"Just a li'l bit of the human touch". Jugals, Park Circus, Calcutta

A bit deflated after Arsalan I ambled into the sweetshop next door. It's name was Jugal's. Sounded like a North Indian name to me. It was a Bengali sweetshop. I thought that it could be something like Gangurams, a traditional Bengali sweetshop owned by non Bengalis.

I ordered a komola bhog and a dorbesh. Both of which came in a shaal pata plate. Shaal is a tree whose dried leaves are used to served streetside snacks in Calcutta. A practice from well before biodiogredable became fashionable. Again, does anyone know the English name?

I took some photos. Suddenly the thin gentleman at the counter said,

"Can I see the photos?"

I gave him the camera. He saw it and then took it the elderly gentleman at the counter. This seemed all too familiar. Reminded me of the commandos at Mumbai who picked me up less than a week back. Plus a few minutes earlier a young lad suspiciously asked me, "why are you taking photos" as I clicked outside Arsalan. Was I on the way to becoming a wanted criminal? But then why should these be state secrets? Look at the sweets below. Little babies.

The elderly gentleman looked at the camera screen with a look of intense concentration. Then he suddenly broke into a smile.

"Arre, these are pictures of our shop. Bah (great). Is this a phone? Can the photos be transferred?"

Relieved, I explained to him that what he held was a camera and that I could use a wire to transfer the pics into a computer. He smiled. I told him that I write on food. He broke into a bigger smile and said, "you must write about us". "Will this come out next month?". He smiled again when I said that I usually write a day or two after I go to a place. Smiling seemed to be his thing.

We got talking. His name was Nepal Ghosh. The sweetshop was opened in the 90s. He told me that original branch is at Sealdah. It is called Jugal Kishore Ghosh after its founder and Nepal Babu's uncle. Jugal Kishore has passed away and his sons now run the business. I realised that Jugal was Jugol and actually Bengali. Nepal Babu said that 'Jugals' was an attempt to make the shop more 'trendy'. Looking around the bare shop, 'trendy', is the last word that you would think of.

Nepal Babu used to first sit at the Sealdah shop. Way back in '71. Just when Bangladesh was formed. I asked him about how things were then. He said that Calcutta and Sealdah were covered with refugees eking out a bare existence. I asked him about his point of view on the belief that Calcutta never recovered from the influx of refugees and was spoilt in '71. Nepal Babu had a different opinion. He said that Calcutta has improved vastly since then. He said that refugees who had come in had established succesful businesses and were doing a lot better. He didn't attribute any blame to them. Though he said that the Naxal movement of the 70s had hit Calcutta badly as lot of students had put their lives on hold at that time.

I told him about my poor experience at Arsalan. He said that he agreed. He apparently used to be a fan of 'Mughlai' food in his younger years and would often be found at 'Royal'. In his opinion what worked for Arsalan was its location (Park Circus, connected with Park Street, Rabindra Sadan, New Market and the South). And the fact that Shiraz was closed for renovations and was operating out of a small, easy to miss place. The he said, "kichhu mone korben na, aamra Bangalira hojook'e choli. Arsalan ekhon cholchhe" (Don't mind but we Bengalis are enamoured by new trends. Arsalan is the in thing now). Us two oldies nodded in agreement with each other.

Nepal Babu suddenly said "How much mishti doi can you eat? Half kilo, 250 g?"

I said, "Err, 100 g? I'll let you into a secret. I am actually going to go home and have dinner again. My mom has cooked and I don't want to disappoint her".

The mishti doi came in a little earthen bhaar (pot). I took my first bite and shivered in delight. This was a cold, icy heavent which was just what I needed in the sweltering heat of Calcutta. The taste was soul satisfying. The texture ethereal. Nepal Babu smiled as he saw the look of delight on my face.

"Oi get some kachha golla for dada", he thundered oblivious to my protests.

The thin gentleman, Bikram Ghosh ("he is like family"), got it for me. "Won't you take a photo of me?" I finally managed to get him to drop his grim expression as his face would freeze every time I focussed the camera.

The kacha golla (made of steamed cottage cheese/ chhana) was very delicate. Once again I felt refreshed the moment I ate it despite the fact that I was being grilled medium raw in the heat around me.

Nepal Babu smiled at the look of bliss on my face. He said that the mishti doi and kaacha golla were their specialities.  He magnanimously and very honestly said that other shops can make the other stuff as good if not better.

