Ten Things I Have Experienced Marrying a Bengali Man
What comes to your mind when you think of married life in India? It’s definitely not only about two individual people - it is about the union of two families. Whether it’s an arranged or love marriage, choosing the right partner for the rest of your life is not an easy job. And it becomes even more challenging when individuals come from different cultural backgrounds. To me, as a person who belongs to the northern part of India(Uttar Pradesh), marrying a Bengali man definitely felt like an adventure. But over time, I have gained an understanding and have experienced some adorable things about Bengali culture. And today I am going to share ten things I have experienced marrying a Bengali man.
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Before our marriage, our primary concern was to convince our families for the inter-culture marriage. Surprisingly, that turned out to be the easiest part. Little did I know that the roller coaster ride and the real fun and adventurous part would start after the marriage. Every culture has some traits that make them unique or different from other cultures. In an inter-culture marriage, a little adjustment and patience are always needed to make things work. And during this journey called marriage, I have picked up a few interesting and great things about Bengali culture.
So, without further ado, here are the ten things I have experienced marrying a Bengali man.
1. What is your nickname
Have you ever heard cute nicknames that your Bengali friends told you about? Yes, these names are real and many Bengalis still give their kids a nickname usually called daaknaam along with their bhalonaam (real name). No wonder our kids have two names too - daaknaam and bhalonaam.
2. The spirit of Durga Pooja
Everyone knows about Durga Pooja. If you ask about this festival to a Bengali, then the sparkle in their eyes and excitement in their voice will tell you how precious this time of year is for them. Before my marriage, I could not fathom the reason for this excitement, but now, I have also started loving this festival and look forward to celebrating Durga Pooja every year.
For a typical Bengali, Durga Pooja, also known as Durgotsava, is all about welcoming Goddess Durga and her family, pushpanjali, new clothes (twice a day!), hours of adda (gossips and discussions), pandal hopping, and food. Shidoor khela (Vermillion play) by Bengali women and bisorjan (immersion of Goddess Durga Idol) marks the end of nine days long Durga Pooja.
3. There are more varieties of fish than you can ever remember
Many people eat fish all around the world, but for Bengalis, fish is something they can’t live without. Before marriage, I was unaware of the many varieties of fish that we can enjoy. From Ilish (Hilsa) to Rui (Rohu), there are numerous varieties of fish that are all cooked in their own distinct ways.
4. Do not throw edible part of any vegetables - be it root or stem
We all know the importance of vegetables in our daily diet. In fact, there are a lot of vegetables that most of us do not know how to cook or consume properly. On the other hand, in any Bengali kitchen, you will see all kinds of vegetables and they really include them in their daily meal along with fish or meat. Apart from using vegetables that are seasonal, Bengalis are also particular about ones to eat in the day and at night. For example, Bengalis do not eat leafy vegetables at night. Also, they know how to use and cook every part of vegetables from root to skin. (Read here about the cauliflower stem recipe.)
5. Love for cotton and silk sarees
Cotton and silk sarees have been the epitome of grace and beauty in India since time immemorial. But Bengalis harbour a special love for Banarasi silk sarees. They love to wear different types of silk sarees, cotton or tant saree for different occasions. You would often see a picture of a Bengali woman in the quintessential laal paar sada saree (white saree with red border) complimented with a big red bindi and adorned with gold jewelry. I think every Bengali woman has this saree in her wardrobe. And ceremonies like a wedding are incomplete without a Banarasi silk saree.
6. Knowledge of music and literature
Music and literature are inseparable from Bengali culture. For most non-Bengalis, the best-known figure of Bengali literature is Rabindranath Tagore, also known as the father of Bengali literature. But there are many other famous names in the history of Bengali literature like Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay, Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay, Satyajit Ray, and the list goes on.
If you are a typical Bengali, I would not be wrong in assuming that you are either trained in classical music or you at least play one musical instrument. Bengalis love music and they have some sort of connection with this field.
7. Love for travel and food
Bengalis are absolutely fond of two things - kahva and ghura (food and travel). It’s not that they don’t believe in saving money but travelling and eating a variety of food is something that has immense importance in their life. I really admire this trait as I know how travelling can change your perception of life and people.
8. Ponjika is an important part of a Bengali home
We all use some sort of calendar to plan our day, month, or year. In the northern part of India, we use Panchang for festivals and auspicious dates. For Bengalis, it’s Ponjika, which is a pink book with the details of all the religious festivals and rituals, the time and the dates, the tithi, and the mahurat. This book is an essential part of Bengali life and is consulted before any auspicious ceremony or ritual. Be it Annaprashan, hathe khodi or a ceremony like a wedding, Ponjika is the go-to handbook for Bengalis -religious or not - for centuries.
9. I just love traditional Bengali sweets
Believe me or not - I never had a chance to have popular Bengali sweets before marriage except Rosogulla. Now if you ask me, not only I love Rosogulla, but there are other sweets which are equally wonderful like shondesh, payesh, misti doi, chum chum and the list goes on.
10. Quality of Bengali movies
There are lots of Bollywood movies that portray Bengali culture like Devdas, and Parinita, and old ones like Amar Prem. However, when I watched real classic Bengali movies I got to know how these movies show the real face of humanity and the fate of society. I can’t deny that I just love watching Bengali movies occasionally and I found them more interesting than Bollywood movies. Strong storyline, full of emotions, good direction, and melodious songs. What else you would expect from a good movie?
I am so grateful that my husband’s family welcomed me into their family with so much warmth and love and so did my family to my husband. Today, with the experience that I have, I can say that Bengalis are among the most lively people around. They love to take pride in their culture, language, and identity, and it is non-negotiable. Being a foodie and travel freak myself what I love most is their love for travelling and eating. Now, It seems like I was meant to be part of a Bengali family.
Do you have the same perception of Bengali culture? Share your thoughts in the comments.