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The Tradition

As the shaky season draws near, our bodies require an overdose of chorbi for insulation purposes. The fact that our tongues don't mind the deep fried, heart busting substances is rather irrelevant in our opinion, as is the fact that we don't abstain from them for the other five seasons of the year. And where best to get good food then in Puran Dhaka? And thus it was that our senses were seduced by the overpowering aroma of Biriyani floating above the stink of slaughtered cows, chickens and piles of horse poop. Yes, we found ourselves standing before the hallowed halls [so to speak] of Hajir Biriyani.

It's hard to live in Dhaka and be ignorant of that famed name. Hajir Biriyani has been around for nearly 80 years and these guys are so confident, they don't have a signboard over their place. Also, they have been cooking the same amount of food every day for 80 years, no matter the number of customers available. As you can imagine, there isn't much food to go around. It is first come, first serve, so you better haul yourself over there between 4-5pm when the shop opens because it cleans up pretty quick. And yes, we are perfectly aware that it is the most brilliant and simple use of supply and demand and really, really cheap psychology. Your expectations are high, you pay relatively highly for it, and you leave feeling satisfied, partly because you managed to beat the crowd of poor souls standing behind you in the line.

So, we decided to take a completely objective route in our evaluation of Hajir Biriyani. We tried ignoring the packaging of orders before our eyes, wondering if we'd get food. We instead focused on the jackfruit leaves used to package the biriyani, marvelling again at the astonishing business sense of it. The forethought! Green packaging for 80 odd years! Imagine the PR goldmine there.

We tried not to notice people spraying their biriyani with lemon while we waited for a seat. We did not look when they took a chunky bite and followed it up with kachamorich. We closed our eyes and prayed for salvation. For we had not eaten that day, because life and university is a canine of the female persuasion.

When at last we got to a table and a guy one of the packager called “OI, DADA-R POLA!!” [which is, quite frankly, the best bloody method of calling uncle I've ever heard] handed us our platters … well, we don't really remember what happened. A vague recollection of lemony, tender meaty goodness lingers in the back of our head.

We were abruptly brought back to Earth by the 130 taka per plate bill though.

So, what's the verdict? Taste: good. Quality: above average. Meat amount: varies, but we received enough. Price: way overblown. Tk. 130 for one plate is not entirely worth it. After all, you are just paying for the brand. Will it fill you? Maybe, if you are just having lunch. But if you are really hungry, we doubt one plate would do.

But hey, it's still Hajir Biriyani. Located at Alauddin Road a little way down from Bongobazaar, it will be pointed out to you by anyone you care to ask on the road. Why don't you make a trip out of it? Save money buying cheap t-shirts from Bongo and spend the money you saved on a plate full of tradition. While you are at it, don't forget to have a glass of the pure awesomeness that is Beauty-r shorbot, which is available just a few shops along the road.

By Kazim Ibn Sadique
Photo: Tahmid Sayed Abtahi

Paul: A Bookmaker's Eulogy

There are probably millions of octopuses living in this world right now. Before 26 October 2010, Paul was one of them. Fortunately for me and all other bookmakers across the world, he is no longer with us anymore.

Paul did what every octopus is supposed to do-indulge in the futilities of its own life. But much to our dismay, that wretched eight armed freak chose to be different! I mean, who had ever heard of octopuses and World Cups being related before? Football World Cups are supposed to be about players and not about some aquatic creature who didn't even know what football was.

It started with the 2010 World Cup, which was supposed to be a boon for all bookmakers like me. We wait for this for four long years. And never in our worst nightmares, did we imagine that we would leave South Africa completely bankrupt. We hoodwinked the police, deceived the detectives, gobsmacked the governments; yet when the stage was set for us to cash in on the extravaganza, we were outsmarted by an octopus!

I knew octopuses were venomous creatures but I also thought only the small blue-ringed octopuses were deadly to humans. To be stung by an English octopus that lived in an aquarium in Germany, while being in South Africa was simply an unprecedented experience I would not want to suffer from again. If Paul was hungry, I could have overwhelmed him with his favourite food: mussels. There was simply no need for him to reprise his oracular role from Euro 2008 - a tournament where he was relatively innocuous to say the least. And just when I had the idea that octopuses were smart creatures - Paul's feast of mussels from boxes metamorphosed me from a bookmaker to a beggar.

I am not a fan of seafood. Yet you shouldn't be surprised to know how desperate I was to gobble Paul's squirming body. Or I could have chilled, grilled or boiled him for those 139 calories per ounce of his body mass. After all hiring assassins for killing an octopus would have infuriated the World Wildlife Fund and other people still foolish enough to think octopuses are harmless. So Paul, it's good you died because even the thought about your very improbable comeback at Euro 2012 gave me goosebumps. Even though, I must admit, your demise couldn't have been more untimely; you should have died before the World Cup!

By Nayeem Islam



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