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Bitten by the Biye Bug

A Biye really brings out the Bangali in me. Someone who generally doesn’t spare a second look for sweets, and is ostracized from the community due to my lack of ability to not sound like a dying hyena when I sing, it’s difficult to find a common topic of interest when I bump into fellow Bongs. But there’s nothing like a Biye to bridge all those barriers. Because a Bangali Biye is all about 2 of my favourite things – food and presents! The eating traditionally begins with “Aiyibudobhath”. Or as it’s called in Marathi, “Kelwan”, with extra emphasis on the ‘l’ and ‘n’. This is where your close friends and family invite the bride/groom (along with their families =D) over for a meal. The parents of the bride/groom, also host one, and their favourite food is cooked! Luckily, the brother’s fave food is my fave – namely Mangsher jhol – bhath. Since it is impossible for me to describe how incredibly delicious it is, this is how it looks. For those of you who would like to make it – please follow the steps below and invite me over if it turns out well. 1. Take a bucket of onions. Ok I’m joking. But we had a lot of onions at home. 2. I’m not putting the recipe here. It’s quite simple and anyway no one can make it like mommy. This was all the other stuff there was to eat. Macherjhol – Fish curry. Integral part of every Bong meal. This one is a normal home style gravy, with good, old river fish Rui. Begun Bhaja – Fried brinjal. It’s really yummy and a crowd favourite. Usually 5 types of fries will be served at these dos. The other paraphernalia is the dal, sweets, vegetable etc. And as the ultimate pampering, the brother got to eat off silver cutlery. I suppose I’ll have to wait a few years before I can find out if the food tastes any better. But I’m afraid it may retain the distinct flavor of the polish mum used to scrub it to get it to shine like that. So the food mania begins with this and continues for every meal during the wedding period, which generally lasts upto a week. Kolkata weddings are the best, filled with Macher paturi – fish steamed in palm leaves (I think), Ileesh Maach, Mishti doi – sweetened curd, my personal favourite, so many types of Shondesh, the newest discovery being chocolate Shondesh and sooo much more. But I was too busy eating it all to click any photos so I won’t go on about it. So I’ll move on to the Totto now – or presents. So totto is basically a trousseau. And the best or worst part about is it that it’s all beautifully set on individual trays, wrapped, decorated and numbered. It’s hours and hours of painstaking work – with the ladies arranging, colour coordinating and decorating and the men enjoying drinks and snacks while occasionally lending a foot to serve as a cello-tape holder. The coolest Totto trays are the following – Fish is auspicious for Bongs. So we take a giant fish, dress it up prettily like a bride and send it as the 1st tray of the Totto to the bride’s family. Traditionally, it is cooked and the bride has it as her last meal at home. (We also send the mustard oil.) Then there’s a lot of other fun trays. The totto basically has everything a bride will need to begin a new life. There’s also presents for the close family (read younger sisters!) and the elders. And we end it with sweets- typically 5 types atleast. All this comes with a “Totto-shuchi” which is basically a detailed list of all the contents of each (numbered) tray.[Ostentatious and/or rich families send more than 100 trays.] The rest of the wedding is like any other. Actually it’s way cooler but I’m not really qualified to go into the details of the ceremonies and stuff.

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