Sweet, round memories

Library or not? His mike’s voice The best meat roll

By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 1.07.07

In a state so obsessed with mishti nobody would dare say sweets are nothing. This impression gets stronger when one reads the brochure recently brought out by the Das family of Rosogolla Bhaban in Bagbazar.

The famous sweet shop of KC Das, whose Chowringhee outlet is a landmark, is behind this publication to celebrate the birth centenary of Sarada Charan Das, who had founded this confectionary, and whose grandfather Nabin Chandra Das is credited with having created that melt-n-the-mouth white orb of casein dipped in syrup — rosogolla in short — which has become synonymous with Calcutta.

Through a series of articles and encomiums the greatness of Sarada and his family is sought to be established. It begins with a longish piece on the family’s past and caste. The family’s achievements are listed chronologically. The rest are by the great and good of the city and its culturati. The Das family had diligently cultivated every body who mattered, from film-makers, panjandrums, actors, dentists, football players and musicians, and each worthy has come out with a one-page tribute.

Again it is not difficult to discover why these worthies were such Das loyalists. The family used to invite them to lavish dinners, which provided the perfect photo op. All this and more are meticulously recorded in this treacly brochure. There is a passing mention but one wishes there was some more meat in the article on the Ramayan series by Jamini Roy commissioned by the Das family.

Library or not?

Calcuttans must have their share of books. They must have their quota of books while on the move too. Or so thinks Calcutta State Transport Corporation (CSTC). A good thought, only the definition of “on the move” is a little confusing. The Vidyasagar Bhramyaman Granthagar, or the Vidyasagar Mobile Library, housed in a double-decker CSTC bus is mobile — it keeps changing its venue through the day. Ultadanga in the morning, the airport in the afternoon and Sector V in the evening. The library is open between 11am and 7pm, but if you are a passenger, for the bus does take passengers, thought it does not commute on a fixed route everyday, you can’t read.

The books are put on display only when the bus is stationary, and locked away while on the move. The staff on the bus say this is for security. They see little need for change, as the they say the daily footfall is still between 300 and 400. Though employees say that the library boasts of a 1,200 strong collection that ranges from children’s fiction, novel, poetry and non-fiction, what’s visible are political and sociological writings and a superfluity of staff members. The library has 11 employees, plus a driver and a conductor. Another good idea gone to waste?

His mike’s voice

You see him every day, near the spot where Mamata Banerjee fasted for 26 days. You hear his voice above Mamata’s. In fact, you see the voice before its owner.

The man who startles you at Dharamtalla crossing every day with a plastic mike fitted to his mouth into which he talks incessantly is known as “Mike-da”. He also answers to the name Akhtar Hussain, is 40, lives in Khidderpore with his three sons and one daughter and often hums Mohammad Rafi songs. Often he charges straight towards you singing “Chahoonga main tujhe shaam savere…” or “Chaudhvin ka chaand ho…” with his ever-smiling expression. Hussain has been doing so for 12 years, since he discovered the musical marketing strategy.

If you look interested, he offers the mike. It’s called “Echomike”, features Shefali Zariwala’s picture and has ‘Kaanta Laaga Hain Laaga’ inscribed on it. At Rs 10, great value for money. Buy it for your child, then sing into it when she is not looking.

The best meat roll

The city has suffered a great tragedy recently. Nizam’s beef roll is dead.

It happened after the place reopened recently. It looks plush and glossy, but in truth, it’s much poorer. Beef has been banished, not to offend the tastes of the majority community.

The Nizam roll was an institution. Entire generations are mourning it. It was a wonderful meal at a very small price, compared to the costs of mutton and chicken rolls. Its demise has been aptly followed on the Net by a site offering its recipe, but there, unfortunately, the meat stuffing is only an option — it’s done with potatoes. Signs of the times.

But there’s still hope. The beef roll, packed with taste, cheap and filling, is alive elsewhere in Calcutta. There’s Khalique in Sudder Street, Nafeel at Park Circus, Khurshid at Raja Bazaar and Mashallah Hotel at Chowringhee Square. The price of a beef roll is still between Rs 5 and Rs 7, while the chicken roll costs Rs 15.

There are beef roll acolytes.

Antara Ghosh, a 19-year-old college student, makes her way every evening to her favourite snack at Khalique. “Chicken is boring now,” she explains, “also expensive. My usual meal here is two beef rolls and a glass of Pepsi, all of it in Rs 20. It’s filling, yum and pocket-friendly!”

(Contributed by Soumitra Das, Poulomi Banerjee, Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya and Opashona Ghosh)