Barsha – Monsoon

Barsha – Monsoon :-

During the last few days of summer, each longer than the previous one, the endurance of man, land, animals and vegetation is stretched to the breaking point. As the people of Bengal live through this scorching humid hell, waiting for Barsha – (Monsoon) to find some comfort, the first day of Barsha is generally honoured with the eating of a special meal, made enjoyable by the drastic drop in temperature created by the rains and cloud-covered sky. The most well-known Bengali dish associated with the monsoon is Khichuri, rice and dal cooked together and panchphoran and ghee. This is the housewife’s response to sudden arrival of monsoon rains or heavy rain at any other time of the year. Though simple, it is a superb dish that requires care and

does not survive neglect or in attention and probably one of the oldest dishes in the Bengali repertoire. From, the beggars, who begged for their food, to various religious orders that observed a strict simplicity of diet, countless people have depended on khichuri for there balanced diet. Without any trimmings, it can be even rice and dal boiled together in a pot. Slum dwellers in Indian cities can still be seen doing that on the sidewalks. With the delicate, refinements of certain spices, it became a delicacy. After 200 years of colonial rule, the British also took it back with them as kedgree. Like the curry, kedgeree probably was a contribution of the Indian (often Muslims) chef working in the British officers’ home. The simplest form of khichuri can also be used as a porridge course.

There are of course many kinds of khichuris, depending on what kind of dal is being used. The consistency may be thin, thick or dry and fluffy like a pilaf, plain or with seasonal winter vegetables like new potatoes, green peas and cauliflower added to the basic rice-dal mixture. The one constant factor is the use of atap rice, usually of the short-grained variety. Although khichuri is almost a complete meal in itself, most Bengalis would be disappointed not to have certain well-loved accompaniments; slices of aubergines or halves of patols deep-fried, papors and red chillies. Among the other monsoon vegetables that Bengalis love are varieties of kachu or taro, pumpkin, kumro, green like shashni shak, puishak, kachu shak. The monsoon is also associated with the ilish, called hilsa by the British, that Bengalis have given the name ilish guri, the hilsa’s life-cycle is something like that of salmon. After starting life in the sea, the fish comes to spawn, in the estuarine waters where the rivers meets the Bay of Bengal, and slowly moves upwards along the rivers to the northern regions of India, in the Hooghly basin, growing in size upto 2.5 kg. Many of the hilsa caught during the monsoon are big with roe, which is a delicacy in its own right and considered a cavair of tropics, though the Padma specimens of Bangladesh are considered to be an absolute delicacy.

The monsoon is the most dramatically beautiful season in West Bengal and the emotional Bengali Express himself through, recitations, songs and eating. Football is another monsoon madness and office attendance is even thin on the afternoons when two are rival teams. Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, kick-off on the Maidan. Victory for East Bengal means a run on hilsa as fans get together to celebrate with shorsey ilish (Hilsa in Mustard). Prawns hit the high-water menu when Mohun Bagan wins.