Monday, June 9, 2008


This year Jamai Shasthi (Son-in-law’s Day) is being celebrated in West Bengal on 9th June. This year, again, we are not celebrating Jamai Shasthi…the jamai (son-in-law) and the shashuri (mother-in-law to the spouse; my mother) being separated by 1440-odd miles.

Travelling back in time, I remember the jamai-shasthi celebrations in my mamabari (maternal grandparents’ house). Baba (my father), being the guest-of-honour, would dress with care in starched white dhoti and crisp kurta. Maa (my mother) would carry along a new sari to gift to my didu (mother’s mother). My brother and I would skip along, excited at the prospect of food-food-food (and new clothes). In honour of the occasion, we would give the bus ride a miss and take a leisurely cycle-rickshaw to arrive at my mamabari, well in time for lunch.

After a mandatory-but-perfunctory religious ceremony (which involved mangoes and palm-leaf hand-fans to sprinkle calming holy water on all of us) to placate the Goddess Shasthi-Thakrun (who was, for some obscure reason, very fond of cats), we would sit down to eat, being careful not to dirty our wrists, bedecked with thin bracelets of dubbo(grass)-and-flowers-tied-to-sacred-yellow-thread.

The decidedly-profane, prolific spread would include vegetarian, mutton and fish (at least two/three types, including the Bengali-favourite, hilsa) dishes and ending with rasogollar payesh (cottage-cheese balls in milk custard). My father would sit in his place of honour, with a plate heaped with fragrant white rice and surrounded by small sampling bowls of all the items on the menu. My dadu (mother’s father) would have personally spent the entire morning sieving through the local market for the raw veggies, fish, meat - the best on offer; only the best for the jamai. Everything was cooked at home, under dida’s painstaking supervision. The jamai (son-in-law) had to take second-helpings to show his appreciation - my father willingly did.

As did my spouse when we were invited by my mother to celebrate our first jamai-shasthi after marriage. Knowing his fondness for prawns, my mother had cooked prawn biriyani – the spouse promptly polished off a third of the entire quantity. My immensely flattered mother bullied my brother to revisit the market in the afternoon to buy mutton, just so she could cook mutton curry for the pampered jamai (who, of course, dug in delightedly).

Jamai-shasthi memories are all about food stories, really. I remember we had gifted my mother a white-and-green enamel cook-and-serve casserole (instead of the usual sari) for this occasion, because she (and we) loved food. The son-in-law was merely a convenient
excuse for FOOD – display and devour.



Steve Ballmer said...

Check out my Band, Balm:

Peter Rozovsky said...

It's not healthy to think too hard about food just before bedtime, so perhaps I shall save a more detailed reply for another day!
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

sidhubaba said...

I remember our family Jamai-Shashthis. It was a very different experience. Since I have no "mamabari" to speak of, all "mashi"s (No maternal uncles, only aunts) and since the in-laws of my father were out (not -lawed) of the picture from the very beginning, my father had no such chance of having jamai-ador. It was a great big ceremony in our family which included all the sons-in-law, all the unmarried young men and women (including me then), and all the married people who had nowhere to go. It was huge celebration of our greater clan. With all the people of the Grand-generation dead, that is now history. But the memory of that remains warm and still gives a sense of security which is denied to many.

Roy said...


I do think, every job is underpaid, thats why it's said


White Rose said...

I hope I don't sound like an idiot, but India holds such a fascination for me. And this just sounded lovely! Food celebrations! How wonderful!

I love my country, but I sometimes think there is a void here. We are such a melting pot that we lose our culture and there is really nothing to fill that emptiness. I think you need to have some connection to the past! I think we lack the deep roots that other countries have.

Sorry for rambling. I really enjoyed the post!


sukku said...

It's very interesting and thank you for enlightening us. I would love to try that Prawn Briyani, just can't place the taste in my mind though I have tried fish briyani in Kuala Lumpur.

Mutton Briyani is easily available in Hyderabad and I think it is a signature dish of Hyderabad.

Could you please write about your college days and how you kept yourself occupied besides studies.

Sucharita Sarkar said...


Will do so.


Do keep your promise re that reply. I really enjoy your comments.


What a wonderful addition to this collection of memories.


Hi and nice joke.

White Rose/Sherry,

U R right. memories connect us to our inner selves as well as to others and to our roots. Thanks for liking my post.


My mom cooks the prawn biriyani in the style of Hyderabadi mutton-biriyani, only substituting prwans for mutton. It is tasty, and cooks a lot faster.
Will write about my college days when I was an Eng Lit student and read books and spent time with my boyfriend (now husband). Thanks for the suggestion.

Peter Rozovsky said...

I don't remember what I must have been thinking about when I posted that comment, but that doesn't matter. Your posts always are fertile ground for new comments. And I might add that they always apeal to the senses and the intellect at the same time!

What are my new ones this time? I'm interested to learn that your culture and language have terms for family relationships that don't exist in English. And, while I don't eat prawns, lamb biryani is my favorite dish at Indian restaurants in Anerica.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Sucharita Sarkar said...

Hi Peter,

U R right. Instead of the generic uncle-aunt, Indians have a whole lot of specific terms for relations. I guess that's because of the joint-family tradition. But since that tradition is becoming extinct in the cities at least, we have started borrowing the 'uncle-aunt' terminology, especially whenever we are in doubt (for eg. when we meet a relation after a long-long gap t a family wedding, say)