A dollop of Bengal – Fish and Football

Considering the number of queries I had for this post, F should have been for Feluda – the sleuth in Satyajit Ray’s detective series. F could also have been Flurys – the vintage shop on Park Street or one of the best place for eating out – Free school street or the trademark Bengali style panipuri/golgappa called Fuchka (no we don’t add sweet to the tamarind water in fuchka). But my pick up for the day happens to be the deadly combo of fish and football.


Bengalis are traditionally known for their love for fish, specially the ones available in rivers. Infact their favorite food is always assumed to be machch-bhaat (fish and rice). From Rui(rohu), katla, chingri(prawns), chitol(chitala), basa to ilish(Hilsa) and many more, the local fish markets are nothing less than a sight to behold with the range of the species available. Few of the famous fish markets include that of Maniktala and Gariahat in Kolkata, Howrah and Digha.

Fish vendor stall
Inside one of the fish stalls in the Kolkata market

Fish is not just an item to be consumed in a Bengali household. It is also considered to be an auspicious item for a few rituals like marriage. On the morning of the wedding, the grooms family arrive with the wedding gifts (Tattva) that consists a set of gifts for the bride and her family (saree,cosmetics,bags being few of the items) along with the largest Rohu fish and turmeric paste for the ceremony of Gaye Holud/ Haldi. When the new bride is welcomed in the grooms family, she is either shown a decorated fish or made to hold a fish as part of the celebrations.

Football –

Long before Sourav Ganguly gave cricket the much-needed boost in this state, Bengalis were known for their passion for football. From gully to clubs, football dominated the state. The local tournaments were cheered with the same zeal as the national ones. Amal Dutta, Chuni Goswami, Pradip Kumar Banerjee, Prasun Banerjee and Sunil Chhetri are renowned names in the circle. The two most prominent teams in the city are Mohun Bagan and East Bengal. Kolkata derby is the big match between these two teams whose rivalry is almost a century old.

The choice of football

The combo –

Partition of the country saw people migrating from East Bengal, now Bangladesh to Kolkata. The natives of Bengal with their distinct dialect, food preferences and support of Team Mohun Bagan were known as Ghotis while people from East Bengal with their different dialect, kitchen preferences and support of East Bengal club were called Bangals. The friction between these two sects of bengalis peaked the highest during football matches. The tension was equivalent to that of an India – Pakistan match. Ghotis were fond of chingri (prawn)n while Bangals were obsessed with Ilish (Hilsa), specially the ones from Padma river. Over the years, the differences have narrowed down with a lot of Bangal – Ghoti marriages The off-springs of those marriages are known as Batis.

Fish market in Kolkata
A fish market in the city

The personal angle –

As an after-effect of living away from home in hostels and as paying guests, I had developed apathy towards eating any kind of fishes except Hilsa and Prawns. It is nothing short of an irony that I am married into a family who eat and breathe fish. There’s hardly any variety of fish that doesn’t make an appearance at my in-laws place. My marital home is an embodiment of Bengali’s obsession with the species.

Keeping them alive

My father used to play for the district football club until recurring asthma attacks forced him to bow out of his football career. Yet he never lost his love for the game. I remember many a late night sessions during the FIFA world cups of 1990 and 1994 despite the fact that I had school and he had his college lectures to be delivered the next morning. He was a supporter of Argentina and of course the man famous for his “Hand of God goal” – Diego Maradona. He didn’t have much hope from me knowing my escapist attitude towards anything remotely related to outdoor games but his grandson is showing amazing interest towards the game. These days I see a lot of grandparent-grandson bonding over the techniques of honing his dribbling skills.

The love for football passed on to the next gen
Passing on the love for the game

Stay tuned to know what is the featured post for tomorrow.

Author: Sonia Chatterjee

Who am I? An erstwhile banker turned blogger/writer/author. Any qualifications? A Post-Graduate degree in Chemistry followed by a second Post-Graduate Diploma in Management. I completed a one-year MFA in creative writing course from the Writer's Village University, U.S. in Dec 2020. Though I must admit that I am still trying to figure out how and when I can connect all these dots. Have I done any real work? If two years in market research, six years in banking as a branch head, three-plus years of blogging, writing, and publishing a book can be considered as real work, then yes! Where do I live? After spending life like a nomad for sixteen years in Delhi, Bangalore & Mysore, I am back to where it all started from - Kolkata. My favorite things - Books, coffee, travel, food, and my five-year-old son. What is this blog about? Through Sonia's musings, I intend to explore writing in various genres, create social awareness, spread laughter, and give words to emotions. Anything for readers? You can check out my book 'Deal of Death' on Amazon Kindle. If you like fast-paced thrillers, this Detective fiction introducing the woman sleuth, Raya Ray could turn out to be your perfect weekend read.

22 thoughts on “A dollop of Bengal – Fish and Football”

  1. So many lovely points stand out here. Wasn’t aware of this ghoti v bangal difference. Similarly, didn’t know the tradition of bringing the fish on the wedding day.

    And yes, somewhere in a different part of this world, I too was sitting up and watching FIFA 90 and 94 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I knew about fishes a favourite of Bengalis. Learnt a bit about Bangals and Ghotis. That was a very informative post though I couldn’t really relate to it as we do not have fishes or non veg!! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Uff! Sonia, your post of today gave me the nostalgic feeling of being a true-blue Bengali and the insatiable love for fish and football … a deadly combo indeed! But I really like it that you never forget to mention the other iconic stuff too at the start of your post… I was almost sure of Feluda in your post today, and good to see the mentions of Flurys and Free School Street in your post 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The title was kind of expected 🙂 Again, so nice to read the personal angle too. I can so imagine the love and attachment your father must have for football. Good to see that being rekindled with grandson 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I do watch football though I am not clear on the rules of the game. I get excited everytime the ball comes anywhere near the goalpost. I was a supporter of Mohun Bagan. And I love prawns. I was born in a vegetarian family but married a non-vegetarian and now consume all kinds of non-vegetarian food items. I love prawns though I am overweight and doc keeps telling me to avoid them as they are full of fat. Great article. And I like the personal touch.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I can very well relate to the post as my sister living in Kolkatta these days, has been talking about fish obsession a lot. Somehow by her looks, people assume her a Bengali and wherever she visit the market, one or the other person asks about the nearby Fish-market. Love this post. Hope your son would give a good company to uncle for coming matches.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I remember barrackpore fondly. I was in 6th but my love for fish, jhalmuri and the amazing kasundi continues.
    Football not so much.
    I was there for about an year or so but Calcutta had an impact, hope to revisit it some day.

    Liked by 1 person

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