Bhai Phota(Bhai Duj in parts of Northern India) does not hold any emotional bonding for me. I have no brothers of my own, boy cousins were few & far, my Ma did not encourage neighborhood brother hood and so you are spared any sob story I might have.
But Bhai Phota was still something to look forward to because my Mamas(mother's brother), two of them would rarely miss a Bhai Phota and even catch the overnight train to get the dot smeared on their forehead by their sister, my mom. In anticipation of their arrival my Ma would knead, pound, chop, fry and turn up one dish after other. Dry sweets and savories like nimki, pyarakia would be done before hand and available for sampling a day ahead of Bhai Phota. On the day itself there would be more cooking and eating.
For the uninitiated let me tell you, Bhai Phota or Bhatri Dwitiya is the bengali version of the more well known Hindu festival Bhai Duj where in the sister puts a tilak(a dot) on the brother's forehead and prays for his long life while the brother does something like gifts etc. in return. The "Duj" comes from the fact that this is celebrated exactly two days after new moon, on the Dwitiya right after Diwali.
This is akin to Rakhi but I guess the mythical stories associated with both are different. Anyway the Bengali Male likes the Bhai Phota much better than Rakhi. He doesn't have the Rajpoot brother's bravado to promise life long protection to his sisters as on Rakhi.Instead he is happy being smeared with sandalwood paste, eating the delicacies, giving the sister a gift and then returning home with the shirt piece from Raymond's. The Bong sister on the other hand keeps her fast, does the cooking, puts a dot of sandalwood paste on her brother's forehead and secures her brother's future by sealing Yama's door. It doesn't matter that soon after she plies her brother with cholesterol laden fried goodies and shoves numerous sweets down his throat.
The Bong male when still a kid will go around the neighborhood, getting "phota" from 'hood sisters of myriad ages. In fact the demand for brothers is so high that D says, lunch and dinners would be booked in advance while all other time slots would be devoted to just being "dotted" and snacks. With such a deluge of sisters it is amazing that the Bong Male is successful in even procuring a wife in later life.
Dwitiya te diya fota
Tritiya te diya nita
Jamuna dey Jom ke fota
Ami diy amar bhai ke fota
Aaj hote amar bhaiyer Jom duare porlo kanta
To keep the essence of Bhai Phota alive, my two little daughters give Bhai Phota to their cousin brothers, the two cute twins of my friend N. This time Bhai Phota being on a working Monday we had the ceremony at their home. I made Paayesh -- Param-anna, the food of Gods. I also made a Murg Makhani while the rest of the delicious dishes were made by N's Mom.
I did not have Khejur Gur and since I am not too fond of Paayesh without the Khejur Gur flavor I was a little weary. The Paayesh turned out wonderful though. I used a few cardamoms this time and I also added a few strands of Saffron towards the very end. The saffron made it look very pretty and also lend a very nice flavor to the Payesh.
The recipe for Paayesh is exactly like the one I have before(Khejur Gur er Payesh). The subtle changes I made were as follows.
In absence of Khejur Gur, I added 2 cups of sugar all other measures being same
I added a few whole cardamom to the boiling milk
At the very fag end of the process, I added a few strands of saffron to the paayesh.