Kolkatans will tell you that there are many ways of having an egg roll. Some like biting into it after a hard day's work, sleeves rolled up, ties loosened. Some like it on the go - hurried bites while negotiating the crazy traffic of the city. But the best time to have an egg roll, most Kolkatans will attest, is during a pandal-hopping break during Durga Puja. That's when the flaky parantha coated with a layer of fried egg, stuffed with onion slivers and chopped chillies, tastes like heaven in our mouth.
Why, you may ask.
We have no answer, except that the Durga Puja air stimulates our appetite for all that's good in life. And for Bengalis, good things in life primarily means food. Therefore, it doesn't take a genius to figure out why a YouTube channel on Kolkata food, Bong Eats, will feature Kolkata's iconic street food, egg roll, in their Durga Puja special video.
But since we live in an increasingly factionalised country, where opinions mutate into diktats online, hours after the Bong Eats team uploaded their Egg roll recipe, "out of nowhere" they started getting "hateful comments".
According to a blog put up by the co-founder of Bong Eats, Saptarshi Chakraborty, most of these comments "harped on how godless Bengalis eat eggs and meat during Durga Pujo, and how it hurts their Hindu sentiments". Others were just casually racist in their remarks about Bengalis.
Some comments were so vile that they had to delete them. Here are some samples.
At this juncture, I will let some steam off, and say how frustrating, humiliating and tiring it is to explain to you, the reader, the Bengali way of life in two back-to-back articles.
Last week, hairstylist Jawed Habib was subjected to online trolling and legal persecution after a print advertisement, meant only for Kolkata papers, mind you, surfaced on a social media platform. The ad depicted Durga, Saraswati, Lakshmi, Kartikeya and Ganesha enjoying a leisurely time in a Jawed Habib salon. Apparently, the advertisement hurt the sentiments of those who were not even meant to see it, a host of non-Bengali Hindus. In Hyderabad a complaint was filed against Jawed Habib. In Uttar Pradesh, one of his stores was vandalised. Eventually, Habib had to issue a video apology.
We put up a post in defense of Jawed Habib and the harmless advertisement, where I explained that Bengalis have a slightly different approach to the festival than the homogenised, mainstream North Indian one. The thing is, most Bengali Hindus are brought up to believe that the deity Durga, is a part of their family. She is, what we call, ghorer meye (daughter of the house). Her yearly visit to her earthly abode from the snowy Himalayas is accompanied with the same sense of abandon that one feels when a daughter makes her yearly visit to her maika.
I don't think I, have had to defend Durga Puja celebrations in Bengal and its religiosity (or the lack of it) with such passion before. I suspect many fellow Bengalis are going through this same predicament.
Yes, we treat Durga Puja as a socio-cultural festival. No, Durga and her children are not sacred cows to us. Yes, we have non-vegetarian food during the 9 days of navratri. No, we are not freaks.
Does the fact that we don't indulge in forced vegetarianism have an adverse effect on our economic condition as the above comment suggest? I don't know.
But here is a recipe of another Durga Puja classic, pulao and mutton curry,
Chaddi gang, please feel free to hate.
Feature image source: Bong Eats