Tuesday, March 23, 2010

What or Who is a Bong ?

Today, I did not want to write this post. I did not want to steal the light from The President's Health Care bill or from Apple who intend to end economic woes by bumping iPhones with the rich & famous. But then I am pro choice and if my readers choose to know "What is a Bong", or "Why I am a Bong", so be it.

In my 3& 1/2 years of blogging I have got several spam comments asking the same question, I have got e-mails which I have already answered and I have seen this blog being mentioned with "not what you are thinking" within quotes. I had decided to lie low and not come up with a clarification as to Why a "Bong Mom's Cookbook". But I think the time has come for you to know that I am NOT a hookah smoking, dopey Mom who cooks when she is not high and writes when she is. You might be disappointed by the truth but I can't help it.

To satisfy your curiosity my readers, this is a sketchy guide to a Bong, as known in the Indian parlance

Scientific Definition

Bong commonly refers to the Bengali Homo Sapiens (Latin: "wise man" or "knowing man"), the only extant member of the Homo genus of bipedal primates in Hominidae, the great ape family, native to the historic region of Bengal (now divided between Bangladesh and India) in South Asia.

They are considered an Indo-Aryan people although they are also descended from Mongolo-Dravidians, closely related to Austro-Asiatic, Dravidian, Assamese, Sinhalese and Munda peoples. As such, Bengalis are a homogeneous but considerably diverse ethnic group with heterogeneous origins.

Yeah, that helps a lot. If still interested please read this.

Why Bong and Not Bangali or Bengali ?

A Bangali used to be proud of being a Bangali and called himself thus in the times of Satyajit Ray, Chuni Goswami and even Tapas Pal.

With the Dot Com boom and bust, call center gimmick, Dadagiri and Bipasha Basu, The Bangali got westernized and decided to call themselves Bongs. This I think happened only with the people native to West Bengal. The people of Bangladesh still prefer to call themselves Bangali.

What do Bongs eat ?

Anything and everything as long as it is being followed up by Gelusil, Pudin Hara, Joan er Aarak or Nux Vom 30.

To know more about a Bong's staple diet you should visit a traditional Bong home on weekday morning between 7:00AM to 9:00AM. The Bong Male is forced to eat garam bhaat, dal, alu seddho, uchche bhaja and maach er jhol all hot off the stove before he leaves for opish. That is supposed to be the Bong's staple diet and it is a sacrilege if the earning member of the house leaves home without being fortified with this diet.

At all other times you can see this species grazing on phuchka, alu kabli, egg roll and tele bhaja.

How would I know if the middle aged Homo Sapien male I met today morning is a Bong (or a Bangali if you so prefer) ?

If any of the following is true, you have met The Bong

(a)This species was at your local fish market where he was very carefully analyzing the anatomy of various fishes through thick rimmed glasses

(b)The species on his first encounter regaled you with stories about his ambol(acid reflux) and choan dhekur( more reflux) all the while munching on the greasy egg roll that he just bought from a roadside cart.

(c) After being done with the fish or the egg roll as the case maybe, the species proceeds to enlighten you about the current state of Politiks in his state and discusses how Obama's healthcare bill is going to solve water problem in Midnapore. He might also point out how Mamata is going to protest against this with a Bangla Bandh.

How would I know if the middle aged Homo Sapien female I met at my daughter's school is a Bong (or a Bangali if you so prefer) ?

If any of the following is true, you have met The Bong Moms

(a)On first day of the kid's school and even later, this species was at the school an hour early for pickup or rather she was standing there from morning, waiting for school to get over looking harried, worried and visibly distressed.

(b)The species on her first encounter regaled you with stories about how her daughter/son refuses every morsel of food that is offered and how hard it is to feed her/him.

(c) The species then proceeds to inquire whether your child learns Robindro Shongeet and takes Math tuition, both being high up in the Bong parenting realm.

How would I know a Bong Blog if I read one ?

If any of the following is true, you have met The Bong Blogs

(a) The blog will usually be about food, if not a food blog it will mention food, adda, politiks, phootboll , cricket and food in that order

(b) The blog will have a lot of bh-a-a-t, which means lots of talk in thin air, none of which is of any use to anyone

(c) It might look like this

For a more detailed explanation read this Complete Guide by Dhoomketu.

