So long and thank you for all the rolls. RIP Soumitra Ghosh of Hangla's.

Roll salam, Egg roll from Hangla's Bandra
RIP Soumitra Ghosh

It was 5 pm in Bandra last evening and I was wondering what to have as an evening snack

There was some bread at home and making myself a cheese sandwich was the plan but I don't know why but I suddenly felt like having an egg roll. A habit that was formed during my high school days in Kolkata when my mom would leave some money for me to have an egg roll after school, before going out to play, and before she returned from work.

The plan last evening was to call in for an egg rolls from Hangla's using a delivery app. I was in two minds about whether to do so or whether to take out the toaster and to make myself a sandwich when I suddenly saw a piece of news, while lazing scrolling down my Twitter timeline, that made me get up with a jolt.

Photo journalist, Soumitra Ghosh, the founder of Hangla's is no more, I learnt.

The newspaper article mentioned that the late Mr Ghosh had recently passed away at the young age of 53, battling 'debilitating diabetes' in his last few days. 

I broke into a wry smile when I read a reference in the article made to 'food bloggers who dissed his mutton dishes, but swore by his rolls,' when he had opened the first Hangla's outlet at Mumbai's Lokhandwala. 

That food blogger was me and this is not the first time that the newspaper/ tabloid in question had made an oblique reference to me, but it is good to know that one is read! 

I remember the said afternoon clearly. I'd dropped into the newly opened Hangla's at Lokhandwala after a work meeting, curious to see if one finally had a good option for rolls in Mumbai. Chowringhee Square that had been started by a couple selling rolls in Bandra had shut down after showing initial flourish and a couple of places that I had tried for roll in Andheri earlier had turned out to be disappointing.

Well, epiphany happened at Hangla's that evening way back in 2009. The kosha mangsho did suck, but the mutton roll was a thing of art and the real McCoy indeed.

Imagine my excitement a few months later when I saw a Hangla's outlet come up opposite the Shopper's Stop at Bandra where a place called Calcutta Roll Centre had recently had a short run. 

Since then, the Hangla's at Bandra became a favourite place for me to stop for rolls on my way home. Always mutton roll, which they make very well, never chicken which is not their strength. I later ordered the egg roll there, chasing my memories of growing up in Kolkata, and occasionally the 'end of the month saviour' from my college days, the alu roll. By then I had lived long enough in Mumbai to know not to compare prices with Kolkata.

The folks at Hangla's would always listen to me, and fry the onions for the roll, the way I like it. In keeping with the best traditions of the original central Kolkata roll joints, and unlike the parar dokaner roll shops of suburban Kolkata, they do not add sauces in the rolls at Hangla's. They later introduced biryani too and I'd often order that.

Arsalan came up later and their biryani was nicer as would be expected, though they would add sauces to their rolls and Hangla's remained my favourite when it came to rolls. Bong Bong opened as well but their rolls were too big for me. All of these places opened and then shut, but Hangla's hung on. They had to move out of their Linking Road thek (corner) in Bandra and moved to an inner lane in Turner Road and now are beside the Taj Mahal Tea House at Mehboob Studio. I usually order from them using deliver apps these days.

Unlike some of the other owners of Bengali restaurants in Mumbai, I didn't really know Soumitra Ghosh that well. I did call him up once before I did a Finely Chopped Bengali Food Walk in Mumbai in April 2013. I went to the Bandra outlet Hangla the evening before, took his number from the staff, and called him up.

He picked up the phone and said, "of course I know you but you have forgotten about us."

This is when Arsalan had come up and Bong Bong too and I used to write about them fairly often and perhaps not as much about Hangla's. I could sense the warmth in his voice even though he was chiding me. 

Soumitra Ghosh was gracious enough to take time out from his busy schedule as a photo journalist, and to come and meet people at my walk the next evening, and to share his story with us.

That's the only time that we met.

At the Bandra Finely Chopped Food Walk with Soumitra da indulgently
looking on

I was a bit shaken when I read the news of his passing away yesterday. I thought that the best way to pay him a tribute was to have a roll and immediately ordered an egg roll from Hangla's.

Well, here's the thing. What I had last evening was one of the best rolls that I have ever had from Hangla's. 

Think I am being too romantic and emotional and caught in the moment? Well, K, who had returned home early, and who loves egg rolls and has had many in Kolkata after we got married, had a few bites of the roll and agreed about how good the quality was. I hadn't told her the news then.

So Soumitrada, wherever you are, please be assured that your legacy is being guarded well and here's me telling you a big thank you for making this Bansdroni boy feel so at home in Bandra.

All smiles at Hangla's in the Bandra Finely Chopped Food Walk in 2013
That's Soumitrada in green and khaki

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