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    Music, drama, dance and food stalls, you don’t have to be a Bengali to enjoy puja, as this guide to pandals will show you

    IT’S that time of the year when mishti doi is the choicest of dessert, and red coral bangles are paired with white conch ones, while the Goddess Durga is in the midst of flowers, incense, Hindustani classical and beating drums. You know that the most important festival for Bengalis is here — think the final scene from the film Kahaani. Though not as popular as some of the other festivals in Chennai, rest assured the city is buzzing with 15 North Indian associations (both Bengali and others) celebrating the annual five-day Durga Puja, from October 19-23. “It’s not just Bengalis who attend. Last year, 60 to 70 per cent of our attendees were non-Bengalis,” says Pradyut Bhowmik, the president of the organising committee of South Madras Cultural Association (SMCA) Durga Puja at Besant Nagar. The best time to visit the puja pandals is between 5 pm and 11 pm.

    “Shorshe Maacher Jhaal (fish in spicy mustard gravy) is a Bengali delicacy that we serve at 601. I added my own touch to the original recipe to make it more accessible to different taste-buds and it will be included in the special Durga Puja buffet we are hosting at The Park,” says Shivam Bose, the kitchen executive at 601, The Park. Price of buffet: Rs 1,500; Available from October 19-22. Details: 42676000

    Taste essentialTaste of Kolkata - Mushroom Butter Masala 2

    The Bayleaf, Gopalapuram:
    From Kolkata street food to other Bengali staples, this restaurant is known for its egg and mutton roll, kosha mangsho (meat sukka) and macher paturi (fish delicacy wrapped in a banana leaf). Meal for two at approximately Rs 1,000. Details: 28114557

    Kolkata Q,
    T Nagar:
    It is known for its mughlai paratha and shorshe ilish (hilsa cooked in mustard gravy). At Hotel Ganga International. Meal for two at approximately Rs 500. Details: 28141340

    Taste of Kolkata, Velachery:
    Pocket friendly, it is known for its mushroom butter masala and fish cutlets. Meal for two at approximately Rs 400. Details: 9840975127

    “The way I cook Chingri Malai Curry is something that my mother taught me. What I prepare here is a bit different from her original recipe. I add a little onion paste to the preparation so it stays fresh for a longer time,” says Subrata Debnath, the executive chef at The Hyatt Regency. Rs 1,200; Available at Spice Haat on request. Details: 61001234

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    My sweet store:
    Balaram Mallick Sweets is a popular chain in Kolkata with five stores located across the city. Get their chandrakala, baked rosogolla, cadmish sandesh and chandrapuli delivered home.  Rs 300 to Rs 1,500. Details: mysweetstore.in

    Ganguram Sweets: Another well known sweet shop in Kolkata, Ganguram’s rosogollas, dry fruit sweets and mishti doi can be ordered online. Rs 300 to 1,000. Details: ganguram.com

    Rangamaati:
    From terracotta jewellery and bamboo furniture to wooden home decor and Bengali musical instruments like the iktara, dugdugi and kanjeera, this Kolkata-based website delivers across the country. Rs 500 to Rs 25,000.  Details: rangamaati.com

    Parinita: This apparel store focuses on traditional Bengali wear for both men and women. Be it silk kurtas or saris like the Bengal cotton, korial, garad and banarasi. Rs 1,000 to Rs 10,000. parinita.co.in

    Travelling saris:
    Find authentic Bengali saris right here in the city as garment dealers from Bengal bring with them the likes of tant and baluchari. “They contact us through our relatives in Kolkata, and if we like their collections, we refer them to others,” says Rooma, Bhowmik’s wife. At Rs 5,000 to Rs 25,000. For details contact a Bengali association in the city.

    Site specific

    South Madras Cultural
    Association, BESANT NAGAR
    While the association has roped in KC Das, Bayleaf, Taste of Kolkata and Kolkata Mithai for the usual Bengali staples, the local food vendors are offering kachoris, phuchkas, cutlets and chops. Details: 24451935

    Bengali Association, T Nagar
    Known for their traditional evening aarti and Shandhi puja that will take place this year on October 21, this Pandal is a must-visit for people looking to join a celebration that is as traditional as it gets. Look forward to the delicious khichdi bhog. Details: 28340557

    Dakshini Society, Anna Nagar
    With friendly members, this one is a must visit for anyone craving home-cooked food. Expect luchi, alur dum and kosha mangsho, among other delicacies, all cooked by members. For a meal here, all you have to do is make a donation of minimum Rs 50 Details: 26215437

    Culture beatBratati Bandhopadhyay 1

    Ratna Mitra and troupe:
    The versatile singer from Kolkata, who performs Bengali folk, Bengali film music and also Rabindra Sangeet (the music of Rabindranath Tagore), is a regular performer on All India Radio and Doordarshan. At the Besant Nagar Durga Puja Pandal, from 8 pm, October 19.

    Bratati Bandhopadhyay:
    The elocutionist and singer from Kolkata made a name for herself by reciting poems and singing songs of Rabindranath Tagore, Qazi Nazrul Islam and Sukumar Ray. Catch her performance at the T Nagar Durga Puja Pandal on Giri Road. From 7 pm on October 21.

    Sreeradha Bannerjee:
    A popular playback singer, Sreeradha Banerjee’s songs like Nach Mayuri Nach Re and Mon Ki Chai are quite well known. Hailing from Kolkata, she is known to sing Rabindra Sangeet and Bengali folk music too. On October 20, at the Besant Nagar Durga Puja Pandal, from 8 pm.

    Text: Arka Sengupta

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