By Mahima Vashisht Jun. 29, 2018
My brother’s multicultural wedding took a turn for the worse when the “abomination” called rosogulla chaat was served. But it ended up doing what a Chief Minister who labels everyone who disagrees with her a “Maoist” couldn’t do for the last few years: Make Bengalis take a stand.
y Punjabi brother recently tied the knot with his half-Bengali half-Tamil wife in a wedding held in Karnataka and attended by my own half-Konkani half-Marathi in-laws. It felt less like a wedding and more like a trailer to “Mile Sur Mera Tumhara. Unity in Diversity. Mera Bharat Mahaan.”
These were also the noble emotions our side of the family would have felt had we not been enveloped in being our loud, boisterous Punjabi selves. Naturally, the pounding noises of our dhol and baaraat muted the fusion of the sombre cultures around us in one uncomfortable instant. Seeing this, the cultured Bengalis and the composed Tamilians went into a state of shock, until the calm Konkanis took it upon themselves to coach them in the art of weathering a Punjabi wedding takeover – they were speaking from their own PTSD from my wedding a few years ago.
Mercifully, the secretly free-flowing alcohol performed its duty as the quintessential social lubricant. And by dinner time, all our high-spirited bhangra seemed to have been submissively embraced by representatives from all parts of the country.
Dinner was yet another reflection of the multicultural confluence that was the prevalent theme of the wedding. From crispy Bangalorean dosas, filter coffee, and spicy Tamilian bisi bele bhaat to Punjabi paneer tikkas and good old jalebi and rabri, every diner’s plate was an illustration of Mile Food Mera Tumhara.
But, the highlight of the night and the cause for countless almost heart attacks was the dish that transcended its responsibility as a mere food item and became a lasting memory of the wedding. It was an inventive starter lovingly prepared by the chef in honour of the union of the Bengali-Punjabi couple: Rosogulla Chaat.
The minute it escaped my mouth, I could feel the weight of a hundred eyes breathing down at me, taking the tension in the room to a crescendo.
If you’re Bengali and have still managed to read past what I’m sure you’ll label as “blasphemy”, please know that I’m amazed at your will-power, braveheart.
For something so innately Bengali, the rosogulla chaat boasted of all the components of a typical Punjabi raj kachori: cold, creamy, sweet dahi, an avalanche of red and green chutneys, and generous smattering of chopped onion, tomato, and bhujia. The chef even went out of his way to garnish his creation with plentiful coriander and pomegranate pearls. The only difference, as the name suggests, is that the soul of the dish wasn’t any random puri; instead it was the rosogulla, the de-facto national dish of Bengal.
The rosogulla chaat promptly worked its magic by completely flipping the dynamic of the wedding. The otherwise animated Punjabis were tamed into silence sporting polite smiles, aided by compliments for the night’s spread. Although, some of us were of the staunch opinion that the chaat was sweeter than usual, but we happily gorged away considering it wasn’t anything that our booze-addled brains couldn’t deal with.
As it turned out, not everyone was as kind to this peculiar chaat. Overhearing fervent and angry Bengali whispers around us, we realised that the chaat had managed what our unruly behaviour failed to do: stir and offend the Bengalis into action.
The Rosogulla Revolution was well and truly upon us.
An aunt of the bride decided that she could not live with herself if she did not raise her voice against this atrocity of genocidal proportions. “Rosogulla chaat is an abomination,” she yelled to anyone who would listen, taking it upon herself to defend the esteemed Bengali culture in the war single-handedly unleashed by this monstrosity of a dish. She channelled her inner “Maa, Mati, Manush” and went around the room to recruit more followers, convinced that no crime was worse than the hate crime of enjoying this chaat.
Suddenly, the battle-lines were drawn: The Bengalis were huddled in a corner, a pall of silence over them. Their eyes on the other hand, remained glued to the near-empty rosogulla chaat stall, glaring at every individual courageous enough to ask for a helping. In the blink of an eye, the chaat became as exiled at the wedding as beef in India.
To lighten the mood, I made the mistake of attempting a joke about serving this controversial dish at the next-in-line cousin’s wedding. The minute it escaped my mouth, I could feel the weight of a hundred eyes breathing down at me, taking the tension in the room to a crescendo. Just as I was preparing to be labelled “unkalchured”, came the war cry. “We won’t attend that wedding!” they yelled, pointing a rage-fuelled finger at my hapless cousin.
That shut me up. I followed everyone’s lead and quietly ate my Bengali-approved food, hoping I’d read enough Tagore or seen enough Ray to distract the Bengali brigade with small talk they’d actually be interested in.
As the wedding wrapped up, we plied the caterer with extra compliments for the innovative menu and lip-smacking food to assuage the pain on his face, while looking over our shoulders for signs of the enraged comrades. At that point, the only thing that could have made the situation any worse was if an Oriya suddenly showed up and claimed that rosogullas were actually invented in Odisha.
It’s been months since that rosogulla chaat wedding but the life lessons it taught us were evergreen. That day, I learnt that food could unite people as easily as it could divide them and that the bhodro Bengali temper was as underrated as Ritwik Ghatak. But, most importantly I realised that chefs were the real MVP: Their fusion experiments ended up doing what a Chief Minister who labels everyone who disagrees with her a “Maoist” couldn’t do for the last few years: Make Bengalis take a stand.
The author is a former civil servant and currently works in the development sector. Generally though, the Harry Potter fangirl solemnly swears she is up to no good.