This post will be up there on the Right side bar and so please refer to it when ever you wish. For now satisfy yourselves that I am a regular Bengali Mom from India who lives and blogs from the US.

Update on 03/24/2010: I did not know about the fire at Park Street, Kolkata until late last night. My deepest condolences to those who lost their lives in the Stephen Court Fire.


  1. You are funny!!! Enjoyed reading your post. (Dhoom's as well, from the little bit I read. Will have to come back to that later.)

  2. nice one,,,nd good answer to all the questions,..:-)

  3. wonderful post! loved reading it as I am a Bong too. :)

  4. haha!! This is hilarious!

    "The blog will have a lot of bh-a-a-t, which means lots of talk in thin air, none of which is of any use to anyone"

    That describes my blog qualifying me as a true blue Bong!!

  5. Hey Sandeepa, I am rolling on the floor at your writing style! Truly speaking I adore bengalis for their knowledge, wisdom and the great literature! And cannot forget the rasagullas! I have a dear friend whos is such an intelligent girl managing both work and home wonderfully! I adore you people!

  6. You are not funny, you are spot on!! The last time I rocked this bad was with an email fwd about the bong paranoia about "thanda lege jaabey." I am a proud bong, though been away from bongdom for close to 20 years now! BongMomCookbook is a staple of our Bong-Telugu weekends.

    Some more thoughts on bongobashing. No offense meant to anyone but us bongs. The rest dont matter anyway! :)

    Bongs are sweet and sticky. Usually too sweet and too sticky. A whispered "boddo daam" three aisles away makes the nonresident bong hair stand on end as he/she starts searching like a comic book detective.

    Bongs are also usually rounded. Like all their syllables, they are really well rounded. Ask a bong to pronounce Atal Behari Vajpeyee.

    Bongs have a clear understanding of being and nothingness, and every bong divides existence into two, bongs and non-bengalis. Choose your team now.

    Cant stop being bong and loving it.

  7. I enjoyed this post! Last time I happened on your blog (via a link on a food blog in Australia), I actually googled to find out what a "bong" let alone a "bong mom" is!!

    Regards, Lesley

  8. Now i am really disapointed , and here i was thinking you were a hookah smoking, dopey Mom who cooks when she is not high and writes when she is :-)
    Hi hi loved reading this post.

  9. And what about the Bong who just has to travel every Pujo? They'll scrimp and save and load themselves with shawls and sweaters and set off. I've seen hotel boards have menus written out in Bengali ... complete Bhat+daal+aloo posto ... in Jaisalmer.
    And have heard a shrill high pitched "Ei Babu joley jaashnaaaa" near a beach ... where Babu is a full grown adult with a biwi in tow. ;-)
    Too good Sandeepa ... I must say this Bong blog rocks. :-)

  10. Lol!!!!! You HAVE stolen the limelight from Obama!!!! :)There, my lil one's clapping for you :)

  11. Though undoubtedly a sweet post, but would say high on the 'stereotype' factor.

  12. Sandeepa,
    ami kinto ekhono "Bangali" bola prefer kori nahole ami o bodhaye tumaar moton Hookah/biri na jane koto rokom bhabhe mail/comment petam :)..Rabindra sangeet theke "choan dekhur" "nux-30" r kicho baki rakho ni eyi hominideae species er bishoye bolar jonne :)..hilarious post :)
    hugs and smiles

  13. ha ha hilarious. I am going to share this on FB and twitter.

    Incidentally a Bong colleague of mine and I had sore tummies today...discussed it over SMS as we made plans to go for a Chinese lunch

    Ther Bong Homo Sapien Male is likely to be an ardent follower of a an extinct cricketer called Saurav Ganguly

  14. I still remember the first time around 25 years ago when an anglicized Bangali called me a Bong. I thought it was deprecatory. It's more acceptable now among Probashi Bangali (I think).

    I believe that it is only the Bongs who have such a simplistic view of people. Bengali and non-Bengali sums up the Bengali's monochromatic view of the world irrespective of multiple races, religions, creed, caste, nationalities and regions.

