Event & Festival, Food & Drink

Jamai Shashthi and Ilish


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Jamai ShoshthiThe flavor of family bonding is expressed through social customs. We Indians have so many customs which makes the expression of family bonding even more prominent. Such is a custom of Bengalis in which they celebrate the son-in-law day. Yes, there is a day, which is dedicated to the son-in-law and it is called Jamai Shashthi. The son-in-law is called Jamai and Shashthi means sixth, since the festival is observed on sixth day of shukla paksha (waxing moon) in Jyestha month of traditional Bengali calendar (May-June).

The traditional festival of Jamai Shashthi originated ages ago as a part of a women’s socio-religious duty. It displays beautiful bonding of son-in-law with his in-laws. All the sons-in-law get a treat from his in-laws or শ্বশুর বাড়ী (Shoshur bari). A party is organized by the in-laws for their daughter and her husband. Sons-in-law are the center of everybody’s attention on the day. He thoroughly enjoys and loves the attention he is getting from his in-laws. I heard of a somewhat similar tradition in China. Married daughters visit their parents with their husbands on the second day of the Chinese New Year.

BENGALIS AND ILISH 

Ilish (Tenualosa ilisha) is popular food among the Bengalis. It is the national fish of Bangladesh. Ilish is a fish that can make Bengalis break their pockets. It is integral to our Bengali culture. In many Bengali families a pair of Ilish (জোড়া ইলিশ  or Joda Ilish) are bought on auspicious days. In Bengal, Ilish is also used during wedding as Tatwo gift. Tatwo (তত্ব) is an array of gifts that are exchanged between both families. The key feature of these gifts, are enormous and impressive sculptures made entirely of sandesh (a Bengali dessert created with milk or chhena and sugar), as well as fish dressed as bride and groom.

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Fish dressed as bride and groom in tatwo (Image Credit: Wikipedia)

As Bengalis were pampering their sons-in-law yesterday on Jamai Shashthi with the choicest delicacies in keeping with traditions, it was a four-kilo shinning Ilish from faraway Myanmar that stole all the limelight. The fish fetched a whopping Rs 22,000 ($328) price at a wholesale market in Kolkata, a price no Ilish had ever been sold for. This means Rs 5,500 ($82) per kilogram, wow! that’s amazing!

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This reminds me of an iconic dialogue from Dwijendralal Roy’s historical Bengali play Chandragupta where Alexander the Great tells his trusted general Seleucus Nicanor: “সত্য সেলুকাস, কি বিচিত্র এই দেশ …” (satya Seleucus, ki bichitro ei desh ), while standing on the bank of the Indus river and staring at the expanse before him that he plans to conquer. The Bengali dialogue means in English: “really Seleucus, what an amazing country is this …” Well, the country is truly amazing even now!🙂

On Jamai Shashthi, neither laws of inflation nor demand and supply theories work on the markets in Bengal. Price of possibly every edible item skyrocket for a day because the sellers know that families buy the best they can afford. Well, this is one of the three times of the year when Bengalis are prone to reckless spending, the other two being Durga Puja and Poila Boisakh (Bengali New Year day).

It was obvious that at least some sons-in-law, if not a single lucky one, had the opportunity to taste it. I am still wondering who was the lucky son-in-law and how big was the Ilish piece on his plate! Am I envious? Maybe, yes.🙂

সুতৃপ্তি! भोजनं स्वादिष्टमस्तु! Bon appétit!

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