Rearticulating the Creole Bengali Sweet Renaissance: Le Thinnai Diwali Adda

12.2.2021
CALLIOPE postdoctoral researcher Esha Sil was invited, as a discussant, to the Thinnai Kreyol Diwali rendezvous on the creole histories of Bengali sweets. The event was aired live online, on Facebook, on 15th November 2020.

An online cultural platform co-founded by Ari Gautier, a Franco-Pondicherrian author based in Oslo, and Ananya Jahanara Kabir, Professor of English Literature at King’s College London, Le Thinnai Kreyol promotes their shared vision for a plural, multicultural, and creolised India. Supported by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and King’s College London, Gautier and Kabir’s project has attracted the attention of academics and cultural producers worldwide, and particularly in India, where the initiative has been showcased within print and online journalism.  

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Photo: "Rosogolla" by Marajozkee, from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rosogolla.jpg

The Thinnai Kreyol Diwali session was conducted in the spontaneous, informal style of an improvised chat, drawing from the leisurely mode of the adda, a popular Bengali practice of ‘friends getting together for long,…unrigorous conversations’, as analysed by Dipesh Chakrabarty in his 1999 essay (Public Culture, 11.1), and examined by Sil at length, in her 2013 doctoral dissertation, ‘Representing Adda’.

Le Thinnai Kreyol hosts, Gautier and Kabir, engaged in an exciting adda with Sil, and Astri Ghosh, a noted Indian translator of Henrik Ibsen’s plays from Norwegian to Hindi. The ensuing discussion traced the creole legacies of the ‘quintessential’ Bengali sweets, sandesh and rosogolla, reviewing the dense transcultural synergies of Bengal’s inter-imperial pasts along the Hooghly’s mofussil enclaves, marked by their legendary seaborne encounters with the Portuguese, Dutch, French, and Danish, before the latter were overtaken by the British, and the centre of power shifted to Calcutta. Mapping its trajectory from the fifteenth-century Portuguese advent in Bengal to the nineteenth-century song duels of sweet-maker Bhola Moira, and Portuguese-Bengali kobiyal minstrel, Antony Firingi, bred in Hooghly’s French comptoir, Chandernagore, the Thinnai adda considered how the culinary secrets of Portuguese milk-curdling fired the Bengali confectionary imagination, resulting in the diversification of the Bandel cheese into chhana-based sweetmeats, including the sandesh, rosogolla, jolbhora, and ledikeni. The session also regaled its audiences with the creole lores of Bengali savoury snacks, such as the coverage/ kobiraji cutlet and the Armenian-Calcuttan dolma.

The adda recording was uploaded on Thinna Kreyol’s YouTube channel in January 2021. Follow the link below for the full replay!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dz2lOWC_6FY&t=4163s