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Boishakhi Brunch, Fun and Games

Pohela Boishakh is simply incomplete without all the food. We Bengalis are foodies aren't we, and love our delights, and the Bengali New Year gives us the perfect excuse to roll out an all-Bengali banquet. The day starts with matha, chira, doi, continuing with panta bhaat, eaten with onions, chilli, brinjal, prawn, mint, pumpkin, shutki bhorta, and many other delicacies. These are generally accompanied with fried fish, boras and koftas and more.

We Bangalis can and do easily create many more concoctions to please our taste buds. I would think our eating ritual would be incomplete without moa, naru and mishti doi. I must now stop myself from going into any further details on Boishakhi food as I regard myself as clearly the big naught, zip zilch in the cooking department, not that it deters me from stating my views. The idea is to take all our Bengali itto out from the bag and present it to our family and friends in style. We are one of the greatest hosts on this end of the earth, and the most hospitable and humble. We claim and take pride in giving it all up for our guests, especially on the auspicious day of Pohela Boishakh, the first day of the Bengali calendar. Here are a few khichuri style tips for your entire day

Party all day long
Dawn. Wake up just before sunlight. The rest of the family needs to wake up too if you plan to get anywhere with the day. First things first; the outfits. Wear your gamcha, tangail, pabna, or your designer cotton, endi, vegetable dyed woven, engineered embroidered or block-printed one-of-a-kind saree. Not kidding; flowers is a must, if not on your hair then around your wrist. Finish it off with a teep and glass bangles. For your daughter, go for a sari in a bright ruby red-yellow combo, or a good white-and-red Boishakhi combo. Put on the works if she is a good sport, even alta with an ak pachi style. Little flower jewelry can add a great touch to finish the look.

Your boy can get a fatua and lungi as an authentic look. Otherwise a bright punjabi set should do the job. Your man in a white punjabi or in bright woven depending on his personal taste…otherwise you can always push your ideas on him and see how far he is willing to go.

Let's say you have invited your family and close friends for a Boishakhi brunch. Like I mentioned in my last column, you need to send out your invitation ahead in time. Custom made invitations could be handwritten on terracotta tiles, 'shara' or bamboo mat or on a just a smart handmade paper.

Breakfast should be quick and simple. Fresh juice and khoi as a good alternative to your Imported boxed cereal and lots of fruit to kick start the day. Before the party, you can make a quick dash to your local club, or the nearest park where you can find an early morning musical rendezvous taking place. Take it all in, to get into the mood and get back home.

Now for some tips to really lend that Pohela Boishakh feel to your event. Make your guests walk over terracotta plates or khora as they enter. Breaking them in the process will drive away bad luck. They can also light a candle with a significance of a good beginning. Give away strings of jasmine, 'beli' to the genteel ladies, which are available in much abundance this time of the year.

A welcome drink is a common practice in many cultures; I suppose we can also pick up on this great idea. Instead of a regular drink like lemonade try tamarind, star-fruit, watermelon, or even bel. It should be served in small hand made green glasses the kind you find in tea stalls.

For ambience, the music you play should be soft enough to complement conversation, without distracting people. Music should not be very loud but just enough, so that your guests can continue to mingle. Try instrumentals but of course not the kind that makes you fall asleep. Experiment with the folk kind, baul, bhatiali, kirtan, and marfati .

Serve your appetizers like fuchka , bhel puri dahi varas in taal leaves. These may not seem Bangali at all but are extremely popular snack up items. You can bend the rules a little. Pithas in a savory flavor are all right too.

The set up should be such so that the guests can interact. A garden set up is ideal or you should remove some of your furniture to provide for more space. Floor cushions, piraas, and stools are great for the ambience. A central focus area is vital for any party whether outdoor or indoor. Use flowers and candles for the enclosed area or more flowers, fauna and may be a fruit bar for the garden. At lunchtime take out those hogla or khejur floor mats for the guests. The food should be served on banana leaves. Let the twelve-course meal keep coming on kasha bowls and buckets like the good old times. Use your hands in a fingerlicking great style. Kathal chapa or kanak chapa could be used decorate and add interest to your presentation.

After lunch dessert, tea, coffee is over don't sit down to gossip about your dearest so-called friends or run for the door as you soothe your over stuffed stomach. But rather continue to enjoy the moment with your dearest friends and family. Try your luck on some true Bangali games like ludo, carom, chess or cards and for kids, kana machi bho-bho (Blind man's Buff) is simply a great fun. It will create the opportunity for some further rare Bangali bonding. Keep the refreshing cold and hot drinks flowing with great background music. Soon your guest would like to call it a day or you can pleasantly ask them to push off. You can call a grand finale as you let gas balloons into the sky with a grand Nobo Barsho welcome message. Bid farewell to your guests with a big smile and a parting gift as a remembrance. This could be a silk scarf or an uttorio, or as simple as a clay bird.

Look forward to the New Year. The agro calendar relates very well with our environment and general lifestyle. It was used very well for hundreds of years apparently introduced by Moghul Emperor Akbar. It touched and carried practical, significant roles in our lives in the past and hopefully shall continue to do be of benefit in the future. It is one of our true cultural heritage with no implication and consequence to religious propositions and therefore purely secular. Go ahead celebrate in style.

By Maheen Khan

By the way

When doing your face make-up, keep it light. Skip foundation creams and use pressed powder instead. Skip eyeliner as you will sweat a lot and use mascara only. Use light lip-gloss or just line the lips with a liner instead.


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