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15 Apr 2017

On Poila Boisakh, Bengalis in Darjeeling remember the yesteryears

On Poila Boisakh, Bengalis in Darjeeling remember the yesteryearsAmitava Banerjee | MP| 14 April 2017 | Darjeeling: Gone are those days of lobongolotikas and chandropulis as a dwindling Bengali population struggles to keep their footing in Darjeeling.  

Poila Boisakh (Bengali New Year) is nothing much but a sweet reminiscence etched in a Bengali's mind in this beautiful Hill town.

Except for a visit to the Mahakal temple, the present day Poila Boisakh has definitely changed avatar. "After a hectic week's work, with both the husband and wife working these days, it is too tedious to prepare a Poila Baisakh spread at home. We usually go to a movie followed by eating out. With no authentic Bengali restaurant in Darjeeling, we have to make do with Tibetan, Chinese or Thai cuisine. 

"I do miss the Polia Boisakh of my childhood where pulao and kosha mangsho used to adorn the table. I feel sad for my kids that they don't get to see the good old days of Darjeeling's very own Poila Boisakh," stated Sabyasachi Dutta, a teacher.

Even the Bengali sweettooth is suffering in Darjeeling's so-called modern times. 

"I miss the Poila Boisakh of yesteryears. Though the Bengalis did not own sweet shops in Darjeeling, the local sweet shops mostly run by the Bihari population used to prepare special festive sweets like lobongolotika, chandropuli, chanar murki and khirer sandesh on this day. All this is history now. Canned rosogollas and shonpapri in plastic boxes is what we get these days," stated 65-year-old Sadhan Mitra. 

If quantity of fish consumption is by anyway considered to be a gauge of the Bengali population, then it definitely cuts a sorry figure. "I used to sell more than 300 kg of fish on this day even in the '80s. Now, it is less than 40 kg," said Shyamal Das, a Bengali fish vendor and the last of his tribe.

For many who have moved out of Darjeeling, Poila Boisakh still brings back sweet memories. "People used to arrive at the Mahakal temple as early as 5 am. After a round of  puja, we all used to have a day-long adda session at the Chowrasta, catching people returning back from Mahakal and forcing them to part with their prasad. I still miss Darjeeling's Poila Boisakh," stated Nila Bagchi who has settled in Kolkata. 

The Capitol Movie hall used to screen Bengali movies on the occasion of Poila Boisakh. 

"In the evening, the Nripendra Narayan Bengali Hindu Hall used to stage a cultural programme which would be either a gitinatya or a drama. 

Rehearsals used to take place well ahead. Poila Boisakh used to be observed in a grand way by the Brahmo Samaj of Darjeeling also," stated Debasish Ghosh, a resident.

"It is hard to get participants for the cultural shows owing to the dwindling population. Hence we have discontinued it," stated Protapadittya Guha, Secretary, of the Bengali Hall.

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