananda-Naru; a festival where all the ladies in the building showed up in traditional red and white Bengali saris to bless Sukanya a happy and fulfilling married life and prepare a sweet from coconut, jaggery and mustard oil, also called Ananda-Naru. “Ananda” means happiness and I’m not 100% sure what Naru means. It could mean either women or coconut, but let’s roll with women. So IMO Anand-Naru roughly translates to a ceremony where Bengali ladies bless the bride with happiness and prepare sweets. Sounds pretty legit, right? 😀 Less than 12 hours in West Bengal and my Bengali was already ‘Darun’ aka smokin’.
P:S I’m super psyched that my best friend is getting married to the love of her life, Chinappa who is also my super-bud! 😀 P:P:S They are getting married twice; first Bengali style and then Coorg style. Cray cray!
Only zero days to go for the first wedding. W00t!
To be continued 😉