As Bengalis observed Jamai Sashthi on Friday, pampering their son-in-laws with the choicest delicacies and expensive gifts in keeping with traditions that have not yet fallen prey to Western trends, it was a four-kilo shinning Hilsa from faraway Myanmar that stole all the limelight.
The fish sold for a whopping Rs 22,000, a price no Hilsa had ever been sold for, vouched traders at the wholesale market in Howrah were the money changed hands. The buyer was a retailer from Gariahat Market in posh South Kolkata. It was obvious that at least some son-in-laws, if not a single lucky one, had the opportunity to taste it.
Sayed Anwar Maqsood, secretary, West Bengal Fish Importers’ Association and a wholesaler in Howrah had bought the fish from Naaz Fish Company of Myanmar. When he put it up for auction, Maaqsood was surprised to see the bidders going desperate. With no Hilsa coming from Bangladesh the demand for the king of fish was obviously high but Rs 22, 000 was an all-time record for a four-kilo fish of any breed.
“This is the biggest Hilsa I have sold in my career and I never saw a bigger Hilsa at this time of the year. You get the best ones only during monsoon,” said Maqsood.
On Jamai Sashthi, neither laws of inflation nor demand and supply theories worked on the retail markets in Kolkata. Price of possibly every edible item skyrocket for a day because the sellers know that families, no matter how, poor, buy the best they can afford. While established sweetmeat shops and confections have to stick to their price list, fruit, fish, mutton and vegetable sellers go for the kill.
For Restaurants, especially the ones offering traditional Bengali cuisine, Jamai Sashthi is the time to work on customized dishes since many families have started eating out with their daughters and son-in-laws. Hilsa invariably tops the list in their menu; both in variety and price.
Bhojohori Manna, a popular chain, had a special menu with Jumbo Hilsa Bhapa and Dab Chingri while 6 Ballygunge Place offered an entire Jamai Shashthi Thali, right from appetizers to desserts.
Many people, like Debajyoti Deb, celebrated with traditional Bengali cuisine. “I love this day because I love spending time with my family especially when I am pampered like this with chingri malai curry (prawn curry) and kosha maangsho (mutton gravy)”, said Deb.
Some son-in-laws however broke away from tradition. Chandan Chakraborty had his mutton biryani at Arsalan, "My biryani was followed by two of Bengal’s best desserts; shar bhaja and mishti doi”, he told HT.