DREAMING OF CALCUTTA IN THE TIMES OF KOLKATA
2020 is going to be my year.
If you have ever said the above statement out loud even once or have it scribbled down on the corner of your notebook, this article is for you. The blockbuster year, 2020, has so far been a serious bust owing to its courtesy to COVID-19, the pandemic. Sure, we are on the road to recovery with masked smiles and unmasked realities, but the world is now different. It did come to a standstill in its truest sense and the streets of Kolkata, are the whimpering witnesses.
Once quaint and currently recovering from the quarantine, the bylanes of Kolkata are those forlorn lovers ready to be reunited in all their glory & mirth. The romanticism of Kolkata, or to be precise, Calcutta, is not a recent concept. Nostalgia and quintessence have always been the warm host to a party called ‘Cal, not Kol’. Kolkata has always been a precious, vintage painting that your grandmother absolutely adored & boasted about - An artistic excellence, rich with poetry & personal anecdotes. But what do you do with the masterpiece when modern art floods in? You place it right next to the abstract art, allowing both worlds to co-exist. And Parama, the whimsical homegrown brand, is a pictorial symphony of the crossroads.
Our slow-paced Kolkata is often a raging subject of dissection for the rest of the world but the Kolkatans (Calcuttans). History has rightfully proved, citizens of the City of Joy, have always been dreamers, ardent artists, and hopeless romantics. The city has always brimmed with philosophers and culture vultures, and even now, it is the same. The latest generation is busy writing stories of art, cinema, and literature with their curious minds and old-school hearts - hearts that beat to the rhythm of classic Calcutta.
Speaking of old souls and modern masterminds, Parama, the brand is blurring the boundaries between Calcutta and Kolkata. The homegrown brand is a dewy breeze of colours, fabrics, and tales of Calcutta, on a scorching summer day. Inspired by the world of art, cinema, and literature, Parama Ghosh preserves the core essence of Calcutta as she paints whimsical on her canvas of vivid blouses, sarees, and fabrics. It can be best described as an enduring effect of art on everyday life. Parama Ghosh, herself, is busy interweaving her passion for the city and love for art. She exclaims, “Calcutta has been my forever muse and most of my creations are a poetic mediation of my love of the city.”
From Kumortuli to Chitpur and Dalhousie to Park Street, Parama Ghosh has been drawing and collecting inspiration from these diverse areas ever since she was a child. It is the confluence of craft, food, and culture in this city that fascinates her, and makes her develop a style of her own. The transformation of Kumortoli’s clay to first sculptures of Gods & Goddesses and then magic delights her artistic instincts. The diversely overwhelming lanes of Chitpur, the architecturally flamboyant building of Dalhousie and the eternally young pin code of Park Street (16), add to her whimsical list of creative wonders. She adds that the quintessence of Calcutta is poorly described if it isn’t associated with its gastronomical diaries. The infamous cha adda sessions are laced with her favourite phrase - ‘Jago Bangali jago! Jagbo, agey chaa dao.’ Simultaneously, the famous New Market is the capital of all things food, nostalgia, and magic. This lockdown was the perfect time to reminisce about the majestic New Market. As one enters, the aroma of authentic Kathi Rolls to fresh, handmade cookies overtakes. It is only until one reaches Aminia, the aroma of Calcutta’s Biryani tickles and seduces the taste buds of every Biryani lover. Aminia’s Biryani, the humble offspring of culture and authentic Awadhi cuisine of Lucknow, is now synonymous with every Biryani lover’s fondest memory. With its first outlet back in 1929, Aminia’s legacy is a profound picture of Calcutta’s food history. The tables at Aminia overflow with succulent kebabs and chaotic chatter of giggling teenagers to somber grey-haired adults.
Close to ten outlets in 2020, the transformation of the menu is a sacrament to its nature. The dishes are modernised to suit Kolkata’s palate but they still adhere to the traditional taste of Aminia. Many drool over the Double Egg Rolls while most worship their favourite handi of Biryani, and the aloo being their favourite part. Aloo in Aminia’s Biryani is a love affair one simply cannot mess with. Only the wayward dare to leave out the Aloo because the faithful ones complement their Biryanis with two. Midst the humdrum of Biryani and busyness, Aminia has always managed to win hearts via the classic ‘Dil ka raasta pet se jaata hai ’ phrase. Rightfully quoted, Aminia serves every food lover with ‘the taste you love’.
The whole talk of nostalgia of art and food has us in sobs. We’re currently dreaming of the bustling roads and that extra Aloo on that stranger’s Biryani plate, how are your post-lockdown thoughts treating you?
This article has been penned down by Anindya S Basu and Madhushree Basu Roy. Madhushree and Anindya are food writers, recipe curator, food photographer, travellers. Their love for Kolkata, it's culture and food make them write about their city of love and its people.