    In this respect we are like George Bush - either you are with us or against us!

    Great article. Loved it!

  15. This comment has been removed by the author.

  16. Thanks for the enlightenment Sandeepa and as always loved the read. I would not have recognized a Bong even if I had tripped on one before. Now I am sure I will. And here I was thinking Bongs are a rarity in these parts but the fish purchase rings quite a few bells.

  17. Well said! As an erstwhile "Bong" from the great state of WB in India, thoroughly enjoyed this. It is always good to be able to laugh at one's own kind.
    Now I have to forward this to my very American spouse and in laws, so that they get an even greater appreciation of where I come from. (Having seen me all these years, they are fairly convinced that a Bong can survive only on fish and sweets.)

  18. Delurking: Ha ha!! So true, so true..

    Might I also add jhaal-muri and traffic-jam fights (the kind involving two people but ending in a HUGE crowd)!

    LOVED this post. I have tried some of your recipes with great success too! :-)

  19. it's funny you write this post. The first few times I wrote that "word" I got spam for the other Bong :)

  20. hahahahahah LOVE LOVE this...you are superb! who said indians dont have a sense of humour!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  21. Well written post. Enjoyed reading it and I hope it answered and clarified all the questions

  22. nice!
    This is actually one of my favorite blogs, and my helpline during my weekend bong-cooking binges.

    And today, you touch on a subject that is close to my heart. Son finally I decided to make my first comment here. :-)

    So, yes, a bong is a queer species indeed. He travels the earth, has been the most globalized species much before the word was coined, and yet have the most overprotective mothers who would be heard shouting at the most unlikeliest of places "babu, thanda lege jabe, monkey cap ta pore nao".

  23. Quiet appropriate to put in side bar :) Well written hilarious post! I ve seen Bengalis in my town from my childhood, but only came across the word "Bong" after moving to US! U rock!

  24. You know, Sandeepa, most of these are actually all v Indian traits. I never cease to be amazed at the number of total strangers who admit to 'gas' and 'uhcidity'! Nice post, made funny reading!

  25. Oh, and the 'gas' is always mentioned a few decibels lower than the rest of the conversation

  26. Hey Sandeepa,what about 'Jog','Mog','Jeeero' and 'Alipoor joooo!':)And the 'Opish' was too good observation!Oh what a species we are!!But once a Bong,always a Bong!:D Loved your post(and 22nd Floor's as well!) and cracked myself up laughing hard!

  27. Oh my god..i can't stop laughing....You are hilarious :D

  28. uff!! jaata likhecho!! pet phete gelo haashte haashte :D

  29. Thanks Sandeepa. May be the blog pot was overdue. I would like to add some more fundamental characteristics for all to identify a Bong Mom

    (1)The female human being who gives a hoot to her career and promotion, given a choice to work on her kid's final exams

    (2)The female who is actually a live bomb of emotions, ready to explode any moment you criticise the Kolkata fuchkas @ AC Market, or near Kanishka(Gariahat) or Vivekananda Park or a roll from Campari

    The list might be endless.... but never the less unique are the Bangalis alias Bongs and more so the Bong Moms all across the globe

  30. Darun likhecho. I enjoyed it to the core. Just one word for this post in a true Bong style - Phataphati :-)

  31. I like how you turn annoyance into mirth! :D

  32. Enjoyed reading your post. In Bengali - phataphati

  33. u don't smoke bong pipes.. i thot u referred all those great people to my blog to sell hookas.:)) nice post.. had a good laugh with my cuppa.

  34. We protesht ! Why Chuni Goswami and not that most Bangal of footballers - PK Banerjee ? (I suspect a Mohun Bagan conspiracy here).

    I part about the Ambol reminded me of a section in Sarnath Banerjee's graphic novel 'The Barn-Owl's Wondrous Capers'. Do read if you haven't already.

  35. "At all other times you can this species grazing on phuchka, alu kabli, egg roll and tele bhaja"

    You accidentally a verb there.

