Pithe khele pet-e shoy- It’s Pithe Season!
There is a time in every Bengali’s life when their calendar is determined by food. Like mangoes and lychees in summer and tele-bhaja, chop and muri in monsoons. The winters are no exception. But before we get into all that, let’s just take a moment here and state just how important the winters are to Bengalis everywhere. Simply put, it is that time of the year where they can all eat their hearts out, party with friends (Yes! Bengalis do party!); and also keep up with the old traditions like a picnic on the maidan or the Victoria Memorial, playing badminton at the zoo and yes, lazing at home with the socks on under the lep. But once a year, for a few days, the sleepy winter-affected Bengalis shake off their sloth and head into the kitchen for an experience of tremendous gastronomic importance.
Karur sharbonash, karur poush mash. This is a well known Bengali proverb that loosely translates into “one person’s despair is another’s winter”. Now, if this doesn’t clear Bengalis’ opinion of winter, nothing will. But like all things Bong (no, it is NOT offensive),a farewell is just another excuse to eat like there’s no tomorrow and then ask for dessert. Why is this significant? Well, every year, in the middle of the Roman calendar month of January, the Bengali month of Poush ends. So, on the couple of weeks leading up to this tragic date, Bengalis celebrate. And like all other celebrations in Bengal, sweets are on the menu. In fact, it is the only thing on the menu!
For two to three weeks every year, the most fortunate of Bengalis(Don’t worry, it is NOT exclusive) wake up to the smell of hot ghee and freshly ground coconut and the sight of the sun’s early rays gleaming jaggery. Yes, not an exaggeration. Okay, maybe a little bit; but those of you who have experienced Poush sankranti with their grandmothers(and, in some cases, mothers too) know this to be true. All savouries are forgotten and the Bengali collective soul ebbs and flows with the mil in the bowl of gurer payesh. Be it peethe or puli of any kind of jaggery infused delight, this has always been a very memorable time for Bengalis everywhere.
But more than the food, this time is about togetherness. It’s about generations coming together to have a good time, sometimes more than three generations. It is about growing some respect for your elders who, despite everything, work hard to make sure to give the younger generation some memories. This is what it all comes down to. This is what it is all about. Family, togetherness and the memories in between.