For the people who don’t know me, I come from that part India, called West Bengal, and to be more precise, Kolkata city. We, Bengalis, are quite passionate about our culture, feel proud of our educational heritage, and extremely happy to mingle with fellow Bengalis, especially when we are away from our corner of the world.
Away from my hometown for almost last fourteen years, I have stayed in a number of places, but in nowhere in my stay in India I have come across such a strong connect to my culture and fellow Bengalis as in my stay in Delhi. Delhi can, might as well, be called the second Kolkata, and if I take into account the way people from Bengal have kept their culture alive.
I stay in the sub city of Dwarka, a residential area in the western margins of the city, and on various occasions have come across a number of Bengali people here, and to tell the truth, we, Bengalis are often delighted to sneak in a line or two of Bengali language, whenever we interact with a Bengali person. It’s something inherent in us, I guess, this intense love of our mother tongue. For a person like me, who works from home and hardly has any time to interact socially during a workweek, the fact that someone ahead of me in the queue for the movie tickets is speaking in Bengali is like music to my ears. Even if I may not approach the fellow Bengali with a smile, and say, ‘Apni o bangali, shune bhalo laglo’, no, I guess that will be a little overboard in taking people for granted, I am still thrilled to hear those magic words spoken in my mother tongue. Sometimes I wonder do all people, who stay outside their home zones, feel like me?
Delhi, solely for that reason, is like the magic trove, for me. Here I have participated in my neighbourhood Durga Puja, a festival where we celebrate the victory of Godess Durga over demons, or asur; taught my daughter to recite a Bengali poem in contest, which she had learnt with the script written in English; have bought tons of Bengali desserts, such as sandesh, and misti doi; eaten at Bengali restaurants, like Oh Calcutta; bought Bengali books at the Delhi Book fair; and most recently, have taken my family to an evening of cultural soiree organised by a Bengali cultural association.
So if you are a Bengali in the city, or in search of the Bengali culture, there are some distinct places to revel in the same. I recommend the Bijoli Grill Restuarant in both Banga Bhavan, on Helye Road, and the one in Delhi Haat, in Aurobindo Marg, as well as Oh Calcutta in Nehru Place for the foodies; the Durga Puja pandals in the month of September-October located at various places in the city, the most famous ones being the ones in Chittarajan Park, Kasmiri Gate, Kalibari, and Dwarka (since I am more aware of these). Check out Ramkrishnam Math in Ashram Marg for the spiritual awakening; and the bookstores in the shopping malls for a collection of Bengali movies and books. In other words, consider Delhi your second hometown, the other Bengal.