  36. Perfect diyechho! amra shobai eirokom! tao Bong bolte itosto korina aar Bong hoteo! ami ei term-tir ullekh kintu it dot com-er agei shunechhi college-e. tokhon amader abangali bondhura amader ei name dakto. keu abar bolto ei 'sick Bong' ekhane ay!! prothom prothom mane bujhtam na! lol!

    ami jokhon amar chheleder ekdom chhoto bela thekei excursions-e pathatam jokhon ora 4 bochhor, tokhon onyo Bong Mom hotash hoto karon oder shashuri oder adorer natider(bisheshkore karon bongsho bridhhi korte hobe to!)chharbe na kothao!

  37. Excellent write up and very true about ambol and the Bong male, being a probashi Bong, we used to have a good laugh about this when our parents would discuss this, your article truly hit the nail and thanks again for good laugh.

  38. though I love to call myself Bangali but loved reading your post. spot on analysis...the guideline for bongblog is simply perfect. I also do a lot of bhaa(n)t and share recipes that go well with Bhat...he he

  39. Damn, you are good... almost as if you are high on the 'bong'! keep 'em comin' mom!

  40. Lovely. Well written & brought back old memories of stay in the East.

  41. First let me Thank everyone for their comments and inputs

    Thanks to all those who enriched this post with their very erudite Bong observations :-)

    For those who say this is "stereotypical" -- I agree

    I am very happy with all those who came out of the woodwork with their first comments. Thank You guys

    Am excited to see some "one time readers" like Bongopondit. Issh PK ke ki kore bhule gelam, conspiracy bote :-)

    Before this becomes an acceptance speech let me stop

  42. Guilty as charged! Even Probashis like me. This is one hilarious post! And we Bongs are a force to reckon with.

  43. Fantastic! And Hilarious!

    Disappointed you are NOT a hookah smoking Mom who cooks when she is not high and writes when she is? We're SHOCKED to learn otherwise! :D I never would have guessed! ;)

  44. Absolutely Fascinating! I have been a follower of your blog for a short while..even though i dont cook your recipes, i log on to oogle at the yummy delicacies! Your writing is witty, funny just fantastic!
    Keep up the good work :)

  45. That was a fantastic guide to a Bong :) Thanks to my name I often get mistaken for a Bong - which I take as a compliment because most of the Bong women I've seen are so beautiful :P
    You've got a fabulous sense of humour!! Got to read this again to absorb the finer nuances.

  46. ROFL! such a good read Sandeepa. I adore your sense of writing style, the wit etc. Now I will know spot on, how to look for a Bong.
    But then seriously, when do you get these ideas?

  47. LOL ... I did wonder what a "bong" was but didn't want to ask :D I figured I'd find out sooner or later :)

  48. The President's health care plan is going to destroy America. Perhaps only people who understand the concept of liberty can realize that.

    Now, everything is the business of the government. Too fat, well then you are a drain on society and cost the tax payer money.

    Health care was never a "Right". A right is something you have because you exist. Health care is something you earn.

    1. they said the same thing about slavery and emancipation.

  49. amazing. bongs and healthcare - so appropriate. we're always sick fish and all! lol.

    funny thing is i never liked fish when i was growing up in calcutta. i like it now though! what i really miss is the thought of all those awesome machher jhol (without the slimy skin). am going to try your spice salmon recipe!

    but what i would really love to find a recipe for is calcutta chinese food! what do you think?

  50. AM a bong too.. though not a mom yet.. I just started cooking when i had to move to the US post my marriage not even a year ago and had been going thru ur recipes to learn cooking. I love this post of yours.. and completely agree with you.. specially the association of bongs with adda, food, cricket, football and 'politiks'. Wonderful writer that you are.. keep going!

  51. You have done it again, Bong Mom.. getting featured in my Mind Blowing Monday series that is ;-) Find it at http://debosmita.wordpress.com/2010/04/12/mind-blowing-monday-vii/

    Loved this post...

  52. Must say, this is one post of yours which I really disliked. Racist humour directed at people, communities, religions and the like has never been my cup of tea, and in my humble opinion, people who indulge in the same are, to put it mildly, insensitive. In this case, I can see that this post, as well as the one you have referred to, and the bloggers who have written them, are trying to mock a section of the Bengali population and for that reason alone I find it in bad taste, to say the least.

