For all that it’s aroma and flavour sends most Bengalis into paroxysms of joy, the Gondhoraj lebu or lime does not even have a wikipedia entry, the ultimate indicator of 21st century relevance. It is almost as if Bengalis are keeping the wondrous citrus under wraps so that it is not hijacked by someone else. Call it lime, lemon or lebu, use any spelling of Gondhoraj, but the internet cache will be woefully small.Considering India is among the world’s largest producers of limes and lemons, the continuing relative anonymity of the Gondhoraj (Aroma King) Lebu appears even more baffling. The Thais have their kaffir lime and the Caribbeans have their key limes. The Chinese have many, from the Canton lime to the misleadingly named Meyer. Do we Indians have one we can call unequivocally our own?
Yes indeed — the Gondhoraj. Restaurateur Anjan Chatterjee informs me that the Gondhoraj is actually a ‘Rangpur’ lime, the name harking back to its origin in east Bengal, where their heady aroma hangs in the air. The Rangpur is a cross between a lime and a mandarin orange; call it Bengali romanticism, but the Gondhoraj does seem to be more than a mere hybrid…
As all limes and lemons are from our neighbourhood, from Persia to Indonesia we should have been a more discerning market. But Indians persist in calling all limes ‘nimboo’, regardless of appearance, taste and aroma. Most vendors only stock ripe yellow limes anyway, so there is no incentive to differentiate. No one in their right minds should be so cavalier about the Gondhoraj.
It is too oblong and somewhat hard to be summarily and nonchalantly squished by hand anyway. Cut into longish quarters with the thick green rind intact, it has to be gently pressed to extract but a few drops of actual juice and plentiful bits of aromatic pulp. That miniscule quantity has traditionally been enough to pep up the dullest daal or the most insipid vegetables, on a sweltering summer day.Curiously, limes are not intrinsic parts of any dish in India; they are invariably added as a garnish after the cooking process is over, or presented as quarters on the plate to be used according to taste. Or they are made into pickles — in brine or spiced oils — to be used as a condiment not as an ingredient, unlike say, preserved limes are used in Moroccan cooking.
Bengali restaurateurs and chefs, however, have sniffed a star in the Gondhoraj lebu and are now featuring the lime liberally in their menus and using them in entirely new dishes. Anjan, for instance, gladly acknowledges Gondhoraj as a major attraction at all his Oh Calcutta restaurants, and the aromatic lime also features in the Bohemian Bengali creations of Chef Joymalya Banerjee in Calcutta.
Oh Calcutta’s steamed bekti fillets in a coconut-gondhoraj gravy is my personal favourite, and the ordinary shikanjvi loses all its allure after a taste of that restaurant’s version using the mellow Gondhoraj. Joymalya’s Gondhoraj Souffle has achieved near cult status among Calcutta’s cognoscenti as has his Gondhoraj ‘julep’ — minus the bourbon and mint that characterise the southern US version, though.
When two foodie Bengalis meet (can there be another kind of Bengali?) talk inevitably turns to the Gondhoraj these days. Like their love for the Malda variety of the Langda mango over the Malihabad, the Gondhoraj has become the sine qua non of Bengaliness, a reason for them to sniff snootily about the ignorance of other Indians about this king of limes and lovingly have a tree in the backyard.Those who do have these trees handy should spread the joy. All my requests for a cutting have drawn a blank so far, though, testament perhaps to how zealously Bengalis guard their own! The lone plant I brought back from a trip to Calcutta produced one solitary lime. It had pride of place on my kitchen counter till it was in grave danger of drying up, and I reluctantly used it to flavour several days of my morning cuppa of light Darjeeling.
Tanqueray, the British gin brand developed a Rangpur flavour for the US market which spawned some predictably named cocktails like the Rangpur Rickey. Some luxury hotel chains here have also woken up to the potential of the Gondhoraj in both food and drink, but India (much less the world) is still a long way from wholeheartedly getting carried away by this king of limes.
A casual search on the internet last month for information on a charismatic great-aunt-in-law, Prabhabati Dasgupta – who organised jute workers in Bengal for the nationwide strike in 1929 – revealed an interesting family factoid. She was apparently known in British police circles as the revolutionary sister of “known terrorist” Khagen Dasgupta.
This “terrorist”, however, far from lobbing bombs inaccurately at British officials decided instead to fight the Raj in a far cleverer way: economically. He worked his way round east Asia from Calcutta to Yokohama and then embarked on a trans-Pacific journey to California to earn himself a degree in Chemistry from Stanford University in 1910.
But a foreign degree did not mean he stayed back to hunt for a sinecure job in the US. Nor did he even consider doing the same in British India. Instead he headed back to Japan for technical knowhow on the industry he wanted to focus on – FMCG, including soap and cleaners – as India hardly produced anything back then. And he floated a company.
Ironically, less than a century after he launched Calcutta Chemicals in 1916, it is now owned by a multi-national – Henkel – thanks to the double whammy of discriminatory industrial policies of the Centre, and the suicidal militant trade unionism of Communist-ruled West Bengal. So, his quintessentially ‘Indian’ brand of soap, Margo, is now ‘foreign’.
I could understand his motivation to give Indians something as basic as their own soap as I hunted for an Indian toothpaste last week at the general store. I was under orders from my mother to do so, as she was taken by a conversation I had with a top Indian professional CEO about royalties flowing out of India as we unthinkingly use foreign brands.
“From the moment we are born to the time we die, we use foreign brands and thereby help them repatriate huge royalties back to their parent firms,” he had told me. And boy is he right: diapers, baby oil, hand sanitisers, formula, and later bottled water, noodles, fast food, cosmetics, clothes, accessories…Is there anything Indian we consciously prefer?
