Food and football — besides these two passions, a true-blue Bengali is passionate about addas. These days the chat sessions have moved to internet chat rooms.
But earlier, the locality boys would get together at the rock (the stoop outside houses) to discuss Mohan Bagan-East Bengal football matches and whistle at girls passing by.
The girls climbed up to the terrace and giggled over the dadas (everyone is a brother till you marry one) who looked at them in a different way, now that they were out of their frocks.
Their mothers gathered in the kitchen and gossiped about in-laws as they fried luchis.. their husbands discussed falling stocks and rising prices over countless cups of chai in the drawing room.
During Durga puja, the addas shifted to the pandals. While the pundit chanted mantras, the mashimas (elderly aunts) in their red and white saris got into a huddle to whisper, as they fluttered around on the stage, laying out the offerings.
The latest bit of gossip: Mrs Banerjee’s daughter has run away with the chauffeur. Below, younger women in their crisp Dhakai saris, pulled up their chairs in a circle and chatted about their purchases and holiday plans.
“We’re off to Darjeeling next week,” Shipra Das informed. Less than 60 seconds later, her excitement deflated when Sohni Pal told her that Darjeeling was ‘out’ and Alaska was ‘in’.
Sohni was off to duty-free Hong Kong. I almost felt sorry for Mr Das as I visualised the confrontation later that evening. Would Darjeeling give way to Bangkok? We’d know by the next puja.
Meanwhile, Sreela Mitra was going into ecstasies over her new three BHK in Lokhandwala. “Must have cost her at least Rs 2 crore,” Deepa Gupta said in hushed tones to Shonali Mukherjee.
“Look at those buttons on her husband’s kurta. They are real diamonds. The Mitras used to live in a modest one-room apartment in Goregaon. Then, Ambarishda got into the export-import business. Now their boys are studying abroad, although the younger one had barely scraped through his board exams,” Shonali told her in equally hushed tones.
The teens were engaged in a different kind of ‘showing off’. Shanghamitra was swooning over Shibani’s designer kurta-churidar. “Is it from Westside?” she wondered aloud.
“No, I bought it in Delhi. It’s Ritu Beri’s creation,” Shibani informed with a toss of her streaked curls. You could almost see Shangha unfurling her claws!
Anjali and Menka had their heads together. They were discussing how Anjali had caught Bishakha smooching the boy-next-door in the car park. And she had thought Ramola and he were an item. Just then, Bishakha walked in, dressed in a red chiffon sari. And the boys flitted all around her.
It’s your life
A few furlongs away, Raja and Rohan were discussing their future. “I want to take up that United Arlines offer but my mom says she’ll commit suicide if I fly off to Chicago,” Raja groaned.
Rohan advised him to forget mamma and lead his life the way he wanted to. I could imagine Mrs Dutta breaking into a flood of tears as her software engineer soon jetted out of her life.
Ganguly babu was holding fort in a corner. He had the 60-plus veterans in their starched dhotis clustered around him. He was telling them how children of today were not interested in learning their mother tongue.
Just a few feet away, his 40-plus son, Shiben, was moaning over the recession with a group of CEO types in fluent English. His young grandson, Shobhon, discussed cricket with his buddies in chaste Bangla.
Loads of gossip, speculations galore and groans in plenty — that’s the beauty of a Bengali adda during Durga puja.