The shop begun to fill up and I took my leave. Nepal Babu looked at Bikram and said "the doi and kacha golla are on me. Only charge him for what he ordered".  Bikram Babu joined in and said "well it comes to fourteen Rupees. You pay me ten".

I protested but they insisted and all they asked in return was for me to drop in and say hi the next time I was in Calcutta. Something tells me that I would.


Ushnish Ghosh said…
Thats great Kalyan...I hope the famous Jugal ghosh shop is still there spent many evening on a quick sweet and doi on my way back from work..
Scarlett said…
This is so touching! You have a way w/ people...

Jugal's mishti doi is indeed awesome. If you really want to take Bengali sweets w/ you sometime, you should try Balram Mullick. There's one at Ballygunge Phari & another in Bhowanipore.
sharmila said…
this is one post on fc that will never tempt me ... i do not like sweets. :p but other people in the family do ... so jugal er naam ta mone rakhte hobe for my next visit to cal.
shaal patar injiri kothao khuje pelam na.
krist0ph3r said…
omg, i think i just choked on my drool. why oh why am i in bombay?!!!
Pinku said…

am not a sweets person but the interaction brought a smile...
Ota bodhay Kamolabhog Kalyan. gandhota ektu lebu lebu. darun lage khete. amra age Jugal's e gie mishti antam tabe ajkal Manomohon er mishti khub bhalo lage. between I agree with you. Bangalore eo Arsalaan khuleche. sabai hoi hoi kore gie hatash hoe fire eseceche. sotti rase bashe hujugei bangali.
Lovely 'sweet' post with a human touch !
Jaya M said…
Now why are you making me feel jealous hain Kalyan..wish I can enjoy mishti doi /kancha gola/kamla bhog/sandesh as you did ...
Supernova said…
Heartwarming post...
I grew up in Park Circus so I have a lot of fond memories of restaurants around the area esp. Shiraz. By the time Arsalan came up, we had moved but I did hear a lot of good stuff about the place. It's unfortunate that your experience was not so good.
Where Jugal's and Arsalan now stand there used to be that old stalwart Jalajog. Grew up having their pastries, jam tarts and cream rolls before Monginis invaded the land. And yes, they had a strawberry cube too. :)
Rai said…
I have been to Jugal's often, the one near Triangular Park (Gariahat) but didn't know about the specialities, surely will try them soon :)
Rai said…
I have been to Jugal's often, the one near Triangular Park (Gariahat) but didn't know about the specialities, surely will try them soon :)
The Bride said…
Ooh I love mishti doi. My mum does too. On the rare ocassion that someone would bring it to us from Cal, my mum would hide it at the back of the fridge and be very careful about rationing it out. The only time I've seen her reluctant to share :)
Molly said…
OMG! i love sweets and whenever i go to calcutta my cousin sis takes me out and we end up sampling all the sweets in the shop :)and while coming back its atleast a a bag full of sweets though now you cannot get the coveted rasogolla in the bhad sigh! Beautiful post making my mouth water...
kaniska said…
dude, i thought of commenting on this but ill health got in the way. i have a branch of jugal's next to my sweat shop and good man bikram ghosh is a manager here. he has let me eat my radhaballavi and rasogolla and taken money later several times. and those kachagollas!! you should really have them in winter when nalen gur is in season. almost makes me want to believe in god.
Kalyan Karmakar said…
@Ghosh Kaku, hope you got a discount :)

@Scarlett: these little food chats are new to me and I quite enjoy them

@Sharmila, eki mishti bhal lagnena?

@Kristopher: Modaks?

@Sayantani...I am sure that applies to others too. Will cchange komola bhog. Dhonyobaa :)

@New Kid: thanks :)

@Pinku, yes I had a lovely time talking to the two Mr Ghosh's

@Jaya, hope you make it back soon

@Supernova, i have grown up on Jolojog too. i remember the chocolate cube

@Rai, hope they are consistent

@The Bride, ha ha that was cute

@Molly doesn't taste the same without the bhaar

@Kaniska, need to go back in winter. Could you give them a printout of this please?
narayanan said…
This is a great shop. I visit Kolkata maybe once a year and this place is a must stop for me. Their sweets are great. What I particularly like is their "Chhannaar Jalebi" and their "Singaadaa" (or Samosa). I strongly recommend it. Your write up is fantastic and the photos are mouth watering. Keep it up. Though it is a little known place, it has evoked strong memories in me.
Kalyan Karmakar said…
so glad you liked it and thanks for the tips on what to order