My mother’s love for things Indian is famous in the family, as is her way of registering protest. After she experienced apartheid first-hand when her ship docked Capetown in the 1950s, she refused to buy South African products for decades. She also foreswore Chinese food after the 1962 incursion into India. I could see what she was planning to do now…
But she will have to hold back on her foreign boycott for a while for, amazingly, there was not a single Indian toothpaste brand on offer in store after store. Desi brands are out there somewhere, but how many of them are communicating their quality to consumers effectively enough to muscle their way onto store shelves alongside behemoth MNC brands?
Quality should obviously be the touchstone for consumers, not nationality, and there must be choice. But what is stopping Indian manufacturers from taking on the foreign brands – as a certain capitalist-nationalist did with Margo – at their own game and producing world-class stuff to match up to the aspirations of global Indian?
The Union government – unsurprisingly, led by the same party that strangled CalChem’s brands back in the 1980s – is now tomtomming the messianic qualities of foreign retail chains. Sadly, despite our increasing international profile and confidence, most Indians also believe foreign branded stuff must be of better quality than what is derisively called ‘local’.This mindset was inevitable. Poor quality bedevilled India for much of the socialist era, bolstered by government mandated monopolies. It killed the entrepreneurial spirit awakened by pioneers like Khagen Das, his Stanford classmate Suvendra Mohan Bose (founder of Bengal Waterproof, or Duckback) and other Swadeshi capitalists. So why blame us?
Except that now Indian companies are making world class produce in a multitude of sectors again. All they need are conscious Indians who will give them a level playing field – like my mother. Old CalChem papers show that ordinary Indians invested in it, 3-4 shares apiece. It demonstrated their strong belief in the ability of their compatriots. We need to rekindle that perspicacity.
Yup, another BBC lady in the nude! Brainy British reporter Tasmin Khan finds herself in the center of a hot scandal as her raunchy nude photos have been leaked. Tasmin Khan is usually seen delivering the not-so-naked news on the BBC. But now nude photos of the Muslim beauty have surfaced, just weeks before starting her new gig as host of ITV’s “Daybreak.” ITV have vowed to back Tasmin despite the leaked topless pictures. According to reports Tasmin (real name Farhana) stripped for a racy photoshoot somewhere between 2003 and 2006. Tasmin Khan has spoken of her devastation at making the headlines herself after an ex-boyfriend sold nude photos of her to a UK tabloid newspaper. She went on to graduate from Oxford University with a degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics, and later landed her first job in telly with cable channel Zee TV. Tasmin then joined the BBC’s Asian Network and Channel Five before landing news reading roles on BBC Three and BBC News 24. Tasmin, whose real name is Farhana Lucia Khan, had grown up in Hendon, North West London, with her Bengali family.
The 30 year-old is set to join Christine Bleakley and Adrian Chiles next month as part of the new look GMTV show Daybreak, delivering bulletins and breaking stories. But The Sun newspaper published images of her posing naked in private homemade photographs. In one she pouts into the camera, wearing only a necklace, and in another she is stood topless in her panties. Other photographs showed her wearing only a colored necklace and a lacy bra. She admits herself that they were taken by an ex-boyfriend who then broke her trust. “I feel disappointed and humiliated by the man who I formerly trusted. With such an act he clearly want to destroy my career,” said Tasmin. The photos look like they were airbrush to make her look better but she is already a real hottie so there was no need. People are so clumsy these days, Even a smart girl like Tasmin letting all her naked pictures lying here and there or left them in the right wrong hands to spread them around the Internet. When will they ever learn? Hopefully never…
Tasmin Khan was once best known for something else that left viewers hot and bothered. After a late arrival to the BBC studio following a mix-up, a news report left Tasmin panting in between words and after gasping for her breath, the broadcast had to be cut. People thought she was having an on-air orgasm, check out the clip below:
Farhana “Tasmin” Lucia Khan (born 1980 in London, England) is a British journalist and news presenter for BBC News. She is the host of BBC Three’s hourly news bulletins, 60 Seconds, and presented E24 on the rolling news channel BBC News. She is set to join the new ITV breakfast show Daybreak from September 2010 as part of the new presenting team, delivering news bulletins and breaking stories. www.GutterUncensored.com
Khan started her career in 1999 at Zee TV Network, as an entertainment presenter and news reporter. She then hosted her own talk show interviewing celebrities from music and film, sports and politics. In 2001, she interviewed Bill Clinton, a few months after he stepped down as US President.
She worked for a short period as a Radio Presenter for the BBC Asian Network, covering programmes like theBreakfast Show, Drive Time and The Album Chart. She was on air when news of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami broke on Boxing Day in December 2004.
She then worked for the Asian channel, PTV Prime, as the London correspondent, where she reported the UK’s big news stories to a worldwide audience including the 7 July 2005 London bombings and the Ipswich serial murders in 2006.
She then presented and produced her own sports show on Channel 5 for three years, until she landed the opportunity to present on BBC News and BBC Three. One of her mentors is Kevin Bakhurst, who was the Editor of the Ten O’Clock News on BBC, and is now the Controller of the BBC News Channel. Bakhurst and Danny Cohen, controller of BBC Three, offered Khan the job to present the news bulletins on 60 Seconds on BBC Three, and front E24 on BBC News. She has covered some of the biggest showbiz news stories for the BBC, including the deaths of Michael Jackson, US actor Heath Ledger, and British fashion designer Alexander McQueen. She also covered the McCartney/Mills divorce and the Oscars three years in a row.