La Dolce Vita..@ Purnadas Road!

Posted by on Aug 17, 2011 in Featured Posts, Travel Tales | 7 comments

La Dolce Vita..@ Purnadas Road!

I grew up on a road, in Kolkata, that was a stone’s throw away from everything that makes Kolkata a food-lover’s paradise. Purnadas Road, was home to me for the more memorable growing years of my life, and when I look back to reasons and seasons that make me the lover of good-food that I am, I cant leave my home-street too far behind.

For me, food and planning around food have always been the highlight of my life-primarily because Dad is the greatest avatar of a knowledgeable food-procurer (basically a quintessential Bengali!), and my Ma is the world’s greatest chef!

My memories of that road, dwell into more than just the food that was always available at home, or on the streets. It comprises of moments, buildings, neighbours,street-vendors, hawkers,festivals,accidents,and so much more..

Our “para” or locality constituted of just a street. About 12 houses, between the left and right hand side of the street; an all-girls’ college, with a loud canteen, non-descript hanging balconies that I could see from our kitchen window;huge neem and mango trees that would sway ferociously during summer storms;old second-hand book stores lined up one after the other just at the junction of the boisterous main Gariahat Road and our street; a candy shop, opposite the book-stores that had these old glass lidded jars filled with sugar-coated aniseed morsels, jujups, colourful wrapped candies, some local favourites(those that came without wrappers nor had any brand names attached to them!); a type-writing school;a “coaching-class”; an auto-repair shop that doubled up as a garage for the nights;a boutique called “7-A”, that sold very pretty frocks and outfits for mostly little girls; a “chai”wala permanently stationed around the corner; a “paan”-wala, who had his stock of cigarettes too..and only one proper eatery called “Bedwin”.

I started roller-blading at the age of 7. That became a sensation for the “para”-primarily, because I was the first girl to do so, and more importantly, the first girl to be allowed to do so on the roads. I learnt balancing and doing my “acts” all on my own, and by the end of a month and a half- I could glide away, race with the boys, and do a little bit of gymnastics every now and then with the blades still on!I had company after a few months. My neighbour, as old as me joined me. Soon..we were the two of us..me the braver one, he the more timid one to be skating on Purnadas Road!My adventurous spirit would often take me to the adjacent road which was a busier thoroughfare-which meant a little more dangerous, than the quite tucked in road I was used to gliding on. My partner(never-in-crime!) seldom joined me. He was “told” not-to by his mother-and he listened. I was “told”, not-to, and hey..I didn’t listen!My mother received concerned complaints way to many…but I think she knew from the very beginning that I would take care of myself-no matter what. She did sound me off, once in a while, but that just made me all the more responsible and careful,I guess.

Back to Bedwin.

I had a ‘running account’ with them. I will explain! My school hours were a little different from my mum’s. So-I would reach home everyday by 2.00pm, and my mother would reach by 3.15pm- ish. The arrangement was that a set of keys that would open our door,were kept either with the neighbours, or when I grew up to the 9th standard, it was given to me, to carry to school,and/or to increase my sense of responsibility,perhaps! I would return home, unlock the door myself, and help myself with lunch that was kept ready on the dining table. Now that, as we all can understand, can be a very boring meal. C’mmon-home-food? Everyday for lunch? You must be out-of-your mind! So..I would walk out of the door(before mum came home), lock the door once again, walk up the road to Bedwin, where my “Bedwin-Kaku”..(Now,”Kaku” is a fond way to address any stranger in Kolkata-who is about the age of your father. Most importantly, it is also an address that gets a lot of work done, if spoken with affection,politeness and courtesy!)would be requested to provide me a box of “Mutton Biriyani” and “Chicken Chaap”, and the bill for the purchase would be “written” down in a monthly hand-written journal. That meant, Dad would have to pay for it, later! But, that I would manage with Dad, I knew I had the “capabilities” to do that!

And that’s where started my un-dying fondness for a good plate of Nawabi Mughlai Biriyani,and Chicken Chaap that floated shamelessly on a bed of molten golden ghee!

Bedwin is a known name to every Calcuttan(even Kolkatans). Some also swear by Shiraz, Rehmania,Aminiya with equal devotion. But I have been a loyalist-always: so I will still stick out my throat and say, “Bedwin Biriyani Is The Best”!These eateries serve Mughlai food, with typical influences from the Nawabi households of Lucknow. The biriyani and most of their other meat dishes, tend to have a sweetness to it. A part of that sweetness belongs to saffron, and most of it to the ‘sheera’ or sugar-syrup thats been flavoured with ‘kewra(or rose) water.This place is also home to the much acclaimed “Roll”. (We Calcuttans dont like to westernize it by calling it Kaati-Rolls; to us..they are just “Rolls”!) Apart from the basic chicken,mutton and egg rolls, variations include, “Doubles”, “Singles”,”Singles with Egg”, “Doubles with Double Egg”, “Singles with Double Egg”,and permutations so on and so forth.

Every Bengali is a storyteller.And a foodie.That’s really a lethal combination.
The ‘adda’ is a common phenomenon across India, where people get together for some chat & gossip. Don’t be fooled in thinking that ‘addas’ don’t have topics, or are senseless banters. That’s insulting to any Bengali! In Bengal, it is an art form – ranging from the organized (where famous authors are solicited for-to participate in addas) to the spontaneous (while waiting for the next Santoshpur-BBD Bag Mini and continuing till the last Jadavpur-Howrah mini has gone).

Here in Bangalore, Calcutta is not completely gone. We absolutely have random ‘addas’ every now and then. We still cook to fancy the taste-buds of our other Bengali friends. And we often cook out of nostalgia. Try the Bedwin’s Signature Chicken Chaap, next time you have Bengali visitors over. They will come back for more..adda as well as your hospitality!

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7 Comments

  1. uff….i miss those…i crave for egg chicken roll at bedwin…

  2. This part of your life is so much a part of mine as well. Bedwin,Aminia,tshirts on the stands,endless haggling at which you were so much better than me and second hand book stalls that filled my head with silly romance (Mills and Boon style)!How I miss those days and the food…I wonder why the Bedwin roll,double or otherwise just does not taste the same?Has someone robbed it off the vital ingredient of childhood? Or is it that forbidden food is the most delectable?I leave it to you to decide.

  3. BHISHON MOJAR LAGCHILO LEKHA TA P0RTE.INTERESTING !!

  4. Tor chotobela ta chobir moto bheshe uthlo.Nice writing.

  5. Yes! When I wrote this, I didn’t have to try very hard. Nijer chotobela chobi’r moton bheshe roilo amaar shamne…sheiguloi dekhte dekhte likhe fellam..furut kore! 🙂

  6. Thank you, Ma! Would be even more interesting to know, what all you remember from these years of my life…why don’t you put a few of those them down,right here..in this space?

  7. Jham!You know I have never read a M&B story in my life!But I was never much of a reader, during those years, like we were talking about the other day! But I so remember you getting a new book or two every single day from those shops…and exchanging them the next day! You remember? You could rent them for Rs. 2 a day,and get back .50p when you return it? 🙂
    PS: Much to your shock and my disbelief, I hate to admit, that I have lost all powers of haggling. I just cant do it anymore!!!!

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