Winter has not yet left Kolkata. Hence, it’s still time for picnics. Or you’ve probably already had one with your family and relatives, neighbours, colleagues, or friends. Picnics can be can be within the city at the Chiriyakhana, at a picturesque location like Diamond Harbour right outside the city, or a semi-vacation to Sundarban. And, if you’re grown up Bangali, then you probably already know that a Bangali never goes for a picnic unprepared. Bangalis NEED to carry a list of things when they leave for a Bengali picnic.
Things to Carry on a Bengali Picnic in Winter: Choruibhati Starter Pack
Bangalis and winter have a bitter-sweet relationship. They don’t particularly like the chill, though they enjoy a slight nip in the air, and the official licence of lyadh. They like the idea of playing football without getting sweaty, the fresh oranges, the migratory birds, and the opportunity to show off their winter clothes. A winter choruibhati is the ultimate chance to enjoy all these. Here’s a look at the ultimate winter picnic starter pack, based on the list handed down from one generation to the other in a Bengali family.
1. Dim, Kola, Pnauruti, Komlalebu, Bapuji Cake
The day must start with a wholesome breakfast. So, everyone gets a paper box containing a banana for energy; an egg because you need protein; two slices of bread because it’s a filling breakfast food; an orange because it’s a seasonal fruit (“seet chole gele ar pawa jabe na!”); and a Bapuji cake because winter is the time for cakes. This pack is handed to everyone as soon as you board the car/bus; you’re supposed to eat it all during the journey, because it will be a long trip to the picnic spot. Every time the car brakes hard, you’ll enjoy the call of your stomach to projectile-vomit.
2. Sound System and Music Collection
Earlier, it used to be a cassette player and cassettes. Then, it became a CD player and discs. Now, it’s a phone and a Bluetooth speaker. The form has changed, but the intention is the same – to enjoy music from the beginning till the end. This music system infuses journey to the picnic spot (and back from it). It gets everyone dancing after lunch, especially Kakus and Jethus once they start feeling light and breezy: if you know what we mean.
3. Royal Stag
Hidden somewhere amidst the food and utensils and everything else are a few bottles of Royal Stag, though this is usually true in case of long-distance picnics at a private venue – a Baganbari, if you will. Almost as soon as we reach the venue, we see glasses in the hands of almost every member of the men’s club, with sunbeams passing through the golden liquid. They drink the whiskey with water and sing soulfully after a few pegs.
Floor mats woven with the raw fibres of Madaurkathi plant of Medinipur by local artisans are a proud possession of every Bangali family; And, this washable mat is a must on the list of items to carry on a picnic. This madur is spread out on a clean spot, preferably beneath the trees. If your picnic is not taking place in a private area, the process of hunting the right spot that’s dry, cool, and uncrowded can be quite a time-consuming challenge.
5. Khoborer Kagoj
Old newspapers are stacked in the house throughout the year, only so that they can be repurposed as mats for inanimate objects on picnic days.
6. Koraishutir Kochuri, Aloor Dom, Ghugni, Mangsho, Topshe Machh, and the entire spread
It’s no surprise that wherever Bangalis go and whatever their plans are, it must involve food. And there’s nothing like Bangali food – you know, the usual luchi, kochuri, khichuri, kosha mangsho, chatni, pnapor, etc. It can arrive in the form of groceries, to be cooked right at the venue by the picnickers in a complicated process. Sometimes, when there’s no chance or space of cooking on the spot, the food is prepared at home by Ma-Kakima. They keep screaming all day to start eating, lest the food gets cold. In case of a large group, of course, the cooking duty is on the caterers.
7. Korai, Khunti, Stove, Boti
One of the reasons to choose a secluded, private spot is to let picnickers cook. So, the cooking utensils are necessary for freshly cooked hot meals.
8. Sal Patar Thala
Bangalis went eco-friendly before the world thought it was cool, with the Sal leaf utensils. They are a must-have at picnics, as the save the hassle of cleaning etho thala-bati. While the paper and thermocol plates are trendy now, but Bangalis still have a soft spot for the leaf plates and their aroma.
9. Steel Lunch Box and Casserole
If the responsibility of cooking everyone’s food is on the ladies of the house, then expect a couple of steel lunch boxes with multiple tiers, along with casseroles. As the day roles by, everyone starts to hover around these. That’s when Ma -Kakimas realise it’s time to threaten everyone to eat.
10. Badminton Rackets, Shuttlecocks, Football, Cricket Bat, and Ball
Bangali women refuse to join a picnic that does not have enough badminton rackets and shuttlecocks. Meanwhile, boys prefer to stick to football and cricket. As the hours roll by, women join the cricket and football matches, while men shift to mixed doubles. Cricket balls and shuttlecocks come in large numbers, as they have a habit of flying away to places where they are impossible to spot. At the end of a picnic day, we have all wondered if the balls and cocks lost throughout the day have joined other lost boys, and are all sitting together, drinking and laughing at our idiocy.
In the “vanity bags” of every Ma and Kakima on a picnic is a tube of the essential Boroline. They know how dry the skin and lips can get during the winter months. Then there’s the dhulobali and thanda hawa. Hence, Boroline is a must! At every chance they get to sit down, they pull out the green tube and apply some of that white goodness on their hands, heels, face, and lips. They also offer it to kids and men, whenever they come close by.
12. Monkey Cap, Muffler, Scarf, Gloves, Gorom Jama
Since a Bengali picnic is held in the winter months, the chances of catching the Thanda is very powerful, at least according to Ma and Kakima. Hence, they insist on packing everything warm. Their luggage may confuse a layman who might think that it’s a trip to Darjeeling. Children have to tie scarves around the throat and head early in the day. For the remaining picnickers, all the warm items come out after sunset, on their way back.
13. Boro Bag
On every Bengali picnic, an important item is the big bag of everything. It is very like the beaded handbag of Hermione Granger. Unlike Hermione’s bag, this Bongonari-owned carrier is a Tote bag purchased from Hostoshilpo Mela and is huge in size. But, just like Hermione’s enchanted bag, this one contains everything that one can ask for, from Rumal to Bandaids; and from the outside, you won’t be able to speculate the capacity of this bag.
So, now you know how to prepare for a Choruibhati. There are plenty of places in and around Kolkata where you can enjoy one with everyone. All you have to do is gather a group as large or small as you want, and then decide on a destination, be it Eco Park or Bawali. All you have to do is some thorough planning and some massive packing, and you’ll be ready to enjoy a picnic in no time!