What the Odisha Roshogulla GI Tag Has Done to the “Culturally Superior” Bangali

Satire comedy

What the Odisha Roshogulla GI Tag Has Done to the “Culturally Superior” Bangali

Illustration: Arati Gujar

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’ve noticed that most non-Bengalis are convinced that the fastest way to grab permanent residency in a Bengali’s heart is to ask them, “Rasgulla khabe?” when they have absolutely no intention of offering us one. Don’t worry, we’d rather dance to “Tunak Tunak Tun” than consume one of those abominations that get passed off as “Bangali rasgulla” in your city. Instead, we’ll reward you with a pained sigh for pronouncing (and spelling) “roshogolla” all wrong while secretly thinking, “Eeesh, even bacteria has more kalchar than you, eww blaadee phool!” 

Look, Bengalis might have given the world a lot of things, including our world-renowned disdain, but it’s a universally acknowledged fact that our greatest contribution is the roshogolla. A steamed ball-shaped dumpling made of chhaana (the Bengali version of paneer for the illiterate) that decided to drown itself in a pool of sugary syrup and became “boddo” yummy. We serve it with pride and a wide smile to our guests, with steaming tea and chow mein. Never mind the look of horror on our guest’s face. They are overreacting of course. 

West Bengal might be a bankrupt state but the hundred sweet shops dotting every neighbourhood owe their millions to the humble Bengali roshogolla. Satyajit Ray owes his brilliance to this sweet and so does Rabindranth Tagore. All they had to do was pop in a few freshly made roshogollas for creative ideas to come gushing out to them like Mithi river on a rainy day in Mumbai. This godly dumpling is an important accessory even to the nyakami of the Bangali bhodromohila. She will giggle and sigh while effortlessly popping in half a dozen of them in one go while you gape at her with your mouth open. 

This godly dumpling is an important accessory even to the nyakami of the Bangali bhodromohila.

So imagine our consternation when one fine day Odisha, a state best known among woke millennials for Biswa Kalyan Rath, stakes a paternity claim to our dearest dumpling. Before we could calm ourselves with a glug of Gelusil, things took a new turn when Pradip Kumar Panigrahi, then Odisha’s science and technology minister, set up committees to trace the origin of roshogolla back in June 2015. They even went a step further to declare July 30  as “Rasagola Dibasa” to celebrate its origin in the state. It’s like they haven’t read any New York Times editorial on the dangers of spreading fake news. Eeesh, ki oshobbho bolo toh! 

Anyway, I digress. Many panels and expert committees later, West Bengal got the much-deserved geographical indication (GI) tag in 2017 for the local variety of roshogolla from the Office of the Controller General of Patents, Designs & Trade Marks. (We should have been bestowed the tag back in 1947.) When a regional speciality gets a GI tag, it gets membership to the club of exclusives – nobody else can dare to claim ownership. Clearly, this was difficult to swallow for Odisha, just like their version of the roshogolla is for us. Cut to two years later to today where Odisha has now managed to gets its own GI tag for their version of the roshogolla.

 It’s a development that has been applauded by everyone… by everyone, I of course mean every liberal on Twitter. But not us Bengalis, who believe that the origins of everything great can be traced back to our hallowed land. The best roshogulla like biryani belongs to us. 

The Bengali-Oriya rivalry is as old as LK Advani. Sanskrit poet Jayadeva was the roshogolla of yore with both sides claiming him as their own. As usual Odisha had to eat humble pie. They now have chhana pora these days. Hey Odisha, you can keep it. We want none of it. 

There will be rasgullas, and then there will be “The Roshogolla” that Bengal gave the world.

To understand the greatness of our roshogolla, here’s an analogy for you culturally illiterate folks. There are single malts and then there’s The Glenlivet. No one else can use the article “The”. There will be rasgullas, and then there will be “The Roshogolla” that Bengal gave the world. 

But now that the Roshogolla war has reached a sweet climax, the question on every Bengali’s mind is, “Will Odisha and West Bengal finally call truce and go back to their favourite pastime, aka the afternoon siesta? Hold my plate of roshogolla while I laugh hysterically. Despite our tattered economy and dwindling industries, we will always be what Odisha like the rest of India aspires to be. Tell me, have you ever heard of Bhubaneswar Biryani? Or Cuttack Roll? No, right? That’s why we are Number 1.  

Why, we even do dirty politics better than the Oriyas! 

So dear Odisha, while you rejoice, take a moment to look at what you and your GI tag has done to the poor bloke trying to cosy up to a Bong with his trademark “Rasgulla khabe?” while patting himself on his back at his mastery over Bengali. Instead of a pained sigh, he will now have to put up with “The Bengali one or the Odisha one, you moron?” Of course he will have no clue. But he might just find out that it was the Portugese who taught us how to curdle milk in the first place. Oops.

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