This is the song, rather folklore, with which we associate Janmastami (Birthday of Lord Krishna) in Bengal. Remember, my grandmother (Thakurma) would sit for hours and grate Tal (popularly known as Todd palm or Tala palm in English. It's known as Pannei in Tamil.). The above mentioned line means, the foster father of Lord Krishna Nandlal started dancing after eating the sweet balls made of Todd palm juice.
Hailing from a traditional Bengali family from North Calcutta (now Kolkata), the festival of Janmastami would be grand. My mother, who happens to be the youngest 'bahu' (daughter-in-law) of the house, was trained under the guidance of my grandmother, to make these special 'boras' (deep fried balls) on the occasion on Krishna's birthday. I am very sure, that this had nothing to do with mythology or any kind of tradition, related to Hindu mythology. This must have been one of those local 'fakirs' or 'baul' singers who created a couplet on the occasion.
But the flavor of Tal'er Bora was beyond any rituals. One had to wait for this season and time, just to enjoy this special delicacy. In my early childhood days, I've always hankered for a Tal'er Bora.
Of whatever I remember, as a kid, the procedure of making this special sweet meat was not that easy. Extraction of the tal sap is quiet a cumbersome and lengthy process. However, if you manage to somehow achieve that, then the rest is easy. My grandmother could manage to inculcate these culture because my mother was a housewife (which is also a 24 hour job!) We were joint family, and we all used to stay under the same roof. So, every festival used to be grand.
The pulp is smoothly battered with semolina (suji), sugar, grated coconut, flour (maida). Mix all these ingredients with the pulp, once the mixture thickens just boil sunflower oil or ghee in a deep frying pan. Then take a teaspoon full of batter and pour it in hot oil. The small balls will be ready in five minutes.
This used to be a day long procedure, because of the quantity. Finally, in the evening, ladies in our family would decorate the idol of Bal Gopal (Baby Krishna). They would use ornaments, flowers and other finery to give it a grand look.
It's been almost a decade, that I have not been to Kolkata during Janmastami. My grandmother passed away, two years back, by dad also passed away. Now, my mom stays in Kolkata. She doesn't have the physcial strength to take such arudous task up on her sleeves. I am married and settled in Mumbai. My wife is a working woman, and even she doesn't have the time or interest in taking this tradition ahead. This year, in all probability, she will be travelling to Pune on the day of Janmastami for some event. Life in a metro (like Mumbai) is so different from a comparatively slow city like Kolkata.
Do I miss Tal'er Bora? Oh yes. I do.
Do I expect my wife to make it for me? No. Of course not.
Can I make it? No. I don't have the time.
I guess, we all have come to terms. Cultural doesn't really matter to us anymore. We would rather find someone who would be able to make it for us. In a worse case, we would ask some one from Kolkata to bring it for us.
Little things, in life, which used to matter a lot, have lost its priority. Everything changes, even your taste buds.