Growing up in a Bengali household had its manifold effects
The quirky names or terms that are often associated with our childhood memories can only be understood if you are a true ‘Bong!’ Say for instance if a child is cranky and does not usually go to bed at a scheduled time the Bong mother would often pretend to summon the very terrifying blood curdling “Nishi” –a creature of the nether world, female in form, and supposedly having an attractive demeanour with an equally ‘killer’ personality, who took hold of hapless lost souls by entering their bodies! Children would shiver and tremble to sleep at the very thought of a Nishi visiting them! I often wondered if you could compare the Bong Nishi to the Greek Medusa, but perhaps our Nishis were far superior, as they not only targeted sailors, but any wayward traveller, mischievous, naughty children and even pretty housewives who dared to defy their mother-in-laws.
Now imagine my delight when I suddenly found a cute, slightly coy, Nishi stamped and bound to a T-shirt, absolutely set to charm the viewer. This is the point where I think I fell in love with “BongMade.” I knew that finally my childhood demon, who was at the beck and call of my mother, was now going to be under my control! But my exploration of the “Bhoot’ world at “BongMade” did not stop there! I had not stopped shopping till I bought a mini “Brahmadotti” – another upper caste Bong Bhoot who resides on treetops, and acts as the father-figure to all Bhoots of Bong Bhootland. This was for my 9 year old sweet but naughty nephew who is equally feared in my household!
Bong households often make it mandatory for every child to grow up with a healthy dose of literature and films made by Bengali directors. Characters of these films became iconic and a part of our mindscape. So a Satyajit Ray’s Feluda or Professor Shonku and Sharadendu Bandhopadhayay’s Byomkesh or Nihar Ranjan Gupta’s Kiriti helps to bring the thrill of adventure to our muri-telebhaja Addas at para corners! (An iconic snacks of bongs—batter fried aubergines with puffed rice, often venerated as ‘industrial’ outputs, generally consumed during heated discussions at locality corners!) I think everyone who is a true Bong has grown up as an ardent fans of these super sleuths. Without going into comparisons as to whether a Sherlock or a Poirot is superior to our Feluda or Byomkesh, and uses the ‘magajastryo’ (the power of intelligence), equally well, I can safely deduce that the ‘Biliti” or foreign sleuths cannot boast of the plethora of indomitable unique villains that a Feluda has encountered. So my brother –in-law, who has grown up idolising Feluda, promptly fell in love with the Maganlal Meghraj and Braziler Bichhu that mischievously adorned the ‘villain’ collection of BongMade T-shirts.
Now don’t think that Bongmade only made t-shirts for the adventure friendly. Just before the Durga pujas when the ‘sarat er neel akash’ (the blue October sky), tugs at the heartstrings of the Bong men and women in love, they can simply throw off the cloak of bong subtlety and be bold and adventurous in love. Oh yes! They can proudly wear ‘a Buk Bhora bhalobasha’ bought from ‘BongMade’ and maybe stroll meaningfully in front of their amour’s house, in perfect Romeo style courting an eager but shy Juliet in a balcony!
I am personally a fan of the Hirok Raja t-shirt that features Utpal Dutta the powerhouse of an actor. In fact I am planning to wear this tee to my office training workshops to make them understand the simple logic—“janar kono sesh nai, jana r chesta britha tai!”(Translation:- there is no end to learning, hence trying to learn is a foolish effort!) So my boss understands that Fridays are meant to be spent in pubs holding chilled beers not in tedious workshops!
However I was quite surprised to see the “Phantom” adorn the new collection of BongMade t-shirts. To every bongs the Phantom, who was clearly an internationally loved hero, was not a mere dashing hero only. Phantom came with the morning AnandaBajar Patrika, another iconic Bengali newspaper, and a strong cup of ginger infused tea, and what I always fancied was the second page faithfully carrying the comic strip of Phantom. While my father grabbed the front page for the burning headlines, a teenage me shyly stood behind reading the latest feats of Phantom, and finding new meaning to the word ‘romance’ by seeing Phantom court his beautiful bride Diana. Oh my teenage heart pined for a phantom to come riding in a white horse sweeping me off my feet! Now that BongMade has come up with it’s Phantom series, the middle aged me has found new hope that surely a Phantom-esque Bong gentleman awaits me somewhere!
I’m telling you with confidence that BongMade is all about nostalgia, and sweet memories, and everything that a true blue Bong can identify with. So next time you are buying a BongMade t-shirt and you are falling in love once more, don’t blame me for not warning you!