    Pardon me for making this personal, but I have noticed that ‘Dhoomketu’, the blogger linked to in this post of yours, has this to say: “I haven’t spent more than 12 collective months of summer vacation in Kolkata.”

    It reminded me of what Amartya Sen, his book, ‘The Argumentative Indian’, had to say about James Mill and his book, The History of British India. To quote him,

    “Mill disputed and dismissed practically every claim ever made on behalf of Indian culture and its intellectual traditions, concluding that it was totally primitive and rude. This diagnosis went well with Mill’s general attitude, which supported the idea of bringing a rather barbaric nation under the benign and reformist administration of the British Empire.......How well informed was Mill in dealing with his subject matter? Mill wrote his book without ever having visited India. He knew no Sanskrit, nor any Persian or Arabic, had practically no knowledge of any of the modern Indian languages and thus his reading of Indian material was of necessity most limited.”

    Do I need to explain more?

  53. not flaming, but @do i need to explain more?, prithee, do!

  54. @ Swayambhu: I notice that you have copy pasted the comment you left in my blog wrt the Mind Blowing Monday Post here also...

  55. I have another formula to find out a Bong: Either the charm on their hands or lot of rings (with different stones) :-)

  56. debanandarc@yahoo.comMay 03, 2010 10:59 AM

    Dear Bongo mata,
    The Bong is a species who is eating itself to oblivion in contrast to many who have starved to death.
    From fellow bong
    Debananda Ray-Chaudhuri

  57. All Bongs have to be 'leftist'. If they are 'rightist'then be assured they are to the 'left-of-the-right'.
    Three Bongs make two political parties.
    Only bongs can define the fourth angle of the triangle.

    First visit...via foodie site.
    Proud true bong (Probashi-in India)!

  58. OMG!..that was good..:))..now I know for sure ok..

  59. Sandeepa, really appreciate your humour!


  60. Love from Bangladesh

  61. ABSOLUTELY LOVED this post! & thanks for the complete bangali guide from dhoomkeu..

  62. simply as mouthwatering as ur cookbook is...i am going to share this on my FB.....

  63. Hilarious!! :-D

    BTW, came by for the pineapple chattni... turned out real good! Thanks! :)

  64. I am probably the whitest white girl to ever read your blog -- I'm loving it! I stumbled upon you while looking up mung bean soup for an article I'm writing for work.

    I love your writing, and maybe I'll expand my horizons and try some of your recipes. I was curious about what a Bong is, but I knew it had to be something good. I was right!

    Kelly @ Creating a Family Home

  65. Just stumbled upon your profile in FB & then came upon ur blog. I'm a Bong too & this one is hilarious. You should also add in your point about how to recognise a Bong lady or man that they would invariably talk about food during their conversation. :)

  66. You are simply amazing and free flowing when you write. I love the way you describe food in your blog and for any bengali dish - i ensure i visit your blog. Truly love your blog and your style of writing!!! My obesiances to you!!!!

  67. Lol. This was fantastic. I am a private detective from Mumbai and though I am only half Bengali - my father being a Bengali and my mother a Sindhi, there are a lot of similarities here with the Bong residing in Wet Bengal and the Probashi Bong in this case settled in Mumbai. My mother was also suitably inducted into the species of the Bengali Homo Sapien female though she never fully understood what the fuss about food was all about! And yes I am bhaat eater and I do not understand the words 'chapati' or 'roti'!

  68. I love this blog and this post is just too good. It answers all the questions people have asked me (a bong) so often. Would you mind very much if I posted a link for this post on my blog?

  69. Lovely! Took me back to my days in college in Kolakata and reminded me of all my "bong" buddies and their mummies. Love your blog. :)

  70. What a delightful read this one is :). Truly enjoyed it!

  71. 103 years ago in 1911 Stembridge in his textbook on geography described Bengal as "the low-lying land between the Mahanadi and the Irawaddy", and almost wrote "inhabited by low, lying people"; what he wanted to mean was "